Note: This post refers to a commonly acknowledged trope in heterosexual dating. As a result I have only spoken in hetero terms as I am unsure if this trope exists or is as prevalent in queer dating situations.
Bastion of knowledge wikipedia defines the friend zone as the following:
“In popular culture, the “friend zone” refers to a platonic relationship where one person wishes to enter into a romantic relationship while the other does not. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation by the lovelorn person. Once the friend zone is established, it is said to be difficult to move beyond that point in a relationship.
The friend zone is an issue that is intimately connected with the ‘nice guy’ trope that is deeply pervasive in hetero dating. It posits that if you (a kindly young man) would like to have relations with a woman, then you should not be friends with her because women hate guys who are nice to them. They only ever want to sleep with people who are vile to them and treat them like shit. Baisically the idea is that all women are masochists and if a woman sees you as a nice person who is her friend she will never also see you as person to have sex with.
Adult relationships work best (as I have detailed in a number of posts that you can find if you click on the sex and dating tag) when communication is honest, i.e. you say what you mean and mean what you say. It is reasonable for a woman to assume that if you are her friend and you have not communicated that you wish to be otherwise that you are in fact HER FRIEND. In general friendships are based on trust and honesty, so using friendship as a way of getting close to someone when you have other intentions is a violation of these basic expectations in a friendship. Sex is not a prize you get for being nice to someone. If you are nice to someone purely in the hope that one day they will have sex with you, guess what? You are not actually ‘a nice guy’. You are being manipulative.
Sometimes once a friendship has been established feelings can change. That is OK and in fact happens frequently. There are a couple of things that are important in this case. If you want a romantic or sexual relationship rather than a platonic one you need to communicate this. You cannot expect people around you to read your mind. To expect a friendship to remain a friendship is a reasonable expectation, and if your feelings have changed then it is on you to communicate that, not on her to pick up on the fact your feelings have changed. What is totally obvious in terms of signals to one person is inscrutable to another so you have to make your feelings explicit. It is unfair to get angry and feel used if you have not made your feelings clear. If she doesn’t feel the same way then it is important that you set appropriate boundaries for the relationship. If you do not want to remain simply platonic friends then for the love of all that is true and good do not say that you do, because yes, if you say that you are OK with remaining friends then it is reasonable to take you at your word.
Relationships are often hard and messy and complicated. Yes some people will use you. Yes some people will not like you back, but before you complain about being stuck in the friend zone it may be a good idea to look at your own behaviour.