Modern society has a lot of social pressure on those who are single to not be. Of course, there are holidays like Valentine’s Day, and the constant asking by your parents “When are you going to get us some grandchildren?” But, there are a lot more subtle ones. Stop and think about this: How many people have you met in management outside the military who are not married, have been married, or are going to be married, or even just have a significant other? What percentage of managers you have known in your working life have been single? The answers, I expect, will be “Most of them” and “pretty low.” This creates a rather insidious social pressure for people to be in relationships, even bad ones: Management is generally selected from people like the managers. If you cannot handle the stresses of maintaining a romantic relationship, then how can you handle the communication skills necessary to lead people?
Now, imagine this pressure. Imagine how, even though never overtly stated, it lingers in everyone’s minds at some level. You want to rise within your company, if you are like most people, so you can get paid more money. To rise, you need a significant other. This creates a desperation for a partner, and, where is often the safest place to look for a partner but among your friends of your preferred gender and orientation. And there lies the rub.
You are a safe guy for your women friends to be around. You are a woman the guys can be guys around. Because you are friends with these people, you have similar interests. Why wouldn’t any of these men or women want to be involved with you? The answer is simple: because they are afraid. You change how you act to them by seeking a relationship. On top of that, that you are responding to these pressures makes you come across as either desperate or appeasing. Additionally, your seeking a relationship from among them calls into question why you were hanging out with them in the first place. Finally, even if they were to not think about those, there is the simple fact that people fear change. You have been a friend to these people for years, someone they could depend on in thick and thin. And now, you are wanting to change the nature of the interpersonal relationship. What happens if things don’t work out? No. It is just better to stay friends. It is safer.
And that is what has lead to the “Friendzone” phenomenon. This has always been around, mind you, but had been formally recognized only recently. Some people say that it is misogynistic because it is men demanding a “right” to relationships. That is missing it entirely. First, that is assuming it is only men who get “Friendzoned.” Second, it is looking at it completely wrong. No-one would be saying “Because I have been your friend for these many years/months/weeks, you need to go out with me,” regardless of the gender of the speaker. What is going on is the person doing the asking is saying “You are my friend. You know me well, and I know you well. I want someone to be closer than a friend to, and I feel safe asking you.” The response that creates the “Friendzone” is the response of “If you were any other person, I might actually accept. However, you are my friend. I feel safe around you, and changing the nature of our relationship would make me uncertain. I don’t want to change things. I want to continue to feel safe around you. Can you accept that?”
The person asking really has two choices: He/She can accept the response unconditionally and forget about it completely, or she/he can accept it but always hope for a change of situation. It is the second option that, ultimately, leads to people making the complaints about “being sent to the Friendzone.” That response creates the question in the mind of the asked person of “Was he/she ever really my friend? Or was he/she always just trying to get into a relationship with me?” It not only hurts the person who was asked, but it also hurts others, as that person can easily begin to question all their friendships.
Sadly, the pressure to have romantic partners does not go away. Maybe the person tries another of their friends. Maybe they ask out strangers in desperation. Either way, they keep trying to find someone so they don’t feel lonely, so that they do not feel the social pressure to have a partner. A relationship becomes just a goal, a stepping stone to economic success after a while. And someone has likely lost many friends in the process of trying to get that success, if even on a subconscious level.
If only there was some way to make being single be accepted as normal again. I think that would solve alot of the problems caused by this cycle of social stress.