The “friend zone”: it sounds nice enough, right? In fact, it even seems like a place that would have a wait list to get into. Who doesn’t want to be in a spot with tons of friends?

The reality of this, however, is more accurate. The “friend zone” has been labeled a lonely place where romantic interest goes to die and egos have a good ugly cry.

Before you begin wondering if you have, in fact, been put in this seemingly dreaded place, here’s a little secret: it doesn’t exist. Bottom line, this “unfriendly zone” is a mythical locale that is designed to make people feel better about relationship rejection. It is actually even seen as a sexist idea by some.

Have you ever been accused of placing someone in the “friend zone”? If so, read on to find out why that accusation was total BS.

Friend Zone 101: What You Need to Know

If the “friend zone” is uncharted territory for you, here’s what you’ve been missing.

 How It Started

Who says pop culture doesn’t have a ginormous influence over the world and daily lives? Case in point, Joey Tribiani. Even if you weren’t around or interested when television show Friends (natch) originally aired, chances are, you’ve seen it or at least know who the characters are. What you probably don’t know, however, is what this insanely popular sitcom has to do with the term “friend zone.”

The relationship of characters Ross and Rachel was an underlying theme throughout the show’s entire series. Fans were frequently asking themselves if Ross and Rachel were a couple again, would they ever be a couple again, do they still love each other, and more.

The relationship began, however, after months and months of Ross pining for Rachel, while she doesn’t even have a clue about his feelings towards her.

After Tribiani witnesses an exchange between the pair, he explains to Ross that the relationship will never happen because Rachel has put him in the “friend zone.” Cue frightening music.

Why Some People Think the Friend Zone Is Bad

Being friends is nice, yes? In fact, it’s a relationship that many people seek. But the connotation in which Tribiani describes this relationship makes it seem undesirable and possibly even loathe-worthy.

The “friend zone” suggests that maintaining a friendship with someone after you’ve been rejected romantically is basically an insult. In reality, having a true friendship with someone is an honor. The fact that your love interest was kind enough to let you down in a friendly manner should make you feel pretty special.  

Advocates and believers of the “friend zone” forget that being the person’s friend should be valued. And when they are rejected, placement in this zone is seen as a failure. Do you want to be friends with someone who thinks that getting to know and spend time with you is seen as a fail?   

This zone is not friendly at all, and in fact, is simply a place for deflated egos to get all up in their feelings.

Friend Zone vs. Friendship: Is There a Difference?

The names are similar enough, but does it mean that the “friend zone” and friendship are essentially the same? That’s a hard no.

The “friend zone” insinuates that friendships aren’t equal or wanted.

It’s pretty safe to say that all parties involved in a friendship agree to forming that bond. In most cases, people will feel a bond or connection after spending time with others and will then decide to begin a friendly relationship. After all, it’s pretty silly to say that someone is in a friendship they didn’t choose to be in.

That is exactly, however, what the friend zone describes. The rejected party doesn’t want to be in the friend zone. In fact, the friend zone is lava at this point. Think of it as a deep dark pit that is home to a depressed person lying in the fetal position. This person doesn’t want to be there and wants to do anything they can to escape. In here, resentment, jealousy, and a whole other gaggle of emotions that don’t have anything to do with a healthy friendship develop.

Contrarily, friendships usually last when the relationship is mutually beneficial. Friendships are nourished, attended to, and seen as a positive. The friend zone, however, is a big ugly negative.

The zone places women in a negative light.

A large part of the “friend zone” problem has to do with the way it displays women. Some see it as a method in which to shame a woman for hurting a man’s feelings. It places a female standing up for what she does—or doesn’t—want in a negative light.

As a result, women may find themselves guilted into having a relationship with someone they don’t want, and then looked down upon when the relationship doesn’t work out.

Why the Friend Zone Doesn’t Really Exist

The good news is the friend zone doesn’t really exist. It’s a made up place for people who were hurt and let down. It’s a fictional cloudy bed of pillows and feathers where egos go to rest their wounded souls.

Rejection isn’t always forever.

The “friend zone” insinuates that because your love interest didn’t reciprocate now, they never will. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Relationship boundaries change on the regular. There’s a chance your friendship could evolve down the road. But maybe it won’t, and that should be okay with you.

Bottom line is, if you’re rejected, you can still be friends. 

Sure, you may feel awkward around the person for a little while or have a difficult time not staring at them constantly, but these minor issues will likely fade away with time. Until then, focus on what you love about your friendship. If you can’t, or if you don’t want to maintain the relationship because romance is off the table, perhaps you shouldn’t have been friends in the first place.

Not everyone is heterosexual.

Although not in every case, but in a large majority of cases, the “friend zone” refers to heterosexual relationships. Apparently, people in non-heterosexual relationships don’t experience rejection. Or perhaps they understand that friendship is a good thing, not a consolation prize.

Whatever the reason, the term is usually specific to male and female relationships, and more often those in which the male is the pursuer and the female turns him down.

It encourages men to feel that nice behavior should be rewarded.

What happened to the days where people were nice to other people just to be nice? Sounds like a foreign concept, but some people treat others with kindness simply because they want to, not because they are looking for anything in return.

The “friend zone” presents the concept that a man should be rewarded for his kindness towards a woman only when they want a romantic relationship. If the woman doesn’t agree to said relationship, she is negatively labeled. 

Friendship lands on the exact opposite of this spectrum. Friendships are formed by parties who respect and wish each other happiness. They don’t encourage the idea that when a man is nice to a woman, she should give into him romantically and not take her own feelings into consideration.