Joel Stepanek

The Friend Zone: Are you always her friend and never her boyfriend?

In high school I was one of those 'nice Christian guys,' you know, the guy who was always the good friend, but not the boyfriend. I used to complain with my other 'nice guy' friends about being put into the friend zone, that awkward place when you have feelings for a girl but she just wants to be friends. I've been called 'a good friend,' 'like a brother,' and 'a catch . . . for someone else.'

My friends and I used to rant about how 'nice guys finish last, girls only like bad guys, and (insert name here)'s boyfriend is such a jerk. She is so dumb.' Actually, as I type that I realize how whiny, lame, and un-manly we sounded. We don't even sound like nice guys, we sounded like boys throwing a temper tantrum.

I think, as Catholic men, we need to do away with the idea of a 'friend zone,' and here is why:

It disrespects our Christian sisters.

A 'friend zone' is a way for us to complain about rejection. I've been there; rejection hurts, but do you know what's worse? Talking behind that girl's back and making her seem like a bad person.

Get Real.

Guys, all of the ladies aren't going to like us. It is absolutely impossible and unrealistic to think that they will. We aren't going to get the date every time, even if we are the nicest, most-Catholic guy on the planet. Know this, accept this, and move on.

Too often we think that by sending 672 text messages, flowers, and countless phone calls and whiny conversations will change her mind. But they just make us seem desperate, and they are annoying. They also send a subtle, very not-nice-guy message to that woman … 'Your friendship isn't good enough.'

Guys, is that the message you want to send? In a world that already sends a message to women that they are 'only as good as their body,' do you want to send the message, 'your friendship with me is only worth something if it blossoms into romance?' That doesn't seem like something a Catholic man, or a 'nice guy' would say.

The End of the Friend Zone

I want to put forward an idea … what if we treated our friendships with women as a gift in our lives, rather than the means to an end (that end being a relationship).

Women offer amazing insights that as men we cannot see. I have had the honor of working with and for amazing women of God, and their friendships blessed me. If I only looked at my friendship with women as the stepping-stone to a relationship, I would have missed out on all of that.

Here's a final thought … one day, one of those friendships may develop into a long-term relationship and marriage. But that has to happen naturally and over time. If it is meant to happen, it will; there is no need to rush it. I met a woman and we became friends for several months, and even though we both had feelings for each other (as we later would find out), we never looked at our friendship as a means to an end. We appreciated it for what it was and kept appropriate boundaries.

That person became my best friend, and then my wife. Had I gotten upset about being in the 'friend zone,' though, I might have pushed her away.

So to all my Catholic bros out there who are maybe feeling a little rejected or frustrated, or who hang out late at night on retreat and complain about 'nice guys finishing last':

It's time to man up.

Cherish the friendships you have with the women in your life as blessings, not opportunities.

Let's treat the girls who turn us down for a date with the same respect as the girls who don't.

Lay the idea of a friend zone to rest.

And finally, if you are feeling lonely and seeking a relationship above all else – it may be time to reconnect with the one that really matters – your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Joel Stepanek

About the Author

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.)