(Photo: Education Dynamics)
You know you’re in The Maybe Zone when friends repeatedly see you with a guy and ask inquiringly: “Are you guys a couple?”
And your response is to shrug your shoulders and say: “I’m not sure really”, or secretly to yourself, “I’d like to be!”
Within The Maybe Zone there are typically two big traps.
There is the Friend Trap (also dubbed ‘The Friend Zone’, though the term has become controversial), and there is the Friends-With-Benefits Trap (sometimes called the ‘F-buddy’ Zone).
Someone only counts as being in The Maybe Zone if they secretly, or explicitly, desire a relationship with the person in question, but remain frustrated in their efforts.
Let’s explain both of these traps individually and why different kinds of people fall into them.
The Friend Trap
The Friend Trap is an old familiar favourite. It’s commonly seen as something that afflicts men, but 10 years of coaching has taught me that it happens to plenty of women as well.
The Friend Trap is when you like someone, you both get along like best buddies, except…that’s it. Nothing sexual EVER happens. It’s like one endless promise of hope over the horizon, where you think something could possibly-maybe-just happen one day, but every time you feel like you’re getting close they bat off any romantic advances and leave you pining for them when they’re not around.
It’s like being on a perpetual first date that’s going really well but the guy never goes in for the kiss, (even though he would totally score if he did).
It gets frustrating. You can tell he loves being around you and hanging out, hell, he may even hug you now and then like a boyfriend, but he never initiates anything more physical. Is he just incompetent? Shy? That’s possible, but even incompetent shy guys take the hint eventually and can manage to guide their lips toward yours.
What’s more likely is that he does truly enjoy being around you, and possibly does even love your personality to some degree, but he doesn’t have enough deep attraction.
Imagine the following simple formula for attraction:
Deep Attraction = Sexual Chemistry + Connection + Respect
A guy you’re friends with can have all the Connection and Respect in the world for you, but without Sexual Chemistry, he’s not going to be able to feel real attraction for you.
Annoying right? It’s probably a bit annoying for them too. A lot of men and women wish they felt sexual attraction for someone they are great buddies with. It would be an ideal scenario. But neither he, nor you, nor anyone else can force sexual chemistry if someone else just doesn’t feel it.
The onus is on you here to put distance between you so you can finally move on. Especially if you’re waiting around for a guy who actually enjoys the validation of the Friend Trap and stay there on purpose, enjoying your attention but never really making a move.
Screw that. Save your time. Save your emotional energy. Set yourself free and look for someone who reciprocates the love you have to give.
The Friends-With-Benefits Trap
The Friends-With-Benefits Trap happens when you are having sex (or some sexual activity) with a guy, and although you want him to be your boyfriend he never wants to commit.
At first you think he has issues with commitment, but then maybe you realise you’ve seen him with a girlfriend before.
He calls and texts you like you’re his girlfriend sometimes, but he only wants to meet when it’s convenient for him. He never wants a proper date and every time you bring up any relationship conversation he reminds you he’s “just having fun”.
Let’s go back to our formula we just used: Deep Attraction = Sexual Chemistry + Connection + Respect
Now in this case, unlike the Friend Trap, the guy clearly has Sexual Chemistry with you. But somewhere your relationship is lacking in either Connection or Respect.
Some women will be tempted to think that Respect is linked to them having a sexual relationship with him too soon, but that’s not true. Respect isn’t inherently linked to sex, and unless he has a very antiquated and out-dated mentality, he’s not going to judge you for having sex with him outside a relationship. Respect in this scenario is linked to other things. In the Get The Guy book Matt and I used the term ‘Perceived Value’ which might be a better way to think of Connection and Respect in this context.
Perceived Value can be linked to many things.
It can be:
- Whether he feels like you care about the same things he does (i.e. family, career, health)
- Whether he feels he could picture himself in a relationship with you (i.e. do you have habits that bother him? Or a lifestyle/friends that he wants to be a part of?)
- Whether you connect on an intellectual level (yes, men care about this. Everyone with a brain does).
- Whether he likes your character
- Whether you have the same vision for the future
These are just a few things that will cross someone’s mind (men AND women) when they think about a relationship, and if they doesn’t imagine them happening then he’ll place you in the Friends-With-Benefits Zone. It’s the place where he likes you, he’s attracted to you, but he doesn’t feel enough pull to see something more serious happening in the long-term.
How To Deal With Guys Who Put You In The Maybe Zone
The first thing to remember is that it doesn’t make someone a bad person just because they don’t want a relationship. Much of the issue simply comes down to compatibility.
Likewise, with the Friends Trap, just because he’s not into you physically doesn’t make him a jerk. What does make him a jerk in either circumstance is if he strings you along without ever making his true intentions (or non-intentions) clear.
The trick in handling this situation is twofold:
(1) Don’t be too judgmental in either situation (unless he willingly deceives you and pretends he wants something else). Just recognise it for what it is and spot the signs of a guy not moving anything forward either emotionally or physically.
(2) Begin to create immediate physical and emotional distance.
Is there a way to get out of these traps and still get into a relationship with the same guy? SOMETIMES.
But here’s the problem. Once someone has a fixed opinion of you, it can be difficult to change it.
In the case of the Friend Trap: The preferred option should always be to put distance between you. You can still be nice to him, but you can also be totally honest and say “I have feelings for you, and need to put some distance between us in order to stay friends”. If he’s really a friend, at this point, he’ll understand.
Or if that seems way too dramatic, just stop putting yourself in any one-on-one scenarios with him altogether. E.g. no sitting at home together watching movies, no more ‘buddy-dates’ where you both go for dinner together and hang out all night. Make it a rule to only see him in the company of others, or not at all.
It will feel hard when you like the guy, but believe me, it’s much easier than wasting a year or longer pining over him when he doesn’t have romantic feelings for you.
Remember, just because one guy isn’t attracted to you, does NOT mean you are unattractive. He’s one guy, there are others. And the longer you pine after one person who isn’t interested, the longer you’re missing out on an amazing guy who would be a model boyfriend if you were only available for him to find you.
Moreover, it’s always your own responsibility to remove yourself from the Friend Trap. Even if he’s clearly loving the attention and enjoys being ‘buddies’ with you: if you’re the one getting hurt emotionally, it’s up to you to notice this and remove yourself from the situation without being bitter. It’s up to you after that to decide if the friendship is really worth keeping.
In the case of the Friends-With-Benefits Trap: You have slightly more chance of winning him over here since at least here you’re beginning with sexual attraction, which is obviously crucial before any kind of romantic relationship can occur.
But here’s the thing.
Once a guy has made up his mind, or told you he doesn’t want to commit at all, it’s always, ALWAYS best to take him totally on his word. Otherwise, even if you end up getting a guy to sleepwalk into a semi-relationship for six months, he can easily turn around and break it off all of a sudden when he freaks out and realizes things have gotten too serious for him.
Your priority and ultimate mindset should always be: “I don’t want to waste time with guys who aren’t already sure they’re crazy about me”.
You don’t want to convince a guy to want a relationship with you. If he gives you ‘the talk’ where he says how he just wants to be single and have fun, just smile and say “that’s cool”. Then withdraw. Not coldly, not spitefully, but just in a relaxed way. Show him your standards in that moment. You want to withdraw affection in a way that says: “that’s cool. But that’s not what I want. I need someone who wants more commitment right now.”
A guy’s respect and attraction will go up intensely in that moment just for seeing you stick to your standard.
Now go meet other guys and forget about this one. And maybe, just MAYBE, at some point down the line you might both re-connect in another place and time and he’ll wonder why you didn’t ever get together (but again, don’t bank on this happening, it only may happen, but the point is, you do NOT need it to).
If he never calls again, no harm done. You’ve spared your time and your affection for guys who are worth both.
Remember, both the Friend Trap and the Friends-With-Benefits Trap aren’t like your regular trap. You can open your eyes, see the writing on the wall, and walk away at any time.
The Maybe trap can be seductive, but it only exists so long as you choose to remain within it.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Follow Stephen For More Updates
119 Replies to “Why Men Put Women In The ‘Maybe’ Zone”
Going thru this right now. Amazing sexual chemistry, great times together, says he loves me and wants to be with me, but he doesn’t want a relationship right now. So as much as it hurts I’m walking away. I can’t sit around and hope and wait for someone to change their mind, because it probably will never happen.
Good for you girl. Absolutely right of you to walk away. You shouldn’t have to put up with a half relationship. Every decent woman deserves better than that. Be strong and I’m sure someone better will come along for you. Good Luck. x
It seems that with this one guy I’ve been close to, he’s kept me in the Friend Trap, and now more recently he’s been trying to move me over into the Friend-With_Benefits_Trap.
We haven’t slept together, if anyone’s wondering (my choice not to-he would have already done so if it was up to him).
It hurts because I am at a point in my life where I am super-ready for commitment and even marriage and kids. But I know that, while he does genuinely have affection for me, he still doesn’t feel about me the same way I feel about him.
Wow, that was exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you so mutch for giving me these words. It is clear and I can life with the concequences. Not wanting to make a guy “ugly/bad”, if he would turn me down.
Keep up the good work! It solves a lot of questions! Thanks again! ^^
I like your articles, Stephen. It may not seem like it at times, but they make me think. And I do keep coming back.
The best advice ever:”If he gives you ‘the talk’ where he says how he just wants to be single and have fun, just smile and say “that’s cool”. Then withdraw. Not coldly, not spitefully, but just in a relaxed way. Show him your standards in that moment. You want to withdraw affection in a way that says: “that’s cool. But that’s not what I want. I need someone who wants more commitment right now.””
This works with EVERYTHING. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Keep it casual and they may call later with something else. Works with friendships, everything. Well, it helps preserve a relationship with little investment or effort from you. Just friendly. And as long as you accept the person may never ever call you again.
I don’t always want to preserve the relationship. Simple as that. If a guy isn’t interested, I need him really off my list and forever. So my brain can fully focus elsewhere. My brain has its drawbacks but this is one thing I’ve tried to change and it’s stuck fast so I’m accepting it. I need to move on. People really do respect and like this, but I simply have no feeling left for them if/when they ever decided= to come back. But lack of emotion at partings really can preserve a relationship if you want to do that.
Umm ok I am in the ‘Friends-With-Benefits’ trap if you could call it a trap because I actually made a concious choice to be in that trap and that is all I want for now. I have no expectations of whatsoever of going into a relationship status as I am not ready for that – and I’m a female. Just kinda confused? Should I still walk away?? He doesn’t want a relationship with me either and so far I don’t have any emotional feelings towards him.
It’s the walking away part that I find the most difficult once I meet someone I like. It would be easier if I felt like I had more options. I’ve been trying the Get the Guy techniques, but I’m still lucky if I can manage to schedule one date a month. I usually meet men online and we end up having our first and last date once we meet in person. I’m trying harder now to talk to men out in public, but it’s not easy.
I have a real difficulty even with the term itself, ‘friends with benefits’ let alone the concept. Of course I see we could all end up sleeping with a friend, which itself is fraught with difficulties. If, from the offset, you decide your relationship will be purely sexual, this is always worse for the woman. If you were sleeping with a guy you weren’t emotionally attached to, then surely the sex would be just be a physical act. Fine, that happens in life ( it would have to be great sex). But put yourself in the scenario where you only meet up for physical sex. You are giving yourself emotionally, as women do more so, your time, your place maybe, making yourself attractive, offer your skills, all for no love or support, times when you just might need a hug or reassurance. None of the benefits of a true connection in all senses. Well you might as well be a prostitute and be paid for all this you are laying out, but no you’re offering it all up for free. And the cost will be your self esteem and value system.
If you are not ready for a relationship just be single and be proactive about meeting a truly great guy you are compatible with.
I think you make a good point where you say, just because a guy doesn’t find you attractive doesn’t make you unattractive. A lot of very beautiful women in the world find they are not totally happy in their own skin until thirties onwards. Until then you are more susceptible to have insecurities and base some of your attractiveness worth on feedback from the men you are encountering.
Another thoughtful and well written article Stephen, important as these ‘traps’ could really be detrimental to ones emotional health. You show how to avoid the traps and to make choices, good choices.
100% agree with you Kathryn. I never understood the FWB or FZ game either. Never been in one too.
Couple things a lot of females don’t get…1) when a guy tells you he is unsure or doesn’t want a relationship…believe him! And step away. your value comes from how you let someone treat you. 2) if a guy wants to be with you, he will find a way. No help from you needed. Stop making excuses. He is just not into “you”. And this has nothing to do with you at all.
That’s a very helpful article Stephen. Although I have never been in this situation and it doesn’t really apply to me, I know several of my female friends who have and I would love to share it with them.
From what I’ve observed about guys–they seem better at detecting sexual chemistry than women and faster to feel and act on it as well. Usually in the first few interactions, they KNOW subconsciously or consciously that they are into a woman romantically. If they are not, and do not find a woman physically attractive, then there is very little chance for her unless she undergoes a makeover. The connection and respect come later for guys–which helps them decide if they want to stay with her take things further with a woman. But the sexual chemistry comes first, fast and clear.
Am I right?
Women, on the other hand might not even like a guy looks or personality wise but he can grow on them or win them over with time. Of course sexual chemistry can never be forced and some guys remain in the friend zone with women but women seem to have a greater capability of falling in love with a guy down the line. Whereas with men, it is pretty clear from the start.
If a man doesn’t feel respect and connection it results in a FWB scenario and if he doesn’t feel chemistry then its the Friend Zone–Right Up Front.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that guys will pull these moves (FWB and FZ) with women when they want the benefits of a relationship/woman but do not want to invest themselves because they are lazy, it is too much work, they want to focus on other things etc. In these cases, there IS sexual chemistry, connection and respect but the guy is just lazy/not ready/whatever. A lot of it has to do with how much women are willing to give to a guy so he doesn’t really have to do anything. He won’t make a girl his gf if he doesn’t HAVE to. Just as women sometimes have no qualms about using guys for their money, guys use girls too–because they let them. So it becomes a matter of convenience.
Somehow, I’ve never gotten into a situation like this because I let the guys pursue me. I am only friends with guys I have no romantic interest in. If a guy is attractive to me but doesn’t make a move or remains unsure–I do absolutely nothing and just move on. So no problems there. I also never take advantage of guys who are friends but interested in me romantically. I keep my distance from them. That is not to say that guys haven’t tried these things on me but I just don’t respond because I am not attracted to this kind of behavior. Somehow, I cannot stomach giving my time, energy, company, kindness etc. to a guy when he isn’t giving me what I want from him. It is instinctive. And once a guy has been unsure about me in the past, hemmed and hawed I even have trouble keeping things open in the future because he just becomes unattractive overall. It is a subconscious requirement for me to feel attraction for someone that they are attracted to me without a doubt and DO something about it. I don’t know why. I wasn’t made for lukewarm attraction from guys even if they get hotter over time. I’m talking specifically about attraction here not about a guy falling deeper and deeper in love with me over time based on character/personality.
I wish more women would read this article because I have seen so many of my friends getting ‘used’ like this only to be discarded at the end for another woman who wasn’t half as good.So setting and sticking to standards is the key. Thanks for pointing this out, Stephen.
You are amazing. Thanks for taking the time to type your comment. I am the exact same way. As soon as I sense uncertainty from a guy, I’m out. It makes him appear weak and devalues what I have to offer. Someone’s been pursuing me like mad – texting/calling daily, sometimes just to say “good morning” or “hello,” and our first three dates were on consecutive days. HOWEVER, he has made zero physical advances toward me. Last night, I straight up asked, “Is this dating, or friendship?” He paused for a minute, then said, “I’m trying to figure that out.” And so…begins my fade. I believe that the majority of men know what they want and have no problems pursuing it when they see it. There’s obviously something lacking in the attraction department with this guy, so I’m leaving him in the dust. NEXT!
I found this article in 2016 and I love your comments! You are spot on. I just got out of a friends with benefits situation. I’m 30 years old and I knew better but I just had sex with the guy without any effort on his part. I met him on a dating site and had every intention of dating him. But then sexual chemistry happened before any real dates and I found myself right where I didn’t want to be.
A very good female friend who is married told me that men like to pursue women. We need to make them work for our love! She also said that often we women will bend over backwards acting like a girlfriend or wife to a man who has made no such commitment. I want love and commitment but if a man isn’t making the effort then time to move on. I have let a lifetime of poor self esteem and being overweight dictate my poor choice in men. It is perfectly okay to have a friend with benefits but if you are expecting more and he can’t give it to you, then time to move on.
Believe a man when he says he doesn’t want a relationship with you. He’s not necessarily a bad person for saying so. But you are not unworthy of love or not good enough because he says he doesn’t want a relationship with you. Don’t spend all of your energy and cause yourself heartache trying to change his mind. He isn’t entitled to it. Spend your time and energy on the person who has pursued a relationship with you.
If a man is not your boyfriend or husband and he…
only text you and the conversation always turns sexual, move on! He only wants sex.
only wants to “hang out” at your place or his because he is tired or it’s just more comfortable there, move on! He doesn’t want to make the effort to date you.
If he doesn’t take the time to get to know you and your interests, know about your family, your goals and dreams, he’s constantly joking around, move on! He’s not interested in getting to know you as a person. He just wants someone to have fun with.
acts like a boyfriend but says he just doesn’t want to put a label on it or be too serious. Move on! He’s trying to keep his options open and may be interested in another woman already.
Of course, if you don’t mind all of those things, then more power to you!
Yes, I’ve experienced all of these things and it’s time to follow my own advice. I am good enough and worthy of a wonderful and secure relationship with a man. Thank you again for your awesome and informative comments!
I hope someone can give me some good advice.
There is a guy where I work… we have been having some friendly and flirty conversations at the coffee kitchen and around the office. He “helps” me with the espresso machine, holds doors open, teases me, waves hi when he passes by me desk, those kind of things.
We work on different teams and no one I know knows him any more that I do. It’s a huge company and there is little socializing between teams.
I’ve just been told that I am being moved to another building on campus and that would mean that I will have very little chance to see him again :(
What I would really like is to somehow set it up that we would get together for lunch, but I don’t want to come out and say I like you – wanna meet for lunch. I also want this to be an opportunity to see if he likes me and will do anything about it.
Two options I’ve thought of is telling him I’ve being moved and if you want to see me again you will have to have lunch with me at the cafeteria at my building or wait a while and in a few weeks contact him ask how are you and then ask him to lunch.
What do you think?
Great Article… I can relate to the “Friends with Benefits” Trap and basically said “that’s alright” when he broke it off… cos I know I am worth much more than that :-)
Sorry dear that was supposed to be a general comment. I suggest you just talk about meeting up outside work… after you announce ure moving. it’ll give both of u more time together and the opportunity to look different from your usual office-look and get more intimate. Lunch will be sane old stuff.. if you know what I mean. Hope this helps.
Good for you, being able to know your real worth!
i loved this article.. especially the friend zone segment..!! Hoping to take huge strides in moving on from that zone..!! Actually already have…I love my best friend.. but just realized i cant keep waiting for him to love me the same way.. i need to move on!!! Thank you sooo much Stephen for giving so much clarity..!
Hi, I was just wondering if you could Wright an article about how to add genuine value, to make a man commit:). I love Your artickles:)
Thanks for the article! I have a question…I have an amazing life which I am so blessed to have. And I know there are loads of great guys out there, but what happens when you meet one who clearly wants you, flirts with you, but on some occasions, out of the blue, says stuff to turn you off him…is he a toxic flirt or trying to make me jealous…answers on a postcard…x
If he really wants you he’ll ask you out. Otherwise he’s yankin’ your chain. Men have colossal egos that need to constantly be stroked. This is one way they do it.
Great article! But What about when you know he is attracted to you but won’t ask you out?? You know you should move on but keep thinking what if he ask me out next week or the week after that!it has only been a few months,we work together and we recently started flirting just a little teasing now and then, am i ahead of myself or am i right that he should be asking me out?
Free yourself from this torment by asking him if he’s interested in dating you. He says yes, great; go on dates. He says no, that’s your answer. Don’t wait around. Next think you know he’ll be getting married to someone else and you’ll have wasted five years of your life ‘waiting’ for him to ‘ask you out’.
I guess I’m kind off in this situation right now, we met about a year ago, hit it off right away, he contacted me every day, there was no doubt he was into me sexually, but he never did anything about it! he kept saying it was too soon after a breakup that happened about 6 months before. After many months, I had to tell him I needed space to get over him if we were to be friends. We kept out of touch for about two months, maybe three, exept for a few messages after something occured. Then I wished him happy birthday, and now we’re back to square one… that was not my plan, I figured it was okey to keep in touch sometimes, but suddenly he contacts me every day again. Altough he has said some things that he never did before, more affirmations, and given me more of his time, but I’m afraid of getting hurt again, I don’t know what he wants. He has said at multiple occasions that I am a temptress, so I think he would like to sleep with me, and I know I want to, but what if that’s all he wants? I remember we talked about sex one time, and I got the sense that sex means something to him. He wouldn’t do it with just anyone. But am I just kidding myself here? Should I walk? or wait a little longer to see what happens? it’s not that long ago that we “reconnected”.
Walk away! if anything it’ll create alot of tension and if he wants you he’ll make it known. Don’t lwt yourself get hurt on a “maybe.”
We actually ended up sleeping together, but we talked about it, and he said that in his mind, things get exclusive when you start kissing and having sex. So we are now exclusive, but he doesn’t want to “mark” us as a couple. So I’m confused again since we pretty much are a couple, we act like it, though I haven’t met his friends and family yet and he’s met mine. Am I just thinking to much about this? May I add that I had the conversation with him on what we were, and he said he didn’t want to label it a relationship on a given day, he just wanted it to become one naturally ^^ But how am I then supposed to know when that is? I feel like he could suddenly decide to turn the table at any time.. Any thoughts?
What do you say to a man to show him you value yourself and the “relationship” without coming across like your giving an ultimatum. I’ve been in a “grey area relationship” with my guy for quite some time. 4 years off and on but this time around he’s shown such a different level of maturity and willingness to tend to my needs. He has had other gfs throughout the years but we always end up back in this position.. We can’t seem to leave each other alone. We both have our baggage but overall we are happy and loving. The problem is I realize I have been giving him all the benefits of a relationship (you could even say benefits of a wife) without ever having the “girlfriend” title. He has refered to me that way by accident before but quickly stumbles on his words. We have talked about future plans and are very encouraging & supportive of one another, but how do I express that this time has to be different? How can I change his view when this whole time he hasn’t had to take things to a more committed level to reap the benefits? Is it too late?
I’m in the Friends-With-Benefits-zone with someone with whom I’m not actually having sex. Not quite sure exactly what the root cause is in this particular situation. But excellent articles like this bring me closer to understanding it, and soothe the temptation to be angry at either myself or at him.
But one thing this article does make clear is that I need to avoid being hung up over him. And I am able to avoid doing that. I have a lot of meaningful things going on in my life. It could be great if he were part of it, but if he chooses not to be, a bit sad, but it doesn’t ruin my life.
I’m currently in a friends with benefits zone. Been seeing this guys for over 3 months now. At first we only plan to hang out at my house, movies, drinks, food and keeping each others company every Friday night and cuddling in bed the following day. He is very affectionate and so do I. We never talked about seriousness of our friendship. We agreed not to sleep together but one thing lead to another after 8 weeks of spending every Friday night together we ended up being sexual to each other. I was perplexed after seeing him beating himself up the following day after sleeping with me. He started giving excuses about his culture and tradition and what kind for excuse he is going to tell his future wife – if and when his family finds him a wife back home. I was shocked and hurt immensely. Same morning we broke our friendship and decided not to see each other again – four days later leading to Friday – he wanted to see me again. He kept on apologizing, begging, feeling sorry of what he said to me. I know that his touch and affection are real. But, I am not stupid enough to bend over his culture and tradition. He can’t have his cake and eat it too.
Wow, this is excellent advice I think all humans should read and take to heart. This is something I had to learn by experience that’s been summed up in 4 minutes of reading. Nice!
What if he has you in the friends with benefits zine because he isn’t sure if he’s ready to commit right now and wants everything to happen slowly but has other “female friends” he’s seeing as well- in this case just one other-? I’m “friends” with a guy who gets along splendidly with me, we’ve got a great back and fourth, deep conversations, etc. plus the physical intimacy on occasion. What if I’m not wanting to make it official, but I’m uncomfortable with being just another girl? How can I convey this in a way that he will understand and not upset him?
Wow seriously? You are afraid to upset him?? Honey no disrespect but you are just another girl on the side. He is being honest but it is emotional manipulation to keep you around.
Tho this comment was some time ago but I have to say that I was in exactly the same situation(or worse, he has more than one girls)
It was not until I got myself out then I realized how ridiculous it was.
If he’s not respecting you why should you.
All-Time POPULAR Posts