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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 1
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not; A study of the “Friend Zone” Phenomenon
Communication Studies Senior Thesis
April 17th, 2016
Abstract; This study investigates the cultural phenomenon of the “Friend Zone”. The “Friend
Zone” is a term that first came about on a nineties television show to describe the situation
when two people are friends and one wants to turn their relationship into a romantic one, but the
other wants to keep their relationship a friendship. My study asked questions to look into what
this dynamic of the “Friend Zone” actually looks like. This study took a sample of 79 students
from classes at Eastern University. I surveyed students in communication classes at my school
using the methods of Laura K. Guerrero & Alana M. Chavez in their 2005 study of cross sex
friendships in order to compare people in defined friendship situations to find correlations
between these groups. This study found a correlation between Flirtation and romantic intent.
This implies that those who desire romance tend to put more effort in showing interest in the
relationship than those who don’t desire a romantic relationship. This greatly effects the dynamic
of the “Friend Zone” situation.
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This study investigates the cultural phenomenon of the “Friend Zone”. The “Friend
Zone” is a term that first came about on a nineties television show to describe the situation
when two people are friends and one wants to turn their relationship into a romantic one, but the
other wants to keep their relationship a friendship. My study asked questions to look into what
this dynamic actually looks like. I surveyed students in communication classes at my school
using the methods of Laura K. Guerrero & Alana M. Chavez in their 2005 study of cross sex
friendships in order to compare people in defined friendship situations to find correlations
between these groups.
Friendships and romantic relationships are two common types of relationships that we all
encounter from day to day. Though they have some similarities the two are very different in most
ways. Friendships are possibly the most loose and undefined type of relationship. When asked
some people say that only a select few people are their friends. Others hand out the title of
friend very freely. A person can experience anywhere from a glancing friendship, where they
know the person only in passing, to a very close friend, where the two are involved in each
other’s lives and depend on each other closely.
A romantic relationship is commonly a much more closed system than a friendship.
Often some sort of official statement of the relationship is made at the onset. These
relationships tend to be more close and supportive, but like friendships romantic relationships
can involve any varying degrees of involvement as well as variations in what it means to be in a
The issue of cross sex best friends is a hot issue. Many people ask if this can even work.
When a best friend relationship is a cross sex friendship an intersection of these two
relationship types often occurs, a phenomenon that is known in pop culture as the “Friend
Zone”. The concept of the “Friend Zone” was first named in an episode of the show Friends in
1994. In the episode titled “The One with the Blackout” the characters Ross and Joey discuss
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Ross’s love life. While Ross is convinced that his friend Rachel is going to fall for him any day,
Joey is not convinced. He believes that Ross is stuck in the “Friend Zone”, that Ross waited too
long to make a move and now Rachel sees him as just a friend. This is the first appearance of
the term the “Friend Zone” in pop culture. Here we see an example of relational uncertainty.
Ross wants the relationship to become romantic, but Rachel is fine where she is. It is uncertain
where the relationship is going to go. There is a sort of turning point here, where Ross’s interest
in romance could take the relationship some new route, but where it will go is uncertain. This is
a prime example of the friend zone.
Twenty-one years after this episode aired the “Friend Zone is still a very prevalent
concept, found all over the internet, being the topic of many jokes, and the woes of many
teenagers. Despite popular interest in this concept, among communication scholars the “Friend
Zone itself hasn’t been investigated all that thoroughly. Research shows that the “Friend Zone”
is a time of great uncertainty for one or both parties. It is a turning point where the rules and
definition of the relationship are questioned. The parties may act strangely, being caught in a
confusing and frustrating place where they don’t know the future. Relational maintenance may
be seen in abundance, or very little. Jealousy is also a very common occurrence.
Since the Friend Zone is such a common experience, there is a need for more research
on this relational phenomenon. The purpose of the present study is to look more into the “Friend
Zone”, to look into the relational tensions and relational events that occur in the “Friend Zone”. I
hope to find some commonalities between intentions, communication, and satisfaction within
this period. This will help to shine a light on this phenomenon that is greatly misunderstood, this
phenomenon that so many people find themselves stuck in.
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Friendships, though one of the most common types of relationship, are the hardest to
explain and define. Scholars have examined various aspects of friendship in an attempt to
better define and understand it. Some studies have emphasized its voluntary nature. Other
studies have looked at the reasons behind friendship maintenance. Still others have looked into
how a person benefits from a friendship. Friendships have fascinated scholars who want to
properly understand friendships.
According to Patterson (2007) friendships are the type of relationships most subject to
change because of their voluntary nature. A friendship is the type of relationship with the most
freedom and choice present. Anyone can become friends with anyone else. Although
friendships are often based on commonalities, none are necessary. In the same way, friendships
have the least amount of commitment. They can be ended at any point for any number of
reasons. A close friendship can be a lot of work and can be very personal, but it can also be
very rewarding. In close relationships two people open up on a very personal and
interdependent way. It can leave both parties very vulnerable, but can also change them in great
If the vulnerability that is seen in a close relationship is such a big possibility why would
one want to open themselves up like this? Forsythe and Ledbetter (2015) identify a variety of
reasons. First of all they claim that maintaining close friendships is beneficial for social support.
No one person understands the world perfectly. No one can do everything on their own. We all
need one another to come in and guide us, give us a hand with the challenges that we come
across in life. According to Forsythe and Ledbetter (2015) we also look for relationships that are
fair. We want a relationship in which we are treated well and we can treat the other equally well.
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We also look for relationships where we can see the other and apply it to ourselves. This is very
important for our sense of self understanding as well as world understanding. In addition, within
these relationships we desire to reduce relational uncertainty. Although uncertainty will always
be present in any relationship, we wish to eliminate questions of the meaning of the relationship
and lessen the degree of uncertainty that is experienced. According to McEwan and Guerrero
(2012), we see ourselves as making investments into those we relate with. In a relationship in
which one is satisfied with their relationship Forsythe and Ledbetter (2015) claim that one will
see increased happiness, health, and workplace productivity, in addition to internal benefits.
Patterson (2007) claims that few relationships have as much change as friendships have
due to their voluntary nature. Friendship also has the least amount of maintenance strategies
present of any of the relationship types. It is much more casual, it asks less of the members,
and doesn’t require the same amount of maintenance that a romantic relationship would.
Nonetheless, some friendships involve a great deal of relational maintenance. Guerrero and
Chavez (2005) claim that the presence of relational maintenance strategies increases as the
relationship gets more serious. As the level of commitment increases in a relationship the need
for maintenance increases. Relationship maintenance strategies fall into a few categories
including positivity, openness, assurance, networks and sharing tasks (Stafford and Canary,
When a cross sex friendship forms, romantic tensions are often present in one way or
another. These tensions commonly mold the relationship beyond a standard friendship. These
tensions also make the maintenance look very different. Guerrero and Chavez (2005) show that
people in romantic relationships show investment and maintenance more than people in
friendships do. This need for maintenance is caused by tension that forms because of how
close and connected the two people in a relationship are. According to Malachowski and Dillow
(2011), social attraction creates more of a need for relationship maintenance. Messman, Canary
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and Hause (2000) indicate that cross sex friendships encounter romantic and sexual tensions
from internal and external sources that no other relationships encounter. Attraction often is a big
part of the dynamics across genders. It is a hard thing to avoid when it comes to close
friendships. Marriage and children are on the minds of almost everyone, whether blatantly or
subconsciously. These longings and desires often change and mold friendships into something
more complicated than it was previously.
In between friendship and romantic relationship is what is commonly referred to as the
“Friend Zone”. This zone has maintenance characteristics of both of the two. The “Friend Zone”
phenomenon is the grey area between the casual, loosely defined state of friendship and the
much more committed and passionate state of romantic relationship. It is a transitional period
where the outcome is uncertain. In this area there could be great amounts of friendship
maintenance visible. One person might want to be clear to the other as to what they are feeling
in order to push their relationship towards romance. The intentions of one or both parties can
affect their dynamic. At the same time there could be very little maintenance occurring. A person
might back off in order to protect the other from their feelings. These two often occur at the
same time. According to Weger and Emmett (2009) people who want their relationship to stay
platonic often avoid relationship maintenance in order to avoid misleading their friend.
In summary, relationship maintenance is very important to any relationship, whether
romantic or platonic. Relationship strategies are more present when a relationship is more
serious. There are a number of reasons that a person will maintain close friendships, such as
social support or assurance as well as personal health and happiness. However, relational
maintenance looks different in a romantic setting. As this is a more serious relationship
members maintain it very carefully. However, in the “Friend Zone” relationship maintenance
doesn’t follow this pattern as it is a time of confusion. The relationship is not unanimously
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defined as a friendship nor as romantic. It is a major turning point within the course of the
Relational Turning Points
Turning points happen in any relationship. This is when something occurs within
the relationship to cause change. These turning points are caused by a number of
different events, sometimes internal to the relationship, sometimes external. Baxter and
Ebert (1991) state that “To dialectical theorists a contradiction is the interplay or tension
of unified oppositions, that is, two or more factors, forces, or themes that are
interdependent with one another at the same time that they function to negate or
oppose one another.” (p548) These contradictions are often the cause of these turning
points. When an event happens that brings one of these contradictions to light a couple
finds themselves at a turning point. Baxter and Ebert state “The ongoing interplay of
unified oppositions function as a driver of change” (p549)
Guerrero and Chavez (2005) found four types of cross-sex friendships: mutual
romance (the participant believes that both s/he and the friend want the friendship to
turn romantic), strictly platonic (the participant believes that both s/he and the friend
want the relationship to stay platonic), desires romance (the participant wants the
relationship to turn romantic but perceives that the friend does not), and rejects
romance (the participant does not want the relationship to turn romantic but perceives
that the friend does).” (p340) Depending on how both members fit into these categories
can drastically effect how the dynamic looks.
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Looking at the “Friend Zone” we realize that it occurs at a major turning point in
the course of a relationship. It is at the intersection of friendship and romantic
relationship. However, the phenomenon of the “Friend Zone” takes place in an already
established relationship. If two people find themselves in the “Friend Zone” they have
already known each other for a period of time and have an established friendship. The
“Friend Zone occurs at the turning point of friendship and romantic relationship.
Montague defined the three major pieces to any turning point that people go
through throughout their relationship. The three common turning points that members
go through are initial invitation, deliberate invitation, prolonged engagement and general
dialogue (p. 412). This is a progression from subtly indicating a desire for change to
collective teamwork in initiating a change in the dynamics of a relationship. In order for
the relationship to change into what a person desires these steps need to be fulfilled.
A relationship involves two people the self, and the other. Therefore, although
desire for change may start with one, the change itself must occur between both.
Stafford and Canary (1991) indicate that often a person’s perceptions are more an
indication of how they see the other person than of what’s really happening (p. 218).
Thus, a relationship and a turning point like “The Friend Zone can be very complicated
as neither party can fully understand the other party.
The most common occurrence of tension and thus a turning point is when two
people are not in agreement. This indicates a need for change of some form. Thus, the
“Friend Zone” occurs when two people are not in agreement with their desires and
come into opposition.
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People are attracted to each other all the time. A man or a woman might find
someone that they really like and are interested in. Do they like them in a romantic way
or just as a friend? If one person likes the other in a romantic way they often take steps
to act on these feelings. Their romantic intentions lead to flirting. Egland and Spitzberg
(1996) defined flirting as ”one of the means through which intimacy, relational
definitions, sexual intentions, and sexual intercourse are achieved” (p106). Flirtation is
an important aspect of romance as it is an expression of intention from one person to
another. It is a game of sorts, a way for two people to interact and size each other up.
Egland and Spitzberg (1996) state that flirtation behavior indicates strong
communication competence. In the end we all have our own intentions and Tong and
Walther (2009) believe that communication within this relational period correlates with
The beginning of a romantic relationship is the most uncertain period in a
relationship. This involves either meeting someone for the first time or changing a
present relationship into a romantic one, and depends heavily on communication.
Montague (2012) discusses a study that he conducted by saying “The initial invitations
encouraged individuals to explore relational possibilities with others.” (p411) It is an
open and transitional time where anything can happen. Montague (2012) goes on later
to say that “people should be encouraged to display both micro and macro expressions
of openness when seeking to participate in dialogue.” (p412)
Flirtation is an important force of romance. However, because flirtation is a sort of
game, it cannot be the primary form of communication present if in a serious
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relationship. Instead of flirting being the primary form of communication, relational
maintenance should be. Communication concerning relational maintenance and
personal intentions is very important and should be as clear and precise as possible.
Flirtation is a good way to get a relationship started, however once the relationship is
solid relational maintenance strategies should take its place. Tong and Walther (2009)
state “an on record refusal is very clear in its communicative intent. In contrast an off
record refusal is characterized by extreme indirectness, which allows the rejector to
deny the communicative intent of the utterance.” (p6) When communication is clear and
concise between the two members the transition is more likely to go smoothly.
However, when the two members are not on the same page, for example when
one desires romance and the other does not, the relationship can become less
predictable and certain. Again maintenance communication is important and intentions
of rejection should be expressed. It is more likely that one will see an increase in their
relational communication if they desire a romantic relationship. Weger and Emmett
(2009) found that “the results reveal increasing romantic desire coincides with reports of
using maintenance behaviors, such as talking about the relationship, initiating phone
calls, talking about the quality of the relationship, and visiting each other at home” (p.
981). Again, we see the importance of good communication and of openness of desires.
A study by Malachowski and Dillow (2011) found that “social attraction increased
relational satisfaction, whereas relational uncertainty decreased satisfaction.”
Flirtation is a very important factor in the formation of a romantic relationship.
Egland and Spitzberg (1996) found that “Display flirtation is the only factor that
produced a significant difference [in quantity of flirting observed in this study], with
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romantic relationships reporting more flirtation than platonic relationships” (p. 112). That
being said, flirtation is one of the major differences between a platonic and a romantic
relationship, or between someone with romantic intent versus platonic intent.
Relational turning points are times of change within a relationship. A turning point
is caused by an event either internal to or external to the relationship. How each
member understands the situation and the other person can effect how these periods
are handled. Turning points occur when the two members of a relationship are no longer
in agreement and need to change in order to keep up the relationship.
Flirtation is a way of showing intention that applies specifically to romantic
relationships. It is a type of relational communication that conveys meaning of intention,
but is not a maintenance strategy. The presence of flirtation can cause uncertainty
between two people or can indicate a disagreement of relational goals.
In any relationship there is a degree of uncertainty. We have our own eyes and can see
our own perspective. However, the perspective of anyone else is unknown to us because they
have their own eyes that see differently than we do. We know our own thoughts, feelings,
desires and motivations, but will never fully know the desires and motivations of the other in a
relationship. This is what is known as relational uncertainty, the fact that no one can ever fully
know both sides of any relationship that they are in. The topic of relationship uncertainty is a
very important topic in the “Friend Zone” as it can change how both people function. In order to
function best it is wise for one to eliminate as much relational uncertainty as they can.
Guerrero and Chavez(2005) describe relational uncertainty as when two people are
unsure about aspects of their relationship such as intentions of a potential partner, the nature of
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a relationship and the future of a relationship. This relational uncertainty can be seen in a
number of forms. Weger and Emmett (2009) discuss the concepts of Self Uncertainty, which is
“uncertainty about one’s attitudes, beliefs or emotions (p. 969)”, Partner Uncertainty,
“uncertainty about one’s partner’s attitudes, beliefs or emotions (p. 969)”, and Relational
Uncertainty, “uncertainty about one or both partner’s attitudes, beliefs or emotions regarding the
nature and purpose of their relationship (p. 969)”. These are three different types of relational
uncertainty that can be seen, often all at the same time.
In a relationship it is important to understand the self, the other, and the two working
together. Since a relationship is the meeting of two separate people it is important to understand
the other. According to Forsythe and Ledbetter (2015) “One of the fundamental goals in a
relationship is to describe, to explain, and to predict behavior by gaining understanding of one
another” (p. 325). Only through working towards mutual understanding will two people reach
any form of cohesion.
As Malachowski and Dillow say (2011), “A burgeoning body of literature has indicated
that cross sex friendships often experience more uncertainty than other relationships” (p357) A
cross sex friendship is a very complicated one, since it has tensions added that are not present
in other friendships such as romantic and/or sexual desire. Malachowski and Dillow also claim
(2011) that these extra tensions add to relational uncertainty and make it problematic.
The “Friend Zone” is the grey area between friends and lovers. This is an area already
marked by confusion in being a cross sex relationship. It is further thrown into confusion with the
uncertainty of intentions. The “Friend Zone” is usually marked with an incompatability of
intentions within a relationship. In Guerrero and Chavez’s study (2005) they fit their subjects into
three different categories. The desires romance category are those that are attracted to the
other and want to change their friendship into a relationship. On the other hand, those in the
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rejects relationship category want the two to remain friends and do not a relationship. Relational
uncertainty varies within this zone.
Because of this incompatibility of interests Guerrero and Chavez found that “Those in
the rejects romance situation… might avoid engaging in too much relational maintenance so
their friends will not misinterpret their behavior as romantic interest” (p. 343). Here we see
characteristics that cause uncertainty being used as protective or preventative measures. Within
the phenomenon of the “Friend Zone” Malachowski and Dillow (2011) also state that “Individuals
who are physically attracted to their friend may prefer relational uncertainty because it allows
them to maintain hope that these feelings are reciprocal.” (p366)
People create relationships for certain reasons. McEwan and Guerrero (2015) claim that
everyone has certain needs that they desire to be met. These needs often come into play in a
relationship. One of these needs is the need for a person to understand their surroundings,
including the people that one interacts with. According to Gibbs, Ellison and Lai (2011), when
two people meet for the first time their interactions will attempt to eliminate uncertainty.
Individuals want to meet their needs, and they want a fair relationship where their partner
returns any relational effort that they make. According to McEwan and Guerrero (2012) although
friends don’t consciously keep track of costs and rewards in a relationship they usually expect
interactions to be fair and reciprocal. (p. 425)
When these expectations are not met and uncertainty is not reduced, especially within
the boundaries of the “Friend Zone” phenomena, issues can form. The base of these issues is
typically a lack of communication of intentions and feelings. This can result in trust issues, one
person being unable to believe what the other person says or does. This can also result in
jealousy. Jealousy is when one person perceives that the other in the friendship has interest in
someone else and feels and acts based off of this. Carson and Cupach (2000) state that “The
feelings and thoughts comprising the experience of jealousy often can indicate relational
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dissatisfaction”. Bevan and Hale (2006) claim that jealousy may occur when a partner is found
to be dishonest. Jealousy usually gets a bad rap for harming a relationship and the members of
a relationship. However, according to Carson and Cupach (2000) jealousy is a two sided coin
that can strengthen a relationship by indicating a need for the other, but can cause irrational
actions as well.
The “Friend Zone”, as stated, is a cultural phenomenon that covers a number of
uncertain and unclear points in a relationship. It is where intentions might not line up between
two partners and thus it is unclear whether what is seen is a friendship or a romantic
relationship. Relational uncertainty and jealousy are likely to occur in this area because of the
ambiguity of the “Friend Zone”. There is an ambiguity of intentions as well as an ambiguity of
needs. Guerrero and Chaves (2005) state that people in the “friend zone” are less likely to
express negative feelings towards one another because they don’t want to hurt each other.
Although well intentioned, this often causes more harm than good. It is important for the health
of the relationship that communication be kept open and that both members express what they
are feeling. The “Friend Zone” has an abundance of uncertainty and it is extra important here to
handle this uncertainty well
The purpose of this research study is to observe the dynamics of communication and
satisfaction within the “Friend Zone” relational turning point.
RQ1; Do Males provide more instrumental support to their cross-sex friends than
RQ2; Do females provide more emotional support and positivity to their cross-sex friends
than males do?
RQ3; How do flirtation levels differ according to friendship situation?
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This study will test for the following hypotheses about how the dynamics of friendship and the
“Friend Zone” correlate.
H1a; Those who desire a romantic relationship engage in more relationship talk than
those who don’t.
H1b; An individual engages in more relationship talk when both partners desire a
romantic relationship than if their partner doesn’t desire a romantic relationship.
H2; Individuals in the “Friend Zone” avoid negativity more than those who aren’t in the
H3; When individuals are in the “Friend Zone” those who desire romance initiate more
routine contact and activity than those who don’t.
H4; Individuals who are in the “Friend Zone exhibit more relational uncertainty than
those who aren’t.
In order to test the hypotheses and look into the research questions this study looked at
a study done by Guerrero & Chavez (2009) that looks into various relationship categories and
their relation to romance and modified it to fit the current parameters. This study surveyed
undergraduate students in a private Christian university outside of Philadelphia. The sample of
this study was primarily of communication students in classes where the teacher gives time to
survey. However, the sample was not limited to this and included other students from the
school. This survey is all inclusive, not limited to a specific set of people, and can be taken by
anyone in these classes. The sample size of Guerrero and Chavez (2009) was 440 students.
This study was not as thorough as their study was. It got results from between 75 and 100
young adults between ages 18 and 23.
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The survey asks the respondent to keep a specific close cross sex friend in mind. It
helps if they have a particularly close relationship with this person. The methods of Guerrero
and Chavez (2009) were used. Guerrero and Chavez give four different categories for this cross
sex friendship dynamic. The first category is mutual romance where the respondent desires for
romance in the relationship and the friend in question does too. The second category is strictly
platonic where neither party desires romance in the relationship. The third category is desires
romance where the respondent wishes for romance in the relationship but the friend in question
does not. The fourth category is rejects romance where the respondent does not want romance
in their friendship but their friend does. It is understood that by surveying one person and not
both only one side of the story will be heard. Therefore, only questions as to the respondent’s
point of view on the situation were asked.
The relational certainty of the participants was also determined. In order to judge the
relational uncertainty of the subjects two questions asked by Guerrero and Chavez (2009) in
their study were used. The first question is as follows: “Sometimes people are uncertain about
how their cross-sex friends really feel about them. How certain are you that the box you
checked above really describes the way that you and your friend feel about each other?” There
are six possible responses: very certain (1), certain (2), somewhat certain (3), moderate (4),
somewhat uncertain (4), uncertain (5), and very uncertain (6) The second question follows up to
the first, “Sometimes people are confused about the nature of their cross-sex friendships. How
confident are you that the box you checked above is an accurate reflection of the current state
of your friendship?” The responses should be any of the following: very confident (1), confident
(2), somewhat confident (3), moderate (4), somewhat unconfident (5), unconfident (6), and very
unconfident (7). These questions help to develop a correlation between relational uncertainty
and the relational situation present, and help to find an answer to the fourth hypothesis.
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Questions about the relational maintenance strategies that can be seen in the current
situation were asked next. These strategies fall into a number of categories, those being routine
contact and activity, emotional support and positivity, relationship talk, instrumental support,
social networking, antisocial behavior, humor and gossip, talk about outside romance, flirtation,
and avoidance of negativity. Each of these categories has between two and five questions and
has Likert scale options with answers from 1 (strongly agree) to 7 (strongly disagree). These
answers are used to determine how the occurrence of these strategies correlates with the
situation that is present. This helps to answer my first three hypotheses. This also helps to find
answers to the three research questions in this study.
All of the results of this study were compiled and organized based on the four relational
categories as determined in the first section. To test the hypotheses, t-tests were run comparing
how levels of relationship maintenance behaviors differ between different relationship
categories. This helped me to determine how different maintenance dynamics correlate with the
four different categories of cross sex friendship. This method discovers more about this
For this study a total of 79 surveys were distributed in classrooms. Of these 27 were
male and 52 were female. These participants were all college students that were 18 years old or
older. The first part of this survey determined the specific category that each relationship fell
into. The relational categories of the participants varied greatly. Out of the 79 people that
participated in this study 57 reported that neither the survey participant nor their partner desired
romance with the other. Seven said that they both desired romance with the other. Eight said
that they desired romance, but their partner did not. Nine said they did not desire romance, but
their partner did. One person answered to the options of both, “just me”, and “just them”, which
skewed the numbering. The first two categories represented those not in the friend zone and the
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last two represented those in the friend zone. Relational uncertainty also varied, with 1 being the
highest amount of uncertainty and 6 being the lowest, with those in the friend zone averaging
2.38 and those not in the friend zone averaging 1.73. The final scale used in this study was of
Relational Maintenance strategies. Questions about Relational Maintenance were asked in the
form of a Likert Scale with 1 being “strongly agree” and 7 being “Strongly disagree”. This scale
had numerous subscales, those being Contact and Activity (M=3.74), Emotional Support
(M=5.98), Relationship Talk (M=4.14), Instrumental Support (M=5.45), Social Networking
(M=5.43), Antisocial Behavior (M=4.07), Humor and Gossip (M=5.57), Talk About Outside
Romance (M=5.06), Flirtation (M=3.60) and Avoidance of Negativity (M=4.44).
The first research question in this study asked “Do males provide more instrumental
support to their cross-sex friends than females do?” The data was run through a T-test and no
significance was found in the difference between these two. The second research question
asked “Do females provide more emotional support and positivity to their cross-sex friends than
males do?” To answer this question, a t-test was run on males’ and females’ emotional support
and positivity scores. No significant difference was found.
RQ3 asked how flirtation levels differ according to friendship situation? To answer this
question, a t-test was run on flirtation levels across friendship situations. No significant
difference was found.
H1a predicted that those who desire a romantic relationship engage in more relationship
talk than those who don’t. Relationship talk was broken into those who desire romance and
those who don’t. This data was run through a statistical T-Test, and no significance was found.
H1b predicted that an individual engages in more relationship talk when both partners desire a
romantic relationship than if their partner doesn’t desire a romantic relationship. Relationship
talk was then broken into categories of the other person desiring romance and the other person
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not desiring romance, the results of a t-test comparing these two groups on negative avoidance
found no significant difference. Hypothesis 1b was not supported.
H2 predicted that Individuals in the “Friend Zone” avoid negativity more than those who
aren’t in the “Friend Zone”. However, the results of a t-test comparing these two groups on
negative avoidance found no significant difference. Hypothesis 2 was not supported.
H3 predicted that when individuals are in the “Friend Zone” those who desire romance
initiate more routine contact and activity than those who don’t. A t-test comparison of routine
contact and activity scores for those who desire romance versus those who don’t found no
significant difference. Hypothesis 3 was not supported.
Beyond the research questions and hypotheses this study compared all of the above
relational maintenance strategies to the relational uncertainty of the participant. Correlations
were calculated for all of the above. Out of all ten categories of relational maintenance nine of
them had no significant correlation when compared to each other. Only flirtation had a
statistically significant correlation with relationship uncertainty (r = .59, p < .01). This was a very
high correlation. This can be seen in figure 1 below.
Relationships, whether romantic or friendship, can be complicated. The dynamics
between any two people are confusing because of the dynamics that occur between them.
Friendships are very common and can be seen all around us. Relationships are also common
place and fairly well defined. However, on the complicated path between the two there can be
road blocks along the way. When one person wants to be in a relationship, but the other wants
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 20
to keep the friendship that they have the two are described as stuck in the “Friend Zone”, a zone
of disagreement, uncertainty, and its own confusing relationship maintenance strategies.
The concept of the “Friend Zone” was first named in an episode of the show Friends in
1994. It is a cultural phenomenon that describes the space friend and relationship. This
phenomenon occurs to many people in society today. According to Forsythe and Ledbetter
(2015) everyone desires and seeks out relationships that are fair and mutually beneficial. We do
not want uncertainty in our lives, but want to be able to depend on the people in our lives. The
“Friend Zone” is a big source of uncertainty for all people involved.
Guerrero and Chavez (2005) claim that the presence of relational maintenance
strategies increases as the relationship gets more serious. This relational period is a major
turning point within a relationship. Through the emotions and actions expressed during this time
the relationship will look very different. The members of any relationship must use certain
strategies to maintain and repair their relationship and many of these are necessary during the
“Friend Zone in a different way than otherwise.
This study evaluated several aspects of the “Friend Zone” including relational uncertainty
as well as a number of maintenance strategies that can be seen within the friend zone. The first
research question in this study asked whether more instrumental support was found from men
in the “Friend Zone” than from women in the “Friend Zone”. No significant difference was
measured here. Guerrero and Chavez (2005) found in their study that men did provide more
instrumental support than women. The second research question in this study asked whether
more emotional support was found from women in the “Friend Zone” than from men in the
“Friend Zone”. No significant difference was measured here. Guerrero and Chavez (2005) found
in their study that women did provide more emotional support than men. Guerrero and Chavez’s
results make sense for both of these questions. Although not always true men tend to be better
at providing help in getting the job done, whereas women tend to be better at listening and
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 21
supporting emotionally. The fact that this study didn’t find these results is attributed to the
sample size of the survey.
The third research question compared flirtation levels in all four categories. No
significant results were found between these categories. However, when flirtation and
uncertainty were compared a very high correlation was measured. It is unexpected to not find
any correlations between flirtation and relationship type. This could also be attributed to sample
size. However, it is encouraging to see the correlation between uncertainty and flirtation. The
“Friend Zone” is a time period of great relational uncertainty. When two people don’t agree on
how to label their relationship uncertainty will follow. There was a high correlation which is
expected as uncertainty is an important factor in the “Friend Zone”.
Hypothesis 1 predicted that relationship talk will be seen more by those who desire a
relationship than those who don’t. No results of significance were found to indicate a trend one
way or the other. Hypothesis 2 predicted that individuals in the “Friend Zone” put in more effort
to avoid negativity than those not in the friend zone. No results of significance were found to
indicate a trend one way or the other. Hypothesis 3 predicted that those in the “Friend Zone”
initiate more contact and activity than those not in the “Friend Zone”. Once again no results of
significance were found to indicate a trend one way or the other. All of the hypothesis can be
attributed to location variety and survey size.
This study was a study of a cultural phenomenon that is relative to many college age
students. However, this study was not focused enough for what it was trying to do. Throughout
the study three categories and ten subcategories were looked at. The results were compared for
a total of twenty-three different T-tests and correlations. Too many questions were being asked.
This study needed more focus. In addition, the survey size was limited to the students within the
classrooms in which the survey was handed out. These were mostly communication classrooms
where students overlapped and often didn’t take the survey seriously. Finally, the survey didn’t
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 22
fully focus on the topic of the “Friend Zone”. In retrospect the survey should have been much
more focused on uncertainty and should have had more even ratios of the categories. The
survey should ask the participant to focus on someone that might be in the “Friend Zone”
situation, instead of just any random cross sex friend.
Further research is needed. Further studies need to look at the points above. This
research can best be continued with a study that is more proportional and focused more on how
uncertainty effects the “Friend Zone”.
Flirtation and relational uncertainty have a large correlation. This means that the more
uncertain a person is about the relationship, the more likely they are to flirt with the person. In
the same way the more certain a person is about a relationship the less likely they are to flirt.
This could be a result of being comfortable. When a person is uncertain they use flirtation to
move things in the direction that they want things to go. When they get comfortable and are
more certain about the relationship they don’t have a need for flirtation anymore. Amount of
flirtation can be a good indication of certainty.
This can be applied and understood throughout all stages of a relationship. It is a good
indication of relational certainty at any stage. It especially helps within the “Friend Zone” as the
“Friend Zone” has an elevated level of relational uncertainty. All of the maintenance strategies
can be used to understand the “Friend Zone”. They can be especially useful to help those who
are in the “Friend Zone” make sense of what’s happening around them and navigate their
situation. This should further our understanding of this relational aspect.
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 23
Baxter, L., & Ebert, L. (1999). Perceptions of dialectical contradictions in turning points of
development in heterosexual romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships, 16(5), 547-569.
Carson, C. L., & Cupach, W. R. (2000). Fueling the flames of the green-eyed monster: The role
of ruminative thought in reaction to romantic jealousy. Western Journal of
Communication, 64(3), 308. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
Egland, K. L., & Spitzberg, B. H. (1996). Flirtation and conversational competence in cross-sex
platonic and romantic relationships. Communication Reports, 9(2), 105-117. Retrieved from
Communication and Mass Media Complete.
Forsythe, K. E., & Ledbetter, A. M. (2015). Relational uncertainty, self-other inclusion, and
communication satisfaction as predictors of friendship relational maintenance, and how
equity changes the story. Communication Studies, 66(3), 321-340.
Gibbs, J. L., Ellison, N. B., & Lai, C. (2011). First comes love, then comes google: An
investigation of uncertainty reduction strategies and self-disclosure in online
dating. Communication Research, 38(1), 70-100. doi:10.1177/0093650210377091
Guerrero, L. K., & Chavez, A. M. (2005). Relational maintenance in cross-sex friendships
characterized by different types of romantic intent: An exploratory study. Western Journal of
Communication, 69(4), 339-358. doi:10.1080/10570310500305471
Malachowski, C. C., & Dillow, M. R. (2011). An examination of relational uncertainty, romantic
intent, and attraction on communicative and relational outcomes in cross-sex
friendships. Communication Research Reports,28(4), 356-368.
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McEwan, B., & Guerrero, L. K. (2012). Maintenance behavior and relationship quality as
predictors of perceived availability of resources in newly formed college friendship
networks. Communication Studies, 63(4), 421-440. doi:10.1080/10510974.2011.639433
Messman, S., Canary, D., & Hause, K. (2000). Motives to remain platonic, equity, and the use of
maintenance strategies in opposite-sex friendships. Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships, February(17), 67-94.
Patterson, B. R. (2007). Relationship development revisited: A preliminary look at
communication in friendship over the lifespan. Communication Research Reports, 24(1),
Stafford, L., & Canary, D. J. (1991). Maintenance strategies and romantic relationship type,
gender and relational characteristics. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8(2),
Tong, S., & Walther, J. (2009). Sorry, you're just not my type: Romantic rejection in computer-mediated
communication. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association, , 1-41. Retrieved from
Weger Jr., H., & Emmett, M. C. (2009). Romantic intent, relationship uncertainty, and
relationship maintenance in young adults' cross-sex friendships. Journal of Social &
Personal Relationships, 26(6), 964-988. doi:10.1177/026540750934793
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 25
Expanded Verbal Consent Script
Hello, my name is Mike Warren, and I am an undergraduate student with the Eastern
University Department of Communication. I am collecting data for my research project on “The
Friend Zone Phenomenon” , and I’d like to ask you for your help by answering a few questions
for me regarding relational maintenance that occurs between each of you and one of your cross
sex friends. Your participation in this survey should take between 10 and 15 minutes.
Please be advised that the subject matter of this survey is personal in nature, and
reflecting on your relationships may cause minor emotional distress for some participants.
Counseling services are available through the university at the Cushing Center for Academic
Counseling and Support should you need or want further assistance. The benefits of participating
in this survey are that you will be contributing to knowledge about relational dynamics in cross
sex situations, and this knowledge may contribute indirectly to a better understanding of these
situations. There is no monetary compensation for taking this survey.
These data will be strictly anonymous; you will not be asked to put your name on the
questionnaire. Also, your participation is completely voluntary. You are free to not answer any
questions you may find objectionable, and may withdraw from the study at any time without
penalty, just by letting me know you would not like to continue any further. This research has
been reviewed and approved by the Eastern University Institutional Review Board. If you have
any questions or concerns about this research project, you can contact the Chairperson of IRB at
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 26
THE “FRIEND ZONE” PHENOMENON
Male ( ) Female ( )
Respondents first read the following instructions:
2) This questionnaire involves recalling and reporting the activities you use in a
relationship with the cross-sex friend that you feel closest to. Cross-sex friends are
defined as friends of the opposite-sex whom you spend time with but do not currently
date. Please think of a friend fitting this description and place her or his initials here:
3) Choose the correct category for your friendship out of the following options
( ) neither of us wants to escalate our friendship to a romantic relationship
( ) both of us want to escalate our friendship to a romantic relationship
( ) I would like to escalate our friendship to a romantic relationship, but my friend
probably does not
( ) my friend would like to escalate our friendship to a romantic relationship, but I would
Please answer the following questions with a number from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7
4) I would like this friendship to develop into a
romantic relationship 1234 5 6 7
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 27
5) I have romantic feelings for my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
6) I call my friend on a regular basis 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
7) I go places with my friend on a regular basis 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8) We visit one another’s homes or apartments on a
regular basis 1234 5 6 7
9) I initiate phone calls to my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
10) I act cheerful and positive when with my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
11) I try hard to listen to my friend’s problems 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
12) I try to be supportive and caring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
13) I comfort my friend in times of trouble 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
14) I present myself as cheerful and optimistic when
with my friend 1234 5 6 7
15) I tell my friend how I feel about our friendship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
16) I attempt to talk to my friend about the quality of
our relationship 1234 5 6 7
17) I tell my friend what I want from our friendship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
18) We have periodic talks about our friendship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
19) I give my friend advice 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
20) I let my friend know I am available to help with
tasks or chores 1234 5 6 7
21) I help my friend solve problems 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
22) I help my friend accomplish tasks and get things
done 1234 5 6 7
23) We spend time with mutual friends 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
24) We focus on common friends and affiliations 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
25) I show that I’m willing to do things with her/his
circle of friends 1234 5 6 7
26) I include our common friends in our activities 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
27) We argue about differences in opinion 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
28) I communicate my frustrations about our friendship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
29) I often complain to my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
30) I tease my friend good-naturedly 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
31) We share ‘inside jokes’ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
32) I joke around a lot with my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
33) We frequently ‘gossip’ together 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
34) I tell my friend about my past and/or current
romances 1234 5 6 7
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not [Type here] 28
35) I tell my friend about my romantic encounters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
36) I am flirtatious with my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
37) I avoid flirting with my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
38) I avoid conflict with my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
39) I avoid criticizing my friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
40) Sometimes people are uncertain about how their cross-sex friends really feel about
them. How certain are you that the box you checked above really describes the way that
you and your friend feel about each other?
very certain (1), certain (2), somewhat certain (3), somewhat uncertain (4), uncertain
(5), and very uncertain (6)
41) Sometimes people are confused about the nature of their cross-sex friendships.
How confident are you that the box you checked above is an accurate reflection of the
current state of your friendship?
very confident (1), confident (2), somewhat confident (3), somewhat unconfident (4),
unconfident (5), and very unconfident (6)
Thank you for taking the time to fill out this survey. Your answers will be very helpful in
my study and research into the “Friend Zone”
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Mean 5.97 5.96
Mean 5.87 6.01
Mean 4.62 3.44
p Talk Desires
Romance Does Not
Mean 4.32 4.07
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Friend Zone Not
Mean 4.46 4.34
Friend Zone Not
Mean 4.46 4.34
Friend Zone Not
Mean 2.38 1.73