September 06, 2014 / Everything You Know about the Friend Zone is Wrong
Introducing: The Attraction Triangle.
You’ve probably heard of the "friend zone," so I won’t bother re-hashing it in its entirely. A lot of you probably came to JoshSway.com searching for something like, "how to get out of the friend zone." I’m actually going to try and answer that here, but probably not in the way you expect.
First, you have to dismiss the actual concept of a "zone." I’ve seen several different metaphorical representations of this zone. Sometimes it’s a linear scale, where points 1-5 are the "zone." Sometimes it’s two linear scales, where one is labeled the "friend zone." Anyway, throw that all out. You’re looking at the wrong model. When it comes to women and attraction, here’s the right one.
Introducing: The Attraction Triangle
You may be thinking: "Great, another 1400-word dissertation from TVJ? I’ll pass." But keep reading! I’ve made lots of fun images to break this down.
First, there are three major components to a woman’s attraction.
This shouldn’t be controversial. Although you shouldn’t really bother asking women what they want, if you ask one, "what do you look for a guy," there is a 99.9% chance she will say: "smart, funny, and cute."
- Lover : "Cute"
- Companion : "Funny"
- Provider : "Smart"
So, let’s draw that out. Maybe it would look something like this.
Okay, well that’s simple enough. So where am I going with this?
The Purest Forms: One-Night Stand, Friend, Father
Now let’s think about all the relationships in a woman’s life. For example, who is someone that is 100% provider? Well, who else would she consider the model for that, if not her own father?
All right, if those are the extremes, what about in between?
Now we’re getting somewhere.
In the context of women and attraction, this is the simplest model that can possibly explain everything. There is no "friend zone," at least not in the sense that you’re thinking about it. Saying "you’re in the friend zone" is useless. It’s misleading and not prescriptive, and that’s why "you can’t get out of the friend zone."
The Attraction Triangle explains "the friend zone" better than anything else. If you accept this model as true, then let’s look at what conclusions you can draw.
1. It’s Always Optimal to Start as a Lover
This is why we stress this so much, and tell you that sex matters. If you start off on the Lover side of the triangle, you can easily transition to "Boyfriend" or "Friends With Benefits." And those are great options. Start in any other corner of the triangle, and one of them will probably be closed off to you.
You need to present yourself as a lover. So when you’re saying, "how do I stay out of the ‘friend zone,’ what you’re really asking is, "how do I avoid behaviors that will get me considered a companion or a provider?"
This is why we tell you to avoid doing things like taking a woman out on an expensive dinner on the first date. That’s being a Provider.
And this is why we tell you to avoid day time dates. That’s being a Companion.
So basically, avoid doing things her best friend would do, or her father. That’s how you "stay out of the friend zone."
2. If You’re a Companion, Don’t Try and Be Her Boyfriend
I put Lover in the top corner because it’s easiest to travel "downward." Assume the triangle is standing up on a table. It’s easier to "roll down the slope." Like this:
That doesn’t mean you can’t "work your way up." Sometimes, that will happen. Imagine a sexy co-worker. If you work with her, it’s going to be pretty hard to start out as Lover, unless you have a very unusual workplace. You’re going to be a Companion.
And that doesn’t mean you’re screwed. But it does mean you shouldn’t try and go from "co-worker" to "boyfriend." Look how far "Boyfriend" is from the Companion corner!
You would want to do something like invite your co-workers to Happy Hour, have a few drinks, and then make a move. Assert yourself as a Lover. What you don’t want to do is take her out to lunch, and confess your feelings, and say you want a relationship.
3. Women Who Grew Up Without a Positive Male Role Model Will Suck at Relationships
You’ve probably heard this before, but this models it perfectly. That woman’s triangle is not a triangle. She has no Provider corner, because she doesn’t know what that looks like. Any Provider traits you display will be completely ignored and ineffective.
If you have strong Provider traits, avoid these women. Even if you start out as a Lover, if you ever demonstrate Provider traits and want to be "serious," they will never reciprocate. They will say "they’re fucked up in the head" and "they have issues" and they’ll be right, because they completely don’t value the Provider traits you bring. They won’t like you, so don’t waste your time considering them for a serious, exclusive relationship.
4. It’s Basically Never Good to Start as a Provider
If you considered you’re self in the "friend zone" with a girl, think about what exactly your friendship consisted of.
If you just hung out a lot and did things together, then you’re a Companion. So as I said, it won’t be easy to work your way up to Lover, but it’s possible.
But if you were "there for her," if you:
- listened to her problems
- gave her rides
- paid for her meals
- helped her move
- let her copy your notes
Then, well, you’re a Provider. You’re a Provider mixed with Companion, which as you can see, means you’re a "brother." And so you know when she says, "you’re like a brother to me," you’re literally as far away from Lover as you can get.
The only move from Provider to Lover is by becoming her boyfriend. But it’s hard to provide for her without spending time with her, and that means being a Companion. So you this is why all your Provider actions just totally backfire. Instead of being more attracted to her, spending time with her doing all these things makes you a Companion, and the end result is "you’re like a brother to me."
5. You Probably Can’t Be Good Friends With Your Ex
The Attraction Triangle works both ways. It’s hard to go from brother to Lover, but the reverse is true too. When you break up with a girlfriend, it’s over. You can’t pretend to be a Companion and Provider and think everything is cool. Eventually she’ll start dating someone else, and you’ll be jealous, because subconsciously you’re still considering yourself a Lover. The best move is to cut contact and move on.
Exceptions Are, Well, Exceptions
We’re not saying never be a Provider. If you like a girl, and you’re already dating and sexually active with her, then go ahead and display some Provider traits if you want to be in an exclusive relationship. Meet her parents at brunch. Buy her a nice gift for her birthday. Give her a ride to the airport. If you’re already a Lover, doing these things are how you become a "boyfriend." This was probably intuitive to you, but now you can see it modeled out very simply.
Most Hollywood romantic comedies give a misleading expectation that Providers can become Lovers very easily. But as you have probably learned first-hand, this isn’t true. If you’ve made some mistakes and ended up in the Provider corner first, don’t delude yourself into thinking it’ll be possible to parlay that into hooking up. All those favors you’re doing her are just fucking it up.
With that said, if you do end up stuck deep in the "brother" area as a Provider/Companion, it may still be possible to get out. How? I’ll cover that next week.