I recently read an article about how to deal with the dreaded "friend zone" for guys. My problem is that I get stuck in the friend zone not because I provide emotional backup to girls, but I am more of an acquaintance they see every week in church or other group activities.
I was advised in church to pursue friendship and nothing more initially, and if that led to something more, then to have a "talk" with the girl. Unfortunately, every time, maybe just because they don't want to be rude, they end up saying, "I just consider you as a friend."
I am very polite and soft-spoken. That doesn't help matters much as I know most girls want a manly, masculine-acting guy. Once I tried to ask a girl out only after the second time I met her to avoid being stuck in the friend zone, but she outright rejected me, saying she didn't know me that well.
I have almost given up on marriage. It makes me want to look at non-Christian girls, but I know deep inside that is wrong, and I know what Scripture says about being unequally yoked with unbelievers. But sometimes it feels like they are the girls who are not as uptight as church girls. What is your advice for me?
Thanks for your question. My basic advice is this: Don't give up on marriage! Your question touches on several different issues that come up a lot, so let me try to walk through some of them.
First, I must respectfully disagree with the person who advised you that you should only pursue friendship with a woman you're interested in and try to have "the talk" only after that friendship has organically led to "something more." Especially in the context of a healthy church, it is very common for men and women who have not been close friends before or have only known each other in the context of church ministries or other group activities to start dating and ultimately marry. In fact, as I've written on Boundless before, I think that scenario is preferable to the "close friendship" route.
Sure, sometimes a man and woman start out as friends and just naturally develop into dating and beyond. More often, however, the close friendship route ends up putting someone in a place of awkwardness, confusion and hurt either because one person (but not the other) wants more than friendship — a situation you seem to have found yourself in multiple times — or because they call their arrangement "friendship" but treat one another as much more until someone "better" comes along.
In other words, it is perfectly legitimate — a great way to proceed, in fact — for a man to get to know a woman generally as a part of a church singles ministry or through group activities or simply through serving in the church together, and to prayerfully initiate a conversation in which he suggests that the two of them get to know each other more deliberately to see if the Lord may have something more for them.
Now, Christian women — just like Christian men — possess different levels of maturity and thoughtfulness. Not every woman will respond well to this approach. It may also happen — as it has once before — that you simply initiate with a woman who is not interested in you. But I have seen many, many marriages happen out of just this type of initiation, and it is a clearer (and in my view, more caring) way to go than the nebulous and often harmful "close friends" route. If you're interested, you can check out the "Men Initiate, Women Respond" and "Just Friends" articles in the Biblical Dating series here on Boundless for more on this.
You are also right that because it would be sin for you to marry an unbeliever, it would be unwise for you to pursue a dating relationship with one. Plenty of Boundless authors (including myself) have written on this so I won't belabor the point here, but as you implied yourself in your question, the right course is to be patient and pursue godly marriage as God's Word defines it (Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7:39).
I would also encourage you, my friend, not to worry about the fact that you might tend to be soft-spoken and/or more of a "background" kind of guy. That is not the opposite of "manly" or "masculine." It is the opposite of "loud" and "outspoken." A quiet disposition absolutely does not mean that you are automatically less desirable or competent as a husband or leader. In fact, there are woman who specifically desire that type of personality just like there are those who desire a bolder, more outspoken personality.
Be careful not to hold yourself to a secular or media-driven image of what "manhood" or "leadership" means. The Bible has a lot to say about what makes a good man, leader and husband (see, for a start, Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). Measure yourself by these standards: Are you growing in the characteristics of godly manhood and a potential godly husband as God's Word defines them? Even as I write this a brother springs to mind whom I respect greatly. He has never been the life of the party, but behind his quiet thoughtfulness is a wonderful, godly man, an excellent husband and father, and, frankly, a rock. Pursue godly manhood, and women who want a godly man for a husband will notice.
I will pray that the Lord will give you wisdom and peace as you pursue godliness and marriage to a godly woman.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.