The friend zone is not a thing. We know this. No one owes you their sexual attention for any reason whatsoever.
And yet having a crush can be such an all-encompassing feeling fuelled with expectation it creates a sense of longing which can become selfish and entitled.
No one means to feel this way, and certainly no one means to cause anyone else to feel it either.
Transitioning a friendship into more than friends isn’t something you should take lightly, but sometimes leaving things unsaid can be as damaging as making a move.
I’ve experienced this from both sides, as a friend who didn’t say anything, and as a friend who’s been partner zoned. The more open I am about being polyamorous the more of an issue it’s becoming. It was incredibly easy to be in the privileged position of being able to say, “Of course not, duh, I’m married.” Taking that support blanket away forced me to deal with things in a far more empathic and constructive way.
I make deep attachments to my friends. I have a lot of acquaintances as well who I’m waiting to be able to label a friend, but once I’ve crossed the line with someone to feeling emotional connection and attachment I’ve fallen hard.
I don’t drop friends.
I’m rubbish sometimes at keeping in contact, and I have a terrible habit of being a bit boom and bust so spending all the time with someone followed by giving myself space. I’m working on that. Life isn’t zero or a hundred.
Friends mean a lot to me. They’re in my life to stay.
So, when a friend decides they want more from me than friendship and it wasn’t something I was expecting, I need to do a lot of processing.
Remember, as the person making the approach you’ve thought about this for weeks, possibly months. You’ve gamed the scenarios and talked it over with others. You’ve gone through the “am I really developing feelings for this person? No. No way. Oh, hold on. I am. My goodness, I am”.
The person you confess your feelings too maybe hasn’t.
If the feeling isn’t mutual, I feel an enormous sense of guilt followed by a mourning for what I thought I had with that person.
The guilt comes from ‘not being kind’, a hangover from feeling expected to smile at strangers or to be polite and chatty when a man I don’t know asks to buy me a drink. That feeling of expectation when someone I don’t know is demanding my sexual attention and hangs around unwelcomely.
It feels like I was deliberately sexy and now need to take the consequences, when in reality I was just going about my day.
That transferred feeling causes me to want to withdraw so I’m not causing anymore problems by simply being the person I feel most comfortable as. It’s not that person’s ‘fault’ any more than it is mine.
Think of it this way. For any relationship to occur someone has to make a move. The world would be a poorer place if no one was emotionally brave and spoke their feelings.
The mourning of the friendship I had is complex. I feel sad because I feel like I wasn’t good enough to ‘just’ be your friend. As though maybe you didn’t really enjoy laughing for hours about old Spaced episodes and didn’t listen to my political rants because you liked me, but because you wanted sex from me.
Your primary motive was my body not my mind. That hurts. I know mostly this isn’t the case and that person liked all of me. That’s what romantic attraction is, those ridiculous interests a person has, their furrowed nose when they get angry, their ability to use reason to debate. That’s what attraction is. It’s not about big eyes or mermaid hair or perfect breasts. But my brain weasels can’t figure that out. They tell me it was all a lie, and that person didn’t really like me at all. Not really.
I’m also afraid, because so many times in my life I’ve been sex zoned.
With all this added complexity, it’s no wonder my initial response when someone takes the incredibly brave step of saying “hey, what do you think? Could we work as a couple?” or “I find you attractive, I’d like to have sex with you” is to shield. Whatever I think of that person.
If I hadn’t considered them in that way, I automatically go into panic mode and say no. Mostly, it’s in a pretty blunt fashion. I’m working on this. There was a period of time recently where I literally said, “If one more friend hits on me I’m going to lose it” and that was groundhog day for me. Every time I got a little bit better at saying no nicely. There’s still work to be done.
Do I wish people hadn’t made their feelings known? Of course not. I want relationships, I want love and affection and I could potentially want it with those people even if it hadn’t been my initial plan.
But I really do want the friendship to continue to exist whatever happens between us and sometimes that means I need time to process the way I feel. If you think I’m distant just give me a little space and then we can pick up from where we left off.
I promise to do the same to you if I realise I’m attracted to you romantically or sexually. Another part of my emotional development is being brave enough to be the one to tell others how I feel about them. I’m terrified of coming across as creepy or to become a joke in someone else’s story. I don’t want to be vulnerable and I don’t want to make you feel vulnerable. Even when someone has told me they like me, and it’s taken me a month or so to catch up to that place I’m too afraid to come back to them and say “maybe”.
But I’m working on it.
One day I’ll be writing the post which says I was also emotionally vulnerable, and this is how it turned out.