Stuck in the Friend Zone with You

It’s safe to assume that most of us gentlemen in this modern age have been there. It can happen with a friendship that is newly developed or can slowly creep in over time with a good friend you’ve known for years. It is that moment in time when feelings of deeper affection develop from only one side of a friendship. All of a sudden the word “love” might mean something a little more than it used to.

At the end of the day, sometimes we build up the courage to take that scary step to ask if there’s some reciprocity there. Does the fact that you talk for hours to sort through dilemmas each of you are having mean that you don’t just love each other, but that you could be falling in love? Is it a crazy idea to think that her turning to you for a hug when you know she needs it most might mean that what you have is really special?

So you work through what you’re going to say in your head; your palms might wind up sweating even if it happens to be thirty-five degrees outside as you sip hot chocolate at the Christmas tree lighting. You go through all of this back and forth in your head until finally you are presented with what you think is the perfect moment to finally just blurt out whatever very original or very cliché thing you had worked out in your mind, which winds up coming out nothing like you had intended it to anyway.

In that moment of complete and utter vulnerability, an instant where no matter how masculine you felt twenty seconds ago, there’s a young lady sitting across the way from you who you have let take that away from you. As you utter the words, if you’re like me, you begin reading body language to get an idea for whether or not you should continue spilling your heart or shut your mouth and run away before you even finish speaking because it’s not going as you’d hoped. But you finish what you started to say, the weight is lifted, your manliness settles back onto your broad shoulders. And then, regardless of what cute or kind or flattering words she uses about you being a great guy, the tone of her voice and ultimately her words mean “no, I don’t love you in the way you’re thinking you love me, but let’s please stay friends.”

You’ve now entered the proverbial space known as the “Friend Zone”. You’ll see her boyfriends come and go in her life. You’ll listen to her describe his shortcomings, and realize that all of the things she’s griping about are things she’s told you time and again you possess. You’ll be so welcomed in her home that you don’t bother knocking.  You’ll continue to see her at her most vulnerable moments and stand there helping her pick up the pieces.

Let me clear up why I assume most of us have been there. As you may have guessed, I’ve been there. As you also may have guessed, I’ve been there plenty of times. Many of my closest best friends have been women, the majority of whom at some point or another I found myself falling a bit further off the cliff of love than I’d have cared to. Not because I don’t care to love, but because, as you might have guessed, I remain single despite being told about all of the great things about me.

It was not all that long ago that I found myself in the friend zone yet again. And before I landed in that zone, I had decided that I’d make a lot of changes in my life if I wound up in this spot with this particular one. I was going to take some steps to protect myself after that rejection if that was how it wound up. I’d avoid seeing her, regardless of how much it meant I had to change things in my life. The toughest part about that idea was that I’d see her often, and that my life was going pretty well. Changing things would have been a very drastic course of action. I was applying a lot of pressure to this going a specific way.

But a big part of what had my life going so great was the building of my relationship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. So when it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I prayed a great deal asking Christ to help me get past my childishness. They were just feelings after all. I asked for the intercession of the Holy Spirit to not only carry on as I had been, but to keep me on the path God intended for me even though it might be uncomfortable as I took each step. I reflected on the love Mary, our Blessed Mother, has for her Son to comfort me; as the pain in my heart might cause me to walk away from something greater in the long run. That something could wind up even more amazing than the picture I may have painted in my head for how the relationship might have developed.

So after all this prayer, what had I believed God was advising me to do?  He said to leave everything as it was between us; that we should continue to develop together in friendship and faith. As an accountant, my brain processes things mostly through logic and rationalization. So this idea, or mark on my heart, or whatever we might call it – it went completely in contrast to what I thought was logical.

And it turns out that the answer to the next question (WHY?!) actually followed a great deal of logic. I trust in God’s plan for me, so I know that while it would have been useful to have drawn this conclusion a decade or so ago, he revealed it to me at the moment when it would have a greater impact on His plan.

Earlier on I asked two questions, which you may or may not recall because I ramble a lot. Worry not, I’ve copied and pasted them below so you don’t need to scroll back up to find them.

Does the fact that you talk for hours to sort through dilemmas each of you are having mean that you don’t just love each other, but that you could be falling in love?

If you do scroll back up, you’ll notice that I initially placed emphasis on a different word. Just as when we speak and emphasize a different word, the italicization of different words completely changes how the actual question is read.

While talking through dilemmas for hours could in fact mean you’re falling in love, it is the word could that matters more in these moments. Because love is a two-sided equation. So if only one of you is walking down that path, then you’re not falling in love. But there’s a chance you could be, someday. If your heart is open to the idea of God’s plan, if it is His desire for the two of you, it will happen.  I took a lot of time to reflect on Christ’s teachings, especially some phrases I had spoken dozens of times in the months leading up to the most recent friend-zoning. I recalled the Gospels of both Matthew (22:37-40) and Mark (12:30-31), where the basis for every commandment can actually be summed up in two. The first, as we may remember, is to love our God above all else, with very fiber of our existence, at all times, without question.

The second one is the one that came into play here. We have to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And so I learned in this moment that I was destined to love her, even if God didn’t plan for me to be in love with her. What a moment that was for me!

I’ve heard time and again that if we want to truly make God laugh, we should tell Him our plans. He won’t laugh at our anguish, like the next-door neighbor’s crazy kid who fries ants with his mother’s old eyeglasses, making us feel like we are burning up under the magnified ray of sun. He will laugh because His plans for us are much greater than what we can see through the sometimes short-sighted lenses we wear when we get caught up in what we want without considering what He plans for us.

Is it a crazy idea to think that her turning to you for a hug when you know she needs it most might mean that what you have is really special?

The second of the one-two punches came a few days later when I continued to reflect on the idea of sharing something really special. I was still in the process of trying to figure out if I heard her correctly. Still sorting through whether or not I should push the issue or let it settle and move on as I knew I should.  Suddenly it hit me that what we were sharing was some of the most special interactions you could share with another person. You comfort them in their vulnerability. You ask them for advice on “big decisions,” and they’ve talked you out of making the wrong decisions when they help you look at something through a different lens.

Your world is different better because God brought her into it. Your life is brighter because you both possess the light of Christ within your hearts, and as one of you may find it dimming, the other is there to make sure that it never goes completely out.  You realize that feelings are irrational, and, when spending time in the classroom of silence and prayer, our Blessed Mother can offer you the grace to accept the beauty of things as they are instead of as we wish them to be.

Love is tied to our vocation and ministry in every way. Love is a foundational piece of every sacrament of the church, a cornerstone if you will. It is a matter of accepting love in all of its different forms. It is an idea that is easier said than done – being willing to offer love even though in some moments it may be confusing or painful.

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts! I want to take a quick moment to thank you for exploring a bit about me. Each time I focus on faith, I will end with prayer. I will ask each of you to pray for me and let you know how I am praying for each of you.

I ask each of you pray for my continued development as a person of faith; please pray that I will continue to take steps to be the best Catholic Christian that I can and that I find a way to share my love with as many people as possible.

My prayer today for you focuses on your love. I pray that each of you who have found love will continue to share it with one another. Whether you are spouses, best friends, or fellow churchgoers, there is power in the intensity of our love.