One of my readers, reflecting on my posts on Catholic Dating, and especially on my description of a male-female friendship gone bad, which I write about here, ponders the advice he'd give single Catholic guys who are in his position (my emphasis) ...
I would tell them that they need to stop all of this exclusive hanging out with a girl if they are at all interested in the girl. If you acknowledge just being friends, that's fine. But if you have the slightest inkling that you like a girl, you must ask her out. Dragging it on and on puts her in a position to potentially manipulate the situation, and that's how you get into the friend zone, and how all of these other painful situations arise.Just tell men to stop allowing themselves to be psychologically abused by women. It does happen in reverse, but the trend the last 25 years with feminism has been women using men, I think.
Of course, in defense of the women, there's more to be said here.
Women are not looking for a guy to be friends with. Women are driven to find a father for their babies - whether they admit this to themselves or not. Women understand the seriousness of this at a level men just don't get. (It dawns on Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing - he decides to romance Beatrice because, dammit! - "The world must be peopled!")
Now it may sometimes happen that a woman forms an intensely intimate bond with a "safe" man, with a man she knows she'll never marry, either because he's gay or already married or a priest or something similar. But if a woman forms a bond with an available single straight male, she's not interested in the friendship. In fact, there really is no such thing as simple male-female friendship (I mean men and women becoming intimate friends, not just casual acquaintances), except under very unusual conditions, as J. R. R. Tolkien pointed out ...
In this fallen world the 'friendship' that should be possible between all human beings, is virtually impossible between man and woman. The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favourite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones. This 'friendship' has often been tried: one side or the other nearly always fails. Later in life when sex cools down, it may be possible. It may happen between saints. To ordinary folk it can only rarely occur: two minds that have really a primarily mental and spiritual affinity may by accident reside in a male and a female body, and yet may desire and achieve a 'friendship' quite independent of sex. But no one can count on it. The other partner will let him (or her) down, almost certainly, by 'falling in love'.
So if a guy in fact drags his feet, the way my reader describes, one can hardly blame the woman for "manipulating the situation".
That's because it's a situation analogous to community theater. In the world of professional theater, the focus is on getting the show put together and making money at it, because real people from the real world are going to pay to come see it, and it has to be good and you're working under pressure. But in community theater and semi-pro theater, where everybody knows that the whole thing is a kind of hobby and no money is going to be made, and nobody other than your family and friends are going to come to see it, and they don't really care if it's any good - in other words where it's all a bit Unreal - people's focus often shifts to politics, intrigue and gossip. These things are present in the professional world as well, of course, but in the world of hobby-theater they often become paramount.
So, guys, if you like a girl but you dither around in the "friendship zone", she'll work the situation in the worst way possible, because it's suddenly not real to her. Take a woman's strongest traits - a focus on acquiring, possessing and cultivating a family - and frustrate them so that these rather frightening characteristics get focused on mind games and frivolities, and you've got a really bad situation for everyone involved.
Because Just Friends is Just Stupid.