- Clear communication
- Healthy boundaries
We talked about the role of clear communication last week, so this week we finish off our current Date Night Advice (DNA) series, The Friend Zone Files, by clarifying the importance of those incredibly handy things called boundaries!
Boundaries help us recognize where both our rights and the rights of others begin and end, so we can take responsibility for our part in a relationship while completely relinquishing responsibility for what we have no control or authority over.
We will see this is critical after a conversation where you have made an effort to define where a relationship is or suggest where it might go next.
Of course, if things turn out positively from your DTR (Define The Relationship) talk, congratulations! You won’t need any boundaries to stay out of the friend zone.
But what if things turn out poorly? In other words, what if the person you’re crushing on is not interested or ready at the time of your conversation to move the relationship forward?
Then you need to define your relational boundaries to keep from winding up in the friend zone.
Boundaries are Your Friends
To be sure, initiating a DTR talk is no easy task, but it can be just as challenging to set up the appropriate boundaries after the conversation has taken place, especially if it seems like they’re not that into you.
So let’s go back to the three common situations we presented last week. (If you missed that post I urge you to read that one first.) Then, assuming the other person’s response is not what you hoped, we’ll establish recommended boundaries to keep your relationship from ending up in the friend zone.
Situation 1: You have established a text conversation with this person that takes far more time and emotional energy than anyone else you text. Suggested conversation starter: “It’s been fun texting you the last couple weeks, but my thumbs are tired. Let me know if you’re ready to move this relationship to the next level: the “actually talking” level. [smiley face emoji]”
Result of conversation: ghosted
Recommended boundaries: DTB (Don’t Text Back)
No doubt about it, being ghosted hurts, but trust me: you dodged a bullet. You only wound up wasting a couple weeks of your life, instead of a couple months.
Move on. Do NOT keep texting them. “Did you get my last text?”
If they got all the other texts up until that point it’s a safe assumption they got the last one.
More important than what you shouldn’t do with your thumbs is what you shouldn’t do with your mind. You should not entertain any further hopes for this relationship unless the other person does all of the following:
- Makes a clearly communicated change of heart
- Moves things to the “actually talking” level
- Takes responsibility for ghosting you in the first place (without you having to ask them too).
If they reappear sometime later with a text that doesn’t accomplish any of the above, do not respond. DTB. You don’t have time for that.
And a person who’s mature enough to take a texting “relationship” to the “next level” of actually talking should be mature enough to take care of all three of the above in the first real life conversation, if not before then.
Situation #2: You’ve been having fun flirting and getting to know someone in group settings for months. Suggested conversation starter: “ I don’t know what months of flirting with the same person means to you, but I was thinking it might mean we should either try going out on a first date or we should both move on and find new flirting partners.”
Result of conversation: They back off.
Recommended boundaries: Move on.
Don’t take it personally. Just find a new flirting partner.
But first, I urge you to seriously analyze and retool your flirting approach. To help you do that, we put together an entire LoveEd video series on How to Flirt like a Christian on our FMU YouTube channel.
If they try to resume your flirting “relationship” sometime later without addressing your suggestion to move the relationship forward, respond to them like you would an immature sibling. In other words, with the maturity of an older brother or sister who doesn’t flirt with kin. Unless you’re from Arkansas. And then pretend you’re from another state (other than Kentucky or West Virginia).
As we mention in the LoveEd series above…
Some like to flirt for entertainment. But you were not made to be someone’s entertainment. You were made to be someone’s soul mate, so flirt accordingly.
Situation #3: You’ve been hanging out multiple times each week, just the two of you, for a month or more. Suggested conversation starter: “I’ve enjoyed hanging out and getting to know you and was wondering if you have been feeling the same way, and where you saw this relationship heading?”
Result of conversation: They be like, “Uhhhhhhhhh.”
Recommended boundaries: Give them space!
As hard as it may be, PLEASE do both of you a favor and back off.
I’m not saying to ignore this person in public and block them on social media, but I am urging you to discontinue the exclusive one-on-one time with them. Unless, of course, you’d like to continue to feed your desire to be in a serious relationship with someone who isn’t ready to be serious. And may never be. With you anyway.
To continue to hang out one-on-one, growing in intimacy with someone of the opposite sex who doesn’t see a dating relationship in your future, is an almost guaranteed pathway to the dark side (a.k.a. the friend zone).
Maybe this person is the one; the person you were destined to be with since the dawn of time. But their time clearly hasn’t arrived yet. Or if it has, they weren’t notified, but…
Even if God told you, in a letter, signed by Jesus and notarized by the Holy Spirit, that this person belongs to you, leave it to God to make that clear to them. In His time.
As for now, you thought all the exclusive time you had been spending together meant something significant while they thought it meant, “Uhhhhhhhh.” These two views of the same relationship are incompatible.
I’m not saying things can’t work out in time.
However, when the ball is in their court, it is not your responsibility to run over to their side of the net and hit the ball back to yourself. Stay on your side of the court.
Stay! And let God work on them without your manipulation.
You did your part. You put on your big boy pants (or big girl skirt) and revealed your interest and they said, “Uhhhhhhh.” Or some equivalent thereof. If you want to stay out of the friend zone, then respect their right to feel how they feel (or not know how they feel).
But do not continue to spend all that exclusive time with them. That kind of time belongs to boyfriends and girlfriends. Or family, mentors, or same gender friends.
Maybe they didn’t know that, but they will know it when you make it clear by refusing to give them emotional access to your heart without any intention of considering a future with you.
Now, knowing what I’m urging you to do will not prove easy, let me encourage you with this reality. One of two things will transpire after you cut out your one-on-one time with this person:
- You will be set free to look for another potential partner who actually views you as a potential partner in return.
- The person who initially said, “Uhhhhhhh,” might wind up coming back to you a couple months (or weeks) later saying, “Uhhhhh I don’t know what I thinking! I have missed hanging out and getting to know you. If you’d be open to giving us a second chance, I’d like to see where this relationship might head.”
Either way, you can kiss the friend zone goodbye.
Please feel free to respond below with further comments or questions about this post or the whole series.
Date Night Advice (DNA) series: The Friend Zone Files
Part 10: Kiss the Friend Zone Goodbye
Click here to start back at the beginning of the series.
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!