The Friend Zone 

  • Illustration by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Dear Audrey,

I moved here a little under a year ago with no friends or contacts. I work at home and I’m bad at meeting people. About six months ago I met a guy and we started seeing each other. He’s nice. It’s not that serious. He has tons of friends who are all cool, fun people, and I am invited to hang out with them often. I realized shortly into the relationship that while this guy is a nice person, he’s not really for me. Even more, we aren’t very sexually compatible. But if I break up with him, then I go back to not having any friends and being totally alone in my apartment. That scares me. I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m using him? But he’s also using me—he’s said how much he likes have a “girlfriend” (his words) that is happy just hanging out and having sex without any pressure. Am I a bad person if I keep this going? Am I setting myself up for sadness?

I don’t think you’re a bad person, no. Lazy maybe, but not like, morally questionable. The older I get and the more of the world I see, the more I have come to understand transactional sex. I think as a younger person I would’ve been like, but how will you find ~true love~ if you’re busy with some ho-hum jagoff? How tragic!

But it sounds like you’re not in the market for true love, so who cares? So many marriages function in a mostly transactional way, where the two partners trade each other for the things they need: intimacy, sex, money, a cook, a co-parent, someone to do stuff with, etc. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a relationship that exists primarily as a quid pro quo, so long as you’re clear about what you’re doing and why.

I do think it’s a pretty shitty long-term friend strategy. If the relationship is, as you say, not that serious, eventually one of you will want to move on to something they’re more emotionally invested in. And where will that leave you? Back with no friends, sad and alone in your apartment.

So if you’re fine with your current arrangement, why not use this time to get off your ass and make some friends? You say you’re bad at meeting people—well, most people are. It’s hard to make friends as an adult. It’s weird and awkward and takes effort. But if you want to not be lonely forever, and not be stuck with a string of guys whose sex you’re enduring for company, do the work now.

This guy gives you access to a wide group of people, his friends and their friends and a whole network of acquaintances. Obviously don’t expect to steal his BFFs, but there are probably people he hangs out with that he barely even knows. Find the ones you like and make them your friends.

Whenever you click with someone, reach out to them and set up a one-on-one hang. Make an effort to see them, cultivate them as friends. Use Facebook or Twitter, or even just ask in the moment if they want to do x or y shared interest thing. Yes, it absolutely will be weird at first! But that will pass! In five years you won’t even remember this guy or how you met, you’ll just have your own awesome group of friends.


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