The word “friend zone” gets thrown around by college students quite frequently. Many people think the friend zone is defined as when one person wants to move forward in a relationship and the other does not.
How does the friend zone start, and how does one learn to get out of it?
While many people know what the friend zone is, it is important to know why people do it in the first place.
“Men and women have a lot going on, including activities, and they do not have time for relationships,” said Susan Stewart, professor of sociology.
Relationships take a lot of time and work, and many think that staying “just friends” will keep them focused on their goals.
“Trends suggest that women meet their own goals before committing to a partner,” Stewart said.
This could be why men feel rejection when a girl just wants to be friends. Women want to focus on their studies and reach their goals before they get into a serious relationship; however, this is not the only reason why the friend zone exists.
The friend zone can be a direct result from a person’s past or associated with their family history, such as divorce.
About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.
Family pasts can affect relationships immensely because they might show how parents’ relationships crumbled. Trust issues rise and make it harder for someone to go past the point of friends.
Time and distance are also huge factors.
Alex Mortimer, junior in software engineering, has been in a situation where distance became an issue in a relationship.
“I did not want long distance if I am not going to be with my significant other, and I do not have time to be on the phone with her all day,” he said.
On top of distance, Mortimer said he needed to focus on his studies and didn't have time to contact her every day.
People have a lot going on in their lives and sometimes a relationship is not a priority.
Even though rejection exists, it can affect someone long term. Rejection can be hard to deal with by both men and women. Many are afraid to put themselves out there because of a past experience.
“It is tough to be rejected,” Stewart said. “Men are expected to put themselves out there, and that is why they have the fear of being rejected.”.
From the moment a person feels like they do not want to be in a relationship, they should tell the other person, especially if they are good friends. Knowing someone’s honest feelings helps the friendship in the long run.
“There is a very fine line between having a one night stand versus going on a date with someone and then going on a second, making it a regular thing,” Mortimer said. “As soon as you make that step from seeing someone once to seeing them on a regular basis, clarify what you are looking for and what you want, and make sure you know what they want.”