Here’s How to Escape the “Friend Zone,” According to Science

Science explains how to escape the endless bummer of getting friend-zoned.

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Of all the zones in all the world, the one designated for friends is easily the shittiest. Who the hell honestly wants another friend to worry about? The so-called "friend zone," then, becomes an inescapable trap for many a hopeless romantic stuck listening to their aloof BFF go on and on (and on and on) about recent trysts while pondering existential concerns such as "What's a tryst?" and "Why not me?" Thankfully, a little thing called science has stepped in with some possible illumination on the endless bummer of getting friend-zoned.

In a fresh essay for Psychology Today, the PhD-armed Gwendolyn Seidman breaks down recent research that suggests some examples of the friend zone may actually blossom into a self-fulfilling prophecy:

A self-fulfilling prophecy is when your attitudes toward a person ultimately cause that person to behave in a way consistent with your expectations due to the way you treat that person.

Seidman, who's also the chair of the psychology department at Albright College, breaks down this "self-fulfilling prophecy" theory using a delightful example involving a fictional hetero couple named Penny and Leonard. Despite possessing names that sound like they were ripped straight from a 1950s-era sitcom that would have immediately been canceled, this couple stumbles into a semi-happy ending. Leonard, you see, has been friend-zoned but has been unknowingly projecting his one-sided feelings of love onto Penny. Then this (theoretically) happens:

Eventually Leonard's behavior stirs romantic feelings in Penny and she starts to see him differently.

Seidman's essay, which also received the Uproxxco-sign, then dives into some cold, hard science. One study, published in a recent paper by Edward LeMay and Noah Wolf, found that we are all probably projecting our romantic feelings onto our friends without even realizing it.

127 pairs of opposite sex friends, all of whom were college students, were asked to fill out questionnaires that assessed their romantic desire for their friend. The questionnaires also delved into their "perception of their friend's romantic desire for them," which sounds like a potential ego implosion. Additionally, participants opened up about their attempts at physical intimacy, flirting, and other non-friend activities with said friend. The result? That whole "self-fulfilling prophecy" thing seems to have some weight behind it. But, as with everything else in this cruel and unrelenting universe, there's a catch:

This only happened if the friend perceived the participant as a good catch. If the friend generally thought the participant was undesirable, then no amount of romancing could change that.

So yeah, as a follow-up study showed, no amount of wishful friend zone thinking could save someone who was perceived as, you know, not dating material.

But keep your heads up. There are plenty of inspirational stories out there that prove that love, be it in the friend zone or otherwise, conquers all.

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