The need for acceptance is one of the fundamental imperatives of the human experience. We are innately communal creatures, but not only in a context of congenial familiarity. We yearn to unburden ourselves of our social facade and be seen; truly seen.
We desire intimacy; an impulse which expresses itself in a multitude of remarkable ways. Men make an astounding variety of efforts to be noticed and gain the affection of women, often to no avail. When such efforts are misaligned and in-turn unreciprocated, the ensuing self-doubt and discouragement can be deeply troubling and may pave the way for any manner of misguided reactions. If this occurs within the context of acquaintanceship, the nebulous concept of the “friend-zone” is thereby invoked. You’re stuck. But why? You’ve been so supportive and generous. Doesn’t she see that you’re the obvious choice compared to the flippant, unreliable dudes with whom she carelessly wastes her time? Devastating, though this denial may often be, it is accompanied by an obscured opportunity for growth. To merely dismiss rejection as unfair and irrational is a denial of the responsibility to turn the critical gaze inward. The friend-zone myth must be sufficiently debunked, but first, the devil will have his due.
A common and all too human tendency of young, insecure women is to prolong the duration of affection shown to her by anyone eager to have hers in return. She may recognize this intention and allow or even embolden its perpetuation; being the focus of adulation is, after all, a cogent short-term reprieve from self-consciousness. The only course of action for the pursuer in this case is to desist the moment this dynamic becomes clear. This said, the more demanding issue is when the advances are plainly unwanted. Either way, the correct response is the same. Stop, move on.
The concept of the friend-zone depends on the absurd notion that kindness functions as legal tender in the sexual marketplace. This misguided assumption results in much needless resentment and frustration. Consider what a romantic relationship would be like with someone whose interest must be coaxed and their affection persuaded. Perhaps you yourself have experienced such a relationship, or perhaps you’re in one now. No relationship on such unilateral terms is functional, much less fulfilling. Beyond that, the friend-zone mentality implies an intransigence of romantic development, as though a relationship could never be possible in the future. The beauty of early adulthood is that change is inevitable. Someone you’ve known for years without amorous chemistry could grow into a near perfect companion. With the unhelpful and imaginary stumbling block of the friend-zone now discarded, we must ask, “What do I look for in a partner?”
Encountering a lover for whom you’re deeply passionate is an utterly transcendent experience. It’s an event in life that brings us back to the present like no other. We search for someone who sets our soul on fire, but what does this actually mean? How do we define or quantify this sensation? My limited (and needless to say subjective) experience has taught me that this feeling is on the spectrum of excitement, and as such, has a distressingly brief half-life and is impossible to disentangle from lust. Enough folly in the pursuit of this quality to the exclusion of most others reveals a more valuable attribute; one in which fleeting desire cannot possibly masquerade. The feeling worth searching for in a counterpart is a sense of home. This is a gut feeling of which we must become cognizant. It is your Enteric Nervous System, a network of neurons in your abdomen programmed by eons of evolution to detect danger. It is signaling that you are in a place of refuge, free from the perils of the outside world. When applied to another individual, it is your intuition telling you that you have every reason to expect honesty and fairness from this person. This is foundational for any relationship worth having. A connection lacking this facet should be kept in its proper context and limited to pure recreation. But this is only the base of the pyramid; once established, compatibility must be determined.
Imagine, if you will, a Weird Science scenario in which you have complete freedom to fabricate your perfect mate from thin air. Consider all the attributes you want this person to possess; from things that are essential, to things that are desirable, to superfluous details with no real importance. Now acknowledge that statistics virtually guarantee that there is someone, or many someones, in the world just like that or better. But there’s a catch. In order to recognize this person for who and what they are, you must first deeply understand yourself and commit unwaveringly to your own honest expression. This will, of course, sound like a cheap attempt at profundity, but it is imperative to know exactly who you are and become adept at being that person. You don’t discover this in a relationship when your output is curated to accommodate your partner’s wants and needs. Nor does this emerge when life is going great, as there is nothing at all remarkable about how we behave in the absence of challenge. You find out who you are through suffering and contemplation. If you have no suffering in your life, simulate it. Exercise. Get good at something you’re terrible at. This process is, by its nature, cyclical, as discovering more about yourself will affect what you need to find in someone else. Complete and refine this practice until you cease to sabotage yourself by relying upon corrosive people. No doubt you will feel like Daniel-san, hopelessly waxing on and off with no pertinent goal in sight, but rest assured that you are driving towards something valuable.
A final and perfectly rational concern is what qualifies me to speak on such things. I have no degree in sociology or certification in counseling or so much as a claim to be anyone’s life coach. Nor does my perspective arise through the attainment of superior wisdom, on the contrary, a plethora of astute advice exists on these topics, informed by exceptional knowledge of human psychology which dwarfs my own. My advantage is that I incidentally default to more constructive coping mechanisms. As I’ve alluded in some previous writings, my response to emotional turmoil is to bury my attention in physical exertion. When this method and my body are sufficiently exhausted, I simply consume an endless stream of new information on topics of philosophy, science, history or anything remotely interesting and productive. When the noise of your psychological irritation subsides, a more capable and effective version of yourself will observe the world with fresh eyes.
I’m now fortunate enough to enjoy the result of this philosophy, having found a partner who enhances my life in ways I never thought possible. No matter the outcome, a relationship of such cohesive devotion is evidence enough that this is the right path. No doubt, facing your own flaws objectively is a daunting task, but minuscule in comparison to the immense rewards that follow. Make the investment in yourself, you are worth it.