Have you ever felt like he’s just “stringing you along”?
Even though you know he loves you, he even says he “loves you” and that you’re “great”, it’s just he can’t or won’t commit?
And you’ve done everything you know to show him that this is the right relationship, you won’t crowd him, you won’t cheat on him or hurt him, and that you’re “for” each other?
This is just one of the most frustrating things I remember ever experiencing. Of all the men I ever dated and had unhappy experiences with, this is the one I remember most:
When I was with him, it was wonderful.
We’d have fun, it felt cozy and sexy, and not only did I know he liked me, he said so, he said he admired me, he liked me, he loved me, that I was so nice and wonderful… and yet it felt incredibly painful to be with him. There were so many things going on that should have warned me, but I ignored them.
What Reality Shows Can Teach About Relationships
I recently saw one of the women “contestants” on a reality TV show, “The Bachelor,” do exactly what I’d done. If you’ve been watching “The Bachelor” you’ve already seen the outcome (and there’s so much to learn from that show), but I’d like to use the experience of Hillary, one of the contestants who left earlier, to talk about the “friend card.”
On the show, they filmed Hillary on her “dates” with Brad (the Bachelor), and focused on him telling her over and over how great she is, how highly he thinks of her, that he enjoys being with her so much, and that he really likes her. He uses the words “I feel comfortable with you” and “You really make me laugh” and, also, the word “friend” a lot.
And Hillary clearly heard everything he said but the word “friend.”
She understood everything he said as a “romantic” message from him. And we could tell she was a nice girl. She wasn’t “stupid” and she wasn’t silly. And we could see that, yes, he really did like her a lot… but as a friend which she couldn’t see or feel.
While she was on the show, she talked directly to the reality TV cameras, and told us all how she felt she and Brad were perfect together and how everything he said made her feel, and what a strong bond they had between them, and that she was looking forward to marrying him and being “The One.” But we were all watching their conversations, too, and we all heard him saying loud and clear that he meant he liked her as a “friend,” only.
The night she wasn’t picked and left the show, she cried harder than any woman had in the “history” of the show. They made a big deal about it – that it was a “breakdown.” and then they showed clips of the conversations in which Brad was telling her his feelings for her were as a “friend,” and not his potential “wife.”
They made her look foolish and over-dramatic and pretty much deluded. Then, if you watched the “special” episode where they brought all the women back, you saw how they played all the clips of her and Brad and then made fun of her.
Hillary said that she wished Brad had told her a little more clearly that what she meant to him was a “friend,” but then they showed the clips where he was doing JUST THAT, and made her look even more foolish. They suggested that if he’d hired a skywriter to write “we’re just friends” across the sky, she would have interpreted it as a proposal!
Love is blind in many senses of the word!
Watching Hillary, and watching all the conversations between her and Brad being played one after the other, and watching them make fun of her “interpretations” of those conversations, I felt like crawling under the table myself.
As much as I’d like to make fun of her too, or say – “I’d never fall for that,” I was forced to remember that “Yes – I’d done EXACTLY the same thing as Hillary.”
The Friend Zone & How To Recognize It
I remember being in relationships for years with men who saw me as “friends,” and who probably told me that, but I just couldn’t hear it.
Looking back these were the things that I was doing:
- I held out hope.
- I confused sexual passion with emotional passion.
- I confused SEEING so much of him for him CARING so much for ME.
- I heard what I wanted to hear, and saw what I wanted to see.
- I ignored the way he was just “slightly” not acting like we were a couple.
- I ignored the friendships he had with his ex- girlfriends, even though he explained them as somehow similar to “our” relationship.
- I know he used the word “friends” many times, and I didn’t hear it.
But mostly, I ignored what I felt, my brain kept telling me he was a great “catch” and a “good man” and that this would all “work out. My hormones were all tied up in him, and my body always wanted to move toward him, but my feelings were different.
I remember almost always feeling, well, sad. It was as though the only feelings being lit on fire were mine and somewhere, deep inside, I knew it, but I wouldn’t let myself know I knew it.
Instead – I SAT ON IT.
Suppressing Feelings Is Never The Answer
So I toned down my own feelings, I pretended to be cool, I acted as if it didn’t matter to me that he didn’t introduce me as his “girlfriend,” but just as my name. I acted as if he were my only option in the world and the moment we start thinking like that, it’s downhill from there.
So let’s start working with the basic problem Hillary was dealing with in this artificial world of a reality show, which is the same problem I was experiencing with man after man, and perhaps it’s the same situation you’re now finding yourself in:
Hillary and I believed he was it. We believed that the man in front of us was the only man. It may seems so hard to believe that we could have believed it, but when you’re in the middle of it, sometimes that’s how we’ve all been trained to believe. We believe a man our heart is involved with is the only man for us… and that’s just a plain lie. I know it’s a lie, because not only did I meet my wonderful husband many years later, but between that man and my husband, there were several men I felt even more strongly about than I did him. I can laugh now, because as I write this, all those men come back to my memory and – yes – they all played me the “friend card.”
Clearly, that was my pattern and clearly, that was the way my own fear of intimacy showed itself.
- I couldn’t really handle “True Love.”
- I could only handle “Good Friends.”
Of course, “Good Friends With Sex,” but since I had no way, at that time, of separating “Sex” from “True Love,” the whole idea of “Friends With Sex” never even occurred to me. If there was sex, it had to be a relationship.
Your Choice, Your Control Over The Relationship
Even though things have changed – and we realize that sex is sex and friendship is friendship and romantic love forever is romantic love forever – in all our hearts, I believe, we women feel sex and romantic love as the same thing and in my opinion, that’s a GOOD way to feel.
That doesn’t mean we can’t make exceptions, and have sex with “good friends” of our choosing, but it has to be our choice, and to do that in a way that really serves us, we have to know the difference.
I wish I could reach out and give Hillary a huge hug for teaching us all this lesson (in fact, I likely will find a way to write to her). If she had allowed herself to see what the Bachelor was showing her, and hear what he was telling her, she would have enjoyed herself on the show so much more, and she would have laughed on the night she went home because she’d actually appreciate how long she’d stayed – or, if she stopped having fun – she might have chosen to leave on her own!
So how can this help YOU?
The “friend card” can ONLY be played in an imaginary relationship and it can only hurt if you’ve made yourself exclusive. It can only make you feel foolish if you’ve let yourself get emotionally and sexually and hormonally tied up in him.
So, this is NOT about protecting yourself from the “friend card.” This is about AVOIDING it ALTOGETHER!
Simple as that!