What Exactly Is the Friendzone?

Romance and friendship clash in the boundary-blurring twilight of the friendzone.

Grant H Brenner



Relationships are shifting, as noted by authors of a recent study of “friendzoning” (LeFebvre et al., 2022), in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality: Consciousness in Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice:

“People habitually do not process new information and use old stereotypes as relationship behavioral guides; as such, they are often mindless when it comes to thinking about the communication in their relationship.

Since relationships are so key for mental health, it’s good to get a handle on what’s happening. Alongside increasing fluidity and renegotiation of core aspects of identity such as gender, culture, and ethnicity -relationships nowadays are evolving, increasingly complex, and undergoing a spontaneous redesign.

Contemporary emerging terminology includes, as elaborated by study authors: “on-again/off-again,” “hooking-up,” “relationship churning,” “back-burner relationships,” “ ghosting,” “backcatching feelings,” and of course the dreaded “friendzone.”

Add the more conventional concepts of dating, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse/husband/wife, partner, and serial monogamy, not to mention “Netflix and chill,” “friends with benefits,” “side bae,” plus related less-G-rated terms, and we’ve got quite a tossed salad. As the notorious profile status tells us, “It’s Complicated,” highlighting the challenge in articulating exactly just what it is, actually.

Are New Attachment Styles Developing?

A big part of the underlying psychology is grounded in attachment style-including the main secure and insecure types, with insecure subtypes being avoidant, anxious (alternatively preoccupied and withdrawn), and disorganized.

But why choose just one? In this view, given all the changes noted above in relationships, culture, and identity, as well as shifts in the workplace with younger adults (“GenZennials”)-we may need to update attachment theory, integrating secure and insecure attachment…



Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer