F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

Continue reading

Don’t Tell Her How You Feel

Back when I was in college the show ER became a sensation. One of the best parts about it was that the characters were believable. One of the intriguing relationships that developed on the show was between Doctor Mark Green (played by Anthony Edwards) and Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield).  They were both sort of the “good guys” in the ER.  They also developed a sort of friendship/relationship.

In the third season Susan decided to move away.  In her final episode, Mark had to decide if he should (or could) tell her how he feels.  They were great friends and had chemistry and it’s been obvious for years.  Dr Ross (George Clooney) tells him, “Tell her what you’ve wanted to for years.  Tell her how you feel. . . ”

Then comes the scene I’ll always remember.  Mark leaves work and goes to her house but he’s too late.  Then he goes to the train station.  I mean it’s an epic deal.  He goes to the wrong place as the train’s leaving point changes.  But he makes it just in time.  He calls out to her.  The train is about to leave.

He tells her that he loves her and should have told her long ago, and he wants her to stay.  I’ll never forget her response to that.  She says that she knew, he is her best friend, and that she is leaving.  Then she gets on the train, waves good by and says, “I do love you.”

I remember watching that scene and just being smacked upside the head.  For years I thought about that scene because it pretty much defined me.  Always the friend of the girl who I liked. Always carrying some sort of hope that at the right time, if I just shared it in the right way, everything would change.  That scene was a picture of how I felt.

Continue reading

Responding To Platitudes

One of the most annoying things that you deal with as single person is all of the things that people say to you about your singleness.  I’m talking about all of the platitudes, quick answers, and questions that people say to you.

I was single until I was nearly 41 and believe me, I’ve heard them all.  They come from all directions.  People who care, people who don’t.  People who feel sorry for you, people who are frustrated with/at you.  From behind the pulpit to in the small group to heck, behind the counter.

  • I’m sure God has someone for you.
  • God is preparing someone for you – just be patient
  • Be grateful for your time as a single – once you get married it all changes.
  • Are you praying for your spouse?
  • Have you tried online?
  • It’s when you aren’t looking that you find someone
  • Just seek to be content in your singleness and God will provide
  • It will happen at the right time
  • Just focus on serving God right now.
  • God must have someone really special for you
  • Better to be single than married to the wrong person
  • Don’t settle
  • Are you too picky?
  • Are you dating anyone?

I could go on and on and on and on and on.  It can be funny, awkward, frustrating, or even infuriating.  The question is how do we respond well to this stuff.  I mean do you blow it off? Do you give a great sarcastic answer? “Are you praying for it?”- “Wow!  I’ve never thought about praying for it.  I’ll be sure to do that.”  Haha.

I think how we respond matters because it affects us and sometimes others.

There are some key things to keep in mind.  What is the intent? What is your relationship to this person?  What is the goal of your response?

Most of the time people are just making conversation.  It’s a question, in our culture that we lead with. It’s just a way of talking about something. The weather, the local sports team, your marital status. It’s all the same. There is zero reason to let it bother you. This last weekend I celebrated my one year anniversary. You know what everyone asks me? “So hows married life?” “Hows your wife?” “First year of marriage huh – bet that was fun.” “So has the honeymoon worn off?” Depending on how I answer that, they’ll have a nice thing to say about it. It’s no different as a parent. “How’s the kid?” “How is school going?”

Most of the people at church, in our neighborhood and even many of our family and friends will fit this category.  I think this is where you smile and take it.  And then ask about their kids. . . or the NBA finals.

There are others who ask out of some sort of sense of arrogance or wanting to fix you. This is more troublesome and might be worth challenging.  One time when I was on the golf course with a business associate who was about my age.  He was a Christian and married with kids.  He began to tell me how I should lead my dating life.  Basically he was pulling rank and telling me how to “stay pure”.  When the conversation moved to “I tell my 14 year old son. . . ” I stopped him.  I said, “Do you really want to have this conversation?  Because I’ll have it with you.  Do you really want to be in this with me?  I’ll let you in, but if you want to go there, it’s about to get real right now.”  That oddly enough kind of stopped the conversation.

Finally there are those who really do care about us.  I’m talking about our close friends and family who actually walk with us.  This is where, if we are bothered by what they ask us or the “wisdom” they dispense or if we are just tired of being identified as the single person in the group, we need to speak up honestly.  If we can’t challenge what these people say to us in a loving way, then we are in trouble, and not just in this part of the conversation.

But we need to realize some things from our end.  Do we really want to move beyond it?  Do we really want their actual opinion and help?  And finally, have we set the stage that way ourselves?

If for example every time someone says what can I pray for, we say, “a spouse” we don’t have a lot of room to be frustrated with them bringing it up.  If I’m focussed there, it’s pretty natural for the people around me to want to help.  Do we really want honest answers?  For example would we be willing to ask “why do you think I’m still single – for real?”  “Do you think I’m doing anything wrong?”  “How am I around the opposite sex?”  Are we willing to hear the answers?  Here’s what I’m saying.  WIth our close friends, how do we help them help us.

I’d love to hear from my readers on this one.  A couple of questions.

What are some of the things people say to you that drive you the most crazy?  How do you respond?




Avoid The Friend Zone

I have a friend who recently met a girl he was really into.  She was beautiful (ok hot) and loved Jesus. However she was somewhat uncertain about her job situation and there was a chance she would be moving.

My friend handled this well.  He basically told her that he wanted to get to know her and that he wanted to date her.  He made his intentions clear without coming off like a crazy person.  He just wanted her to know that he was hanging out with her with a purpose in mind and he wanted to be clear on that.  Good job by him.

So they went on several dates and then hit a time period where they were both traveling. They texted some etc, but they both knew they were kind of off the grid so to speak for a couple of weeks.

She got a little slower to text back which my friend recognized as a bad sign.  When the both got back to town, my friend called her and they decided to grab coffee.  As they were talking my friend basically asked her if she was into this dating relationship.  She said no. He did an incredibly brave thing and asked her why.  She said that she just didn’t see him that way.  But then she said, “But I’d really like to hang out as friends.”

Then my friend did what so many other men should do.  He said no.  That’s it.  He said that he wasn’t interested in running around as friends.  First of all he has friends. Secondly he liked her as more than that so it would be intellectually dishonest to hang out as friends when that was not his intentions.  Finally, he was looking for someone to date and eventually marry and if he is running around with her as a “friend” then that would be confusing to others.

She was pissed. She literally didn’t know what to do with it.  She said, “so this is what it feels like to be broken up with.”  This was of course hilarious since she was the one saying she didn’t want to date him.  He took her home, they shook hands and said goodbye. Best part is she texted him that night as if it had never happened.  Wisely he didn’t respond.

I share this story with you because this guy handled this exactly right.  I joked with him that he was now a true Jedi and had avoided the dark side that I call “the friend zone”.

As men, we have to avoid the friend zone.  It was no doubt tempting for this guy to think, “well if she wants to hang out with me, I can eventually win her over”.  Not so.  In fact I’m telling you right now that if there is any chance that she would like him it will be because he did what he did here.  He stood up to her.

She was mad because she was used to being in control.  Now I’m not saying here that we should be out to make girls mad.  Far from it.  What I am saying is that when we allow the friend zone to happen we give her all the power and completely kill any chance of her ever being attracted to us.  You as a guy, have to get this.  No matter how attracted you are to her, you can not “chase” her.  By walking away, you respect her lack of attraction to you. But you also increase her respect for you as a man.  And you gain confidence – which is hot.

Being “friends” with the girl that you want to date is just clobbering yourself.  I mean I hate to say it that way but it’s the truth.  It doesn’t help anybody.

Now here’s the thing, I’m not saying you can’t be friends with an attractive woman.  I have lots of friends and some of them are women.  I’m even friends at some level with a person or two that I once asked out.  But I didn’t get turned down and then become “hang out friends” with them.

The friend zone is to be avoided at all costs because it’s not real friendship.  It is when the girl uses the guy who she isn’t attracted to for the benefits.  She comes to you with stories about other guys.  She needs help with something and you rush to help her.  She has “spiritual questions” and you “minister” to her, but the whole time you want to date her.  That brother, is the friend zone and it will crush your manhood.

You are not a victim.  Don’t tell me that everyone just sees you as a friend – that’s because you let them.  You have to choose different.  It’s not up to one girl or another.  It’s up to you.

Are you always in the friend zone?  Are you ready to get out?

You Are Not Called To Be Alone

One of the great struggles of singleness is the feeling that you are alone.  Now I know that even if you are married you can still feel that way, but it is almost a guarantee that if you are single for any length of time you will feel it.

It can be made even harder by the fact that we live in a culture that has become more and more individualized.  Not all of that is bad, we have more freedom to move different places, explore different options and take different opportunities.  But there are a lot of unintended consequences.  One of those is that we end up switching friends all the time and not really going deep.  And this can lead to feeling alone or to for all intents and purposes, actually being alone.

We end up not really knowing how to have real community.  But we need it, whether we are single or married.

In Genesis, God creates Adam and then says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  You see God was not alone.  He has always been in perfect relationship as the Father, Son, and Spirit.  And He created us in His image, which makes us relational beings.  It is critical that we get this.

In our world we are told that it is all about the individual.  It is all about you, making your way and doing what you need to do.  It is about self advancement.  Even in the Church it can become about my relationship with God, my ministry, my spiritual growth.  Now there is truth in that.  You and I have an individual role to play in the story – but heres the key – we are not THE story.

I think one of the many reasons we have more single people than ever in history is that we are more alone to begin with.  We get used to operating on our own and going after the stuff that helps mainly us.  We are not used to working stuff out in community, let alone with another person that I have to be with every single day.  It’s hard work and even though we are made for it, we are resistant and we’ve been trained to be.

It’s gotten to the point where it is just kind of accepted.  “I’m on my own.”  But you are not supposed to be.  Even if you are called to celibacy (to be single and not marry), you are not called to be alone.

People who are truly called to celibacy typically get this.  Priests and nuns are typically less alone than us.  Throughout time, they’ve typically lived in community.  They get that the call to celibacy is not a call to aloneness.  (By the way I learned more about the call to celibacy and marriage and the difference in about an hour sharing a panel with a priest and nun than I have in 20+ years of being in the protestant church – but I digress.)

The point here is that we are not created to be loners.  My pastor spoke on this last week and he brought it perfectly at the end.  He said, “What if you didn’t have to navigate your marriage alone.  What if you didn’t have to navigate your singleness alone?  Or your parenting? Or your career? Or your wounds? Or your success?”  Exactly!

We need people in our lives who know us.  People who know our story – both where we’ve been and where we are trying to go.  Yes I’m talking about accountability, but more than that.  Yes I’m talking about meeting together, and sharing together, but more than that.

Marriage is not the only covenant relationship available to us.  If you get married it is the number one covenant relationship in your life (behind Jesus) but it doesn’t have to be the only one.  It’s all over scripture.  Look at the early church.  Look at Aaron and Moses or Jonathan and David.

But it takes work and more importantly it means making a decision to be in it no matter what.  This kind of community doesn’t “just happen”.  If it can “just happen” then it can just as easily “unhappen”.  That doesn’t create security, trust and unity.

I think one of the huge traps as a single person is that we can, over time, become more and more independent, to the point that we are actually alone.  And alone is bad.  We are not meant to carry our burdens, sins, decisions, fears, dreams, and celebrations alone.  If we are indeed called to be married we will be way more prepared if we have real community that we have had to work at.  If we are called to celibacy then it is just as critical so that we don’t become isolated.

Do you have real community?  Who knows your dreams, fears, sins, successes?  Who knows your heart?  Whose heart do you know?  Are you single, or are you alone?

If I Get Married, Can We Still Be Friends?

Let’s say after a few visits to a church you decide to join a small group. You go to sign up and after taking down your general information the person running the sign up asks you, “How much money do you make?”  After you recover from shock, you say, “Excuse me? Why does that matter?”  The person warmly smiles (because that is what we do at church) and says, “Oh, this year we are going to be doing a couple of lessons on money, so we are setting up our small groups by income level – you know so that people are kind of in the same boat so to speak, and can identify with each other better.”

What would your reaction be to that?  Or how about if you go to a church with Sunday School classes.  What if there was a people with a lot of money class and a people with no money class.  You know because people with different income have different needs, experience different struggles and of course like to hang out with people just like them.

Here’s the best part about this – if you get a big promotion – you get to move to a new group.  Of course if you get demoted – well . . . .

In my opinion, one of the great problems in our Christian communities is that we have become all about affinity.  We hang out with people like us.  The problem is the kingdom doesn’t look like this.  

Just look at Jesus’s disciples.  I mean it was not very often in those days that you would have a fisherman, a zealot and a tax collector hanging out together. . . every day. . . for three years. Actually it doesn’t happen today either.

But they did.  Why?  Because they came together around Jesus.  And a funny thing, it worked.  In fact we are having this conversation because it worked.  But this is not how we like it.  We like comfort.  We like the people who look, act, and think like us.  There’s a lot wrong with this but for me the main problem is we are ripping each other off.

I bring all this up because there is often this weird divide between singles and marrieds in the church.  In fact I would say that the divide is more apparent in Christians than non-Christians.  There are a lot of reasons for it.  We can make idols out of family, marriage, or even singleness.  The Church in our current culture is pretty marriage centered and often treat marrieds and singles differently.

But a lot of it is that we are just so self focussed that we rule out anyone in a different context.

I see this all the time.  Sometimes it’s the married peoples fault.  They get married and just kind of abandon their single friends because somehow magically they now identify more with them than those they were friends with before.  But then there are single people who give their newly married friends almost no choice because they start treating them as if now they have some sort of weird disease – “they’re married now so you know. . . ”  To top it off, many churches (and ministries) are set up in such a way that when you get married you have to switch groups/classes/etc.

And of course no one who is in a different place could possibly be helpful.  The married person doesn’t think the single person could possibly understand and speak into their married life, and the single person knows that married person just doesn’t get their plight.

Here’s what’s funny about this for me.  I’m 40 years old.  I’ve never been married – I’m about as single as you can get.  And in six months I’ll be married.  So can we still be friends?

All of my mentors are married.  A whole lot of things on this blog come from conversations with them. At the same time a whole lot of people I mentor are married – will I now suddenly be a better mentor to them?  Once I’m married do I still have stuff to say about being single or am I now clueless?  Will more married people now trust me because I’m married?  Really, if you want to be un-single should you listen to the person who is always single (I once told someone I could teach them how to not get married. Ha!) or the person who figured out how to get married?  We could play this game all day.

The truth is we need each other.  We singles need to learn how to love our married friends and vice versa.  It can be complicated.  It takes being intentional. It takes having a right theology of singleness and of marriage.  It means not lifting one up over the other but lifting Jesus up over both.  It probably means being uncomfortable.

Is your community divided?  Whether you are single or married, are you willing to be intentional with those who aren’t?

Don’t Be Friends First

So as I’ve mentioned before I’ve read a whole lot of online profiles.  I mean a lot.  One thing that always makes me laugh is when the woman says something to the effect of, “I want to marry my best friend” or, “I want to be friends first.”

Gentlemen, don’t believe this.  Here is what that means in reality.  The whole friends first thing is just a safety measure.  It means essentially, “I want to lessen the pressure on this situation.” It can also mean, “I not attracted to you but I’m not good at saying no to people so I’ll say this instead.”  It does not mean they want to be “just friends” for a while and will be attracted to you later.

When a woman says she wants to marry her best friend, it means that she wants to be best friends with the person she is already attracted to and wants to marry.  That is not a bad thing by the way.  But it doesn’t mean that she wants to become friends and then marry someone even though she isn’t attracted to them.

Friendship in a relationship is extremely important.  In the book, The Mystery Method, “Mystery” (you can search this guy out on your own – I don’t condone all that he says but there is some good stuff) offers this equation: Attraction + Comfort = Seduction.  Read that again.  Here’s the idea.  If you create attraction with a woman but aren’t friend material (read comfort) eventually it won’t work.  But if you create friendship without attraction – that is all it will ever be.  You are stuck in the friendzone.

The point is that people, male and female, date people they are attracted to period.  End of story.  We’ll talk about how to get out of/avoid the friendzone later, but that is not the point of this post.  Today I want to talk about pursuing women under the guise of friendship.

This is especially important in the “Christian” dating (or courting or whatever you call it) culture.  Just because we are not going to have sex on the first date does not make us “friends”.  It means we have morals.  But this idea of being her friend so she will eventually like me is weak.  If I’m interested in pursuing a girl I should not approach it as a friendship. Why?  Because that is not what I actually want and that makes it shady.

It drives me crazy when guys do this.  This isn’t legitimate friendship.  It’s false.  It’s a strategy.  There are all sorts of reasons for this strategy.  Maybe, I don’t have the guts to ask this girl out so instead I will become “friends” with her.  Or I know she doesn’t like me but I like her so I’ll hang around her as much as I can and hope that eventually somehow she will “like” me.

Maybe I’ll join her small group, join her cause (something she is passionate about) or worst of all, I “minister” to her, thinking that eventually she will like me. If I do all of this with the hope/intention of turning it into more, then I’m not really being her friend. I’m using friendship as a way to pursue her.

Now I’m not talking about someone who is a friend and later becomes someone of interest. That can sometimes happen.  I’m also not saying don’t have female friends.  What I’m talking about here is using the friendship angle when you don’t mean it.  It’s bad because it’s intellectually dishonest.  Frankly it’s also a waste of time.  Once you are in the friendzone you are done.  Why go there on purpose?  You will never turn that into more as long as that is how she views you.

Honestly there are some guys who are lacking self confidence and think this is literally the only way to get to hang out with women they like.  I feel legitimate pain in my heart for you if that is where you are at.  But you are worth more than that. Stop subjecting yourself to this.

Finally there are guys who are “friends” first because they aren’t sure they want to actually date a particular person or they want to be “friends” with multiple people.  So they “hang out” (read date but without any kind of responsibility) with their “friend”.  Maybe it’s a girl who you think you should be attracted to or who your friends want you to be attracted to. It doesn’t matter. You already know you aren’t attracted to this person – or you’d ask her out.  Don’t drag it out and lead her on.

Look, at one point or another in the last 25 years I’ve done all of the above.  How many times did this work out?  Zero.

So have you ever used the “friend’s first” strategy?  Did it actually protect you?  Have you ever seen it work?