Why Do Nice Guys Get Friend Zoned?

It’s a question that too many guys end up asking. How did I get placed in the friend zone? This wonderful thread on Quora explains it all, but here are 17 of the best comments that I’ve picked out for you to analyze.

1. Marcus Geduld

This is a complicated phenomenon that people insist on simplifying with answers that make a single, cartoonish claim, such as “It’s because nice guys aren’t really nice: they’re just playing nice to get sex” and “It’s because girls claim they want nice guys but really they’re lying.” Both of those claims can be true in some circumstances, but neither is necessarily the whole story.

A major factor is that “nice” isn’t attractive in-and-of itself. It’s a mistake to conclude an extreme opposite from that: “Oh, I see! So girls like guys who are assholes.” There are lots of girls in the world, and some (unfortunately) are attracted to guys who mistreat them (especially when there’s no attractive alternative), but that’s not a cosmic truth about all women.

“I’m a nice guy. How come I can’t get a girlfriend” is similar to “I own* a really nice piano that I take good care of. How come I’m not playing at Carnegie Hall?” And it would be a mistake to conclude from that, “Oh, I see! Carnegie Hall only wants people with old, broken pianos that they treat like shit!” Owning (or having-access-to) a piano for practicing is the minimum requirement for a concert pianist. We do want them to own pianos, but we want more than that. We want them to be able to read music and play with skill.

(One more excursion into analogy land: I don’t finish the nutritional but bland salad you make me. From that, you wrongly conclude I don’t care about (or dislike) healthy food and only want to eat junk. Actually, I crave food that’s healthy and tasty. But I will eat junk if the only alternative is blandness.)

I require that people I relate to to be nice—to be respectful, caring, kind, good, and so on. But that’s never enough to really interest me in them. It’s just a core level of humanity that I expect before I even consider any sort of relationship. And, truth be told, if I was forced to be friends or lovers with either a nice person (who had nothing else going for him) and an interesting bastard, I’d probably choose the latter. Not because I like assholes—I don’t—but because a just nice person would bore the pants off me.

And note that if you said, “Oh, so you like assholes,” I’d say “No,” and I wouldn’t be lying. What I like is dynamic people. I prefer them to not be assholes, but I can’t be attracted to them if they’re not dynamic, so in a pinch, I’ll regrettably choose the dynamic asshole over the milksop nice guy. (Though, unless someone was pointing a gun to my head, I’ll choose neither.)

Yes, of course women don’t like fake nice guys who are just being nice to get into their pants. Who wants to be conned or lied to? So, sure, that is a factor, because there are many guys who behave that way, and almost every woman has had to deal with them. And, because those guys crop up so often, women can get fooled by false positives. Some genuinely nice guys, who don’t have an expectation sex-for-niceness may get unfairly lumped into the faux-nice camp. It happens.

But even if a woman (a) knows a guy is genuinely nice, and (b) is not particularly attracted to assholes, she may be turned off by the nice guy if all that comes to mind when she thinks of him is “nice”. Which will likely to be the case if he thinks of himself as “a nice guy”. (And it’s a huge problem if he sees the world in a binary way—if to him the only thing you can be if you’re not a “nice guy” is a “dick”. Guys who think in that simplistic way aren’t ready to be in a relationship, and most women can sense that. Such guys make shitty boyfriends.)

In my experience, “nice guys” and “friendzone” are mostly a young-man’s problem. I don’t know a single 30+ man who thinks of himself as “a nice guy” or who would describe himself as being “friendzoned”. I have some 40 and 50-year-old male friends who are single, but they don’t think of themselves as “nice guys” and neither do the women who know them.

This is because, by the time people reach 30, most know something about themselves. They no longer describe themselves in simple, cartoon-like terms, such as “I’m dark and brooding,” “I’m goofy,” or “I’m nice.” They have skills, profound interests, careers, and so on. As a 47-year-old, when I meet people at parties, they’re introduced to me as “A really good programmer,” “an amazing dad,” “a highly-qualified teacher,” etc. No one is “nice” even though they are (almost) all nice.

This is why so many people give the wise advice to dateless folks that they need to focus on themselves instead of “Why don’t girls like me?” They need to dive into hobbies, interests, careers, and become something more than “nice.” And that’s not something you can do overnight. You can’t be a “nice guy,” go to two meetings of a book club, and be magically morphed into a literary expert. You can’t be a confident, skilled person by deciding to be one. You have to put in the hours and the passion.

And you can’t be trying to transform yourself into a literary expert (or whatever) in order to get girls. That’s not attractive.

You need to find something that interests you because it interests you, devote yourself to it, serve it, become skilled at it, make it better, and reach a stage of confidence with it. And you need to learn how to share your passion for it with others. (Note: sharing is a bi-directional form of communication. It doesn’t mean pontificating while everyone else listens.)

People who are nice and do that don’t get friendzoned.

I want to waste a few more words on age: alas, so many people form strong opinions of the opposite sex in high-school and college. Most men and women aren’t fully-formed until they’re around 25, but unfortunately, by then, some of them have already become deeply opinionated based on how they were treated in high school.

High-school girls are girls. Amongst other things, that means that (just as is the case with most high-school boys), many of them are shallow. They don’t have the life experience to understand what makes a good romantic partner. Like all of us, they have to learn that by living and making mistakes.

Added to which, they exist in an environment of extreme peer pressure: one in which they’re judged (and potentially ostracized) depending on who they date. Some adult women are capable of saying, “I like him, so who gives a shit what anyone else thinks,” but few high-schoolers (male or female) have that kind of confidence.

And, most of the boys these girls get to choose from are not fully formed. Most are nervous and totally lacking in confidence, and they deal with this by either being total messes or by cloaking their self-esteem issues with overwrought bravado, arrogance, and bullying behavior.

Some young girls—because they lack experience—are fooled into thinking that latter type is confident. By they time they reach their mid-to-late 20s, they mostly realize their mistake and start dating different sorts of guys, which works out well, because many guys have matured by then, too.

But it’s unfortunate that so many guys form their lifelong opinion of women based on how they were treated by “little girls.” By the time they’re grown up, some of these men are so angry and hurt, they hate women. And, of course, women can sense that. They wisely avoid those guys. Which makes them hate women even more. (Women are just as apt to form negative opinions of men based on “little boys,” but that’s not the focus of this thread.)

If your main feeling, when you think of “friendzone” is one of rage, you’re unlikely to have a girlfriend until you deal with that. The second part of girlfriend is “friend,” and you can’t be friends with people you loath.

2. Mani Cavalieri

This is another incarnation of a common question:

“Why isn’t being nice and decent and attracted to someone, enough to compel them to reciprocate my feelings toward them?”

The answer to this question was stated most succinctly by the Philosopher Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want.”

The “friend zone” doesn’t exist. It is not a special or unique phenomenon in dating culture – at least, not in the way that questions like these treat it.

Women aren’t ever obligated to reciprocate romantic attention. There is no set of conditions that you can meet that will make a woman obligated to return your feelings.

For that matter, this is true for all people, not just women – but I see this attitude aimed at women more often than at men. It’s as though the assumption is that women are walking about life with a simple mental checklist of “things a guy has to do to get me to become ‘his'”, and give themselves to the first guy that checks all the right boxes.

(To borrow a phrasing that has stuck with me: Women aren’t slot machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.)

I could go on about how this stems from an unjust societal expectation that women gear their lives toward fulfilling the needs of men – which is true, by the way – but we shouldn’t even have to reach that level.

People you’re interested in don’t owe you anything just because you’re interested in them.


3. Anonymous

I have asked many women about this phenomenon (I am a guy).

Several behavior patterns get lumped together as the “nice guy”. And often the guy who is being nice and the woman who is friend-zoning him have a completely different story about what is happening and why.

However the root cause underlying the nice-guy, friend-zone phenomenon is lack of authenticity.

Women (and men also) are attracted to someone who is confident, has their own point of view, is kind to them, isn’t afraid of them, and in some sense is “at their level” (meets them, challenges them, surprises them). These are all aspects of authenticity and personal power.

The guy who “tries to do everything right” in order to “get the girl” is a guy who has no sense of himself. The woman has no idea who this guy is, so there is no possibility of emotional connection. And without emotional connection, there can be no desire or attraction.

Also, by putting the woman on a pedestal, the guy is lowering himself. Who wants to “date down”? He signals that he sees himself as unworthy, and she agrees.

Women often advise their male friends to “be themselves.” Ironically, this is bad advice. But what they mean is be your own person. Don’t be a puppy dog trying to hitch a ride on her life, because from her perspective, there’s no “there” there.

4. Anonymous

  1. Bland guy who isn’t particularly sexy, interesting, unique, funny, or otherwise attractive labels himself “nice.”
  2. Chases after more attractive woman and expects he “deserves” to have sex with her because, hey, “the world” owes it to reward “moral” behaviour (including, apparently, building a falsidical “friendship” with the ulterior goal of sex/dating relationship) with, like, whatever the guy wants, including another person’s sexual desire.

5. Anonymous

Ugh. This question.

It’s because you think that if you exhibit platonic behavior to her, you will get romantic behavior from her. Think about that for a second. It doesn’t make sense. You need to go back to the drawing board.

Platonic relationships start differently than romantic ones, and they progress differently, and the dynamics are totally different. If you want a romantic relationship you have to stop being a coward and go for it in the beginning, instead of trying to slip your way into her heart through a less scary friendship. There’s no shortcut.

If you want her to touch your balls, you have to grow some first.

6. Anonymous

I’m a woman who isn’t attracted to the super-macho, cocky, immature type. There are some women who are, but they’re not the rule.

Still, I’m sure I’ve friend-zoned a few guys. I see two reasons: the Nice Guy (TM) douchebag and the Scaredy Guy (TM).

Meet Mr. Nice Guy (TM)

The Nice Guy (TM) thinks that he’s nice He talks to me, listens to my problems and helps me with things. He does this with an agenda. These ‘nice’ deeds usually feel begrudging and as if he wants a pat on the head afterwards. He likes me and he thinks that if he does things for me, I must like him/have sex with him.

Well, excuse me. I’m more than a vagina. I prefer guys to be friends with me without checking off mental boxes. “Okay, I brought her dinner, she’ll definitely go out with me.” After I hang out with the Nice Guy (TM) often enough, I’ll be able to smell him and dump him as a friend. Once, I had a male friend of mine who asked me, “Do you feel anything for me? You should go out with me.” Well, aside from the poor delivery, I had been with a boyfriend for two years at that point. I felt like he was waiting for me to break up with my boyfriend so he could swoop in like the Nice Guy (TM).

This guy is not truly nice. This guy carries a lot of resentment and anger towards women. They think that they deserve sex because they do the right things. There’s a big difference between fake-nice and genuine-nice.

Just to be clear, this is different than romantic feelings that develop through friendship. Mr. Nice Guy (TM) goes into the friendship with the agenda to get me into bed. That’s not a real friendship.

Classic example: Dating Advice: Why won’t this girl fall in love with me even when I do everything for her? A total Nice Guy (TM).

I only date truly nice guys, not the posers.

Meet Mr. Scaredy (TM)

This type is sadder than the former. Mr. Scaredy is fun, cool to hang out with, but he gives zero signals of his attraction to me. He doesn’t touch me. He doesn’t tease me. He doesn’t do anything that even smells sexual. I’m left completely puzzled on whether or not he likes me.

Women are also afraid of rejection. Most women send out subtle signals–touches, smiles, giggles–that indicate interest. If a guy doesn’t react to these signals, that means that he’s either not interested or really socially clueless. Neither choice is appealing for most women. An edge that cocky guys have is that they actually approach the girl and make their intentions clear. Many women will go with a sure thing over a possible rejection, road of least resistance.

On a personal note, after an experience with a Mr. Nice Guy (TM) in high school, I learned how to make the first moves with Mr. Scaredy (tM). It worked out well, for the most part.

If I’m in a relationship, every guy is friend-zoned. I don’t do the cheating thing, no matter how awesome the dude is.

7. Claire J. Vannette

Because they’re not attracted to those guys. That’s the difference between a friend and a lover: attraction.

8. Jan Leadbetter

There are a variety of reasons, the most pertinent being that they aren’t ready or willing to enter into a romantic relationship at that point in time; either because they think you aren’t boyfriend material or they simply don’t feel sexually attracted to you.

I’m from England and I’d never heard of this friend-zoned malarkey until I happened upon Quora. It baffles me a little if I’m honest, because over the years I have been sexually attracted to numerous women and some are now good friends of mine.

I don’t see that as a situation where I somehow ‘lost out,’ which is the impression that I get from a lot of people I have encountered online, who seem to feel that way about the situation.

If you’re willing to have a romantic relationship with a person, surely you must also be willing to be their friend too, you can’t control who fancies you any more than you can control the weather.

Aim for friendship and if a romantic or sexual relationship develops, then see it as a bonus, which is what it is!

9. Sanjay Sabnani

Because they are passive aggressive idiots that elevate the objects of their affection to such a ridiculous level that they are unable to look them in the eye and say, “I like you sexually and have only pretended to give a shit about anything you say as a means of endearing myself to you so you would have a romantic relationship with me. If you tell me clearly that your interest in me is platonic at best then I would probably not have any interest in you.”

If she likes you enough as a friend then that’s because you used her friendship to get more. That’s not nice, that’s lying. If you want a romantic relationship with someone then you need to lead by asking them out on a date. You can’t pretend to care about someone’s problems and interests and then get mad because they do not think of you as a sexual partner. Why would they?

This is what I learned and it has served me well.

10. Clare Celea

Caring for someone does not create an obligation for the object of your affection to return your feelings.

Why is it so hard for some people to understand this? You love her. Ok. That doesn’t mean she is obliged to love you back. She is not heartless or a bitch if she does not return your love. Her heart and her soul are her own and not yours. No matter how nice or caring you are, you have no innate right to her affections.

11. Daniel Super

Being the “Nice Guy” isn’t the same as being nice and in fact isn’t nice at all.

The Nice Guy is a person loaded with expectation that the girl will recognize their “niceness” and want to reward their desires for that reason. Often this person will seize on the slightest unpleasant aspects of any other potential suitors and try to tear them down in order to establish that they are indeed better because they are “nice.”

The idea of the friend zone illustrates this perfectly. The “Nice Guy” resents being put in the friend zone because it means their expectations will probably never be met. This is very different from actually being a person’s friend.

12. Erin Cashell

I think there are a few reasons. I’ll speak for myself…here’s why I’ve friend zoned guys:

  1. They aren’t being honest about what’s going on in their pants. As much as everyone says “jerks” get the girls, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. A jerk may get a girl, but will rarely keep a woman ready for a healthy relationship. What jerks bring to the table initially is honesty. They are interested in you and want to have sex with you, and they don’t hide it like the nice guy who is too worried about being offensive. Even though the jerk is a bit brazen, he’s putting his desires out there on the table. He’s authentic and confident in that regard. Authenticity and confidence are inherently attractive. It rarely has anything to do with the fact that he wants to sleep with you…it has to do with the fact that he isn’t tiptoeing around his true feelings.
  2. They don’t differentiate themselves from my girlfriends (or grandma…). In western culture, we’ve gotten to a point where men and women are expected to be “equal”. This means that the lines between who is supposed to do what in dating and relationships have become blurred. I personally still want to feel feminine, and appreciate when a man takes the lead. I dated a Russian man who would open doors for me, take off my jacket in a restaurant, and order my meal for me after I told him what I wanted (and he paid, of course). I instantly thought “wow…this guy is treating me like a woman who he respects, and he’s confident enough to take charge”. What I liked was that he didn’t ask permission to take care of me in these small ways. He just did it with such genuine confidence. I didn’t have to wonder if the first time we went out was a date or just two friends hanging out. He asserted himself as a partner, and because of this, I automatically began to think of him as a potential one. Now let’s look at how this situation may play out with a “nice” guy. He may languish and wait for me to pick the restaurant. He may ask if I want to “meet there” or “go together”. Once we’re finally at the restaurant, he slowly gets a feel for whether or not I’m attracted to him before he attempts to take things further. Conversation is “safe”. It isn’t necessarily boring, but it’s neutral enough that I could be having it with my grandma. When the check comes, he may hesitate to take it because he’s wondering “will she be offended if I pay for it? She works too…” By then I would assume that it hasn’t been a date, I’d offer to split the check, and he’d be my “friend” from then on. It really does not take long for me to make up my mind about whether or not I view someone as a friend or a romantic partner. If a guy is unsure of himself, I probably will be too.
  3. They were boring. I dated a man who was average looking and not in particularly amazing shape, but had an engaging personality, charm, and was assertive. He lit up a room and made everyone laugh and feel good. He wasn’t afraid to call me out or challenge me, and he was able to be there for me in a comforting way that was still romantic. The first time he saw me sad prior to us becoming a couple, he reached over and firmly held my hand and put his arm around me. A “nice” guy would take the cautious approach and simply just “listen”. I would never get butterflies wondering if he was going to come closer to me or physically embrace me. I would expect that he always does the safe thing, and become bored.

There are a few more factors, but I feel like these are the main ones. One thing I would urge guys who are getting friend-zoned all the time to think about is how little they have to lose when it comes to dating. When you pursue a woman, make your intentions clear through actions early on. If she isn’t interested in you romantically, consider it practice. You just had an opportunity to fine-tune your game for the next one.

13. Brandon Harris

Women are not machines that “nice deeds” can be plugged into until sex comes out. It’s that simple.

14. Kent Fung

Nice guys are friend-zoned because often, in their (entirely admirable) desire to be nice and respectful, they fail to seize the opportunities to express their interest in something a bit more romantic.

I was often friend-zoned in my teen years and early 20s. Years later, many of those friends told me that if they’d known I was interested, they would have happily said yes to a date. Some actually told me they had waited for quite a while for me to make a move, only to give up when they figured I wasn’t interested. (I did a lot of facepalming in response to revelations like that.)

The good news is that as you get older, and as the women you’re interested in get older, you both get more confident. I became more confident and willing to come right out and ask a girl out, and in some cases where I wasn’t, women who might’ve been too shy to make a move when they were younger had become confident enough to take the initiative on their own instead of hoping I’d get a clue.

15. Miguel Valdespino

The whole concept of friendzoning is based on mismatched expectations. I blame the media. In countless books and movies the eager young hero falls for a lovely young girl. She doesn’t appreciate him at first, but he perseveres and somehow proves his love for her (often by doing things that have nothing to do with her or her interests). In the end she falls for him, the music swells and they kiss. We cheer for it because we like this kind of story.

Culture teaches us that the guy ends up getting the girl in the end. In reality, relationships don’t work like that. We are attracted to who we’re attracted to, and it doesn’t always work both ways.

This happens to girls as well. They have crushes and get attached to the wrong people. But it works a little differently because of other cultural artifacts. Guys are supposed to be the initiators. They are supposed to put themselves out there. They ask the girl out and when it’s not reciprocal it either kills any interaction or they end up in the friendzone. Girls are supposed to wait for the guy to call them. If they never say anything then the problem never comes up. If they don’t say anything they put themselves in the friendzone.

16. Anonymous

Why would you be sexually attracted to every good friend you have?

Most “friendzoned” guys are guys lying about their intentions and thinking that being kind means sex or a relationship is deserved. They act like nice guys, but really, they’re assholes. And they don’t even realize it.

17. Charlie Houpert

Because “nice guy” is a generic term for “tolerable guy who is probably not a serial killer.”

Seriously, 90% of guys are nice. But we don’t call them “nice guys” because they display other, more interesting and rare traits. They are funny, or outgoing, or charming, or smart.

If a guy’s most salient trait is that he exhibits basic human decency, then he’s kind of a dud. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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