Date-O-nomics: Economics of Friendzone

Written by: Leo ,

January 04, 2019

“You’re a nice person. But there’s no reason your genes should survive another generation.” – Leo

Imagine yourself going for a job interview. Your desired DREAM job. Your interview goes smoothly. You are the best candidate for the job. In fact, you are over qualified and too competent for this position. Despite of all these, you are willing to render your diligent service to this company for life.

However, you are not the chosen one. Instead someone else who you know personally, is not as qualified as you and jumps ship almost every twelve months, got selected for the same position you applied. In addition, this person is clueless about the company or the job scope. It makes practically no sense to you, but you comply to the interviewer’s choice.

As the weeks pass, the interviewer keeps calling you to complain about the new employee they just hired. It is not smooth sailing, a lot of major hiccups and mishaps that the company has to deal with, from the absolute incompetency of this new employee.

Unconditionally, the company now starts asking you to clean some of the mess created by its existing employee, you comply as you think your good work shall get noticed and perhaps your dream of working for that company shall materialize. Meanwhile, you get calls from other companies which that you reject. You still have hopes on getting that desired job.

Finally, one fine day, as you had predicted, your hated employee leaves the company, you think you are the closest and the most suited resourceful candidate to fill the position. You are confident that the job is finally yours as you have already proven your worth multiple times since your last rejection.

Alas! you get the news that the company has again recruited someone else. This recruitment again makes no sense to you. You are again approached by the company for grievance redressal or to clear some mess created by yet another recruit. This process continues and you enter into an infinite loop.

The above is the classic example of the FRIENDZONE. With courtesy of Wikipedia, friendzone refers to a situation in which one person of a friendship wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. It is an undesirable position to be in, for the rejected party.

“Leo, you’re a financial planner. What has economics got to do with Friendzone?!”

The fact that you don’t see it from an economics lens is the very reason why you will always remain in the friendzone.

“All relationships are social exchanges”

We all have expectations in a relationship. We harbor the ideals that our givings will most certainly be reciprocated. The more we give, the more we receive. That is not true for all relationships. Essentially, all relationships are social exchanges. Social exchange theory is a social psychological theory that views relationships as the result of a cost-reward calculation made by the individuals concerned. It states that if we feel the rewards received from being in a given relationship are outweighed by the costs of being in that relationship then the relationship will remain intact. If the inverse is true, then the relationship will dissolve.

Costs of being in a relationship may be effort, money spent, time spent, or low self-esteem, whilst the rewards may be pleasure, satisfaction, financial support, etc. The issue with social exchanges is that not every exchange is fair and equal (50-50). While one party stands to gain, the other winds up getting the short end of the stick.

I know of a guy, Z, who pursued this girl for a very long time. He lavished her with gifts and brought her to fancy restaurants. At times, even flourishing her with bouquet of flowers. Z is not the girl’s boyfriend or romantic interest. Z says that he does so “unconditionally”. But every time his love interest pours out her frustration on him because of another guy, he feels dejected. Z tried hard to give up on this unrequited love but failed miserably every time. He will often find himself investing in the girl even more. Buying her more gifts and willingly be her “Instagram Utility Lover”. Interestingly, the girl would often just post pictures of his gifts on social media without the intent of having any affiliation with Z (no tags of him). These posts only garnered much likes and social validation, bringing smiles and glee to the girl. However, it’s not the case with Z.

Such is a depiction of Sunk Cost Fallacy. We are prone to hanging onto something because of what is already invested. People tend to fear losses and hang onto investments, at times, when the loss is already irrecoverable. In business parlance, one is throwing good money after bad. This happens quite often because people are drawn to believe that their past behavior was rationale; if I’ve already put in this much, it’s got to have been smart and it’s got to pay off. In many relationships where one partner is more committed than the other, and waiting for the other to step up, those investments may be already lost.

By knowing the economics of friendzone, how did Z then, escape from this relationship tragedy? How can we prevent ourselves from getting friendzoned? The answer: Law of Scarcity

“Scarcity increases your value in the dating market”

It took me six months to convince Z to distance himself from the relationship (making himself scarce).

Spend time away from your “friend” and do less for them. If they truly appreciate you, then your absence will make them miss you and want you more. This is the principle of scarcity – where people value something more when it is rare or taken away from them. When you are no longer around as much or tending to their needs, they will most likely feel the loss. This can increase their desire for you and their willingness to meet your needs back. If it doesn’t, then they are just “not that into you”…and don’t value you. In that case, move on captain, that ship has sailed.

Alternatively you can also use the psychological theory of social proofing. Go out and make new friends of the opposite gender. Broaden your social network. Then, talk about these new friends with the person you desire.
Competition and a little jealousy are another great way to develop scarcity. People tend to value you more when they think they might lose your attention. If you are “busy” with other people, you might just find your friend a bit more eager and motivated for your time and attention.

Interestingly, upon implementation of the law of scarcity, Z, gradually realizes that he no longer feels needy and upset about his relationship with the girl. The girl on the other hand, feels the decline of his attention span on her, now attempts to win back Z’s validation. Z has successfully freed himself from the dreaded friendzone!

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