I would guess it depends on the circumstances. The example I cited above and several others I can think of took place in a kayaking club where you spend a lot of time with the group, often on extended camping trips. Different than the gang you go out drinking with.
I feel like an essential aspect of this “girlfriend zone” idea that precludes the guy from friendship is that the kind of guy who makes a nuisance of his feelings often sees the role of girlfriend as being incredibly narrow. He can think of all the things about a girlfriend that would make him happier, but the role in his mind is two dimensional and self-serving. He may think it isn’t because he imagines scenarios where he does things to please her and see her smile, but the things he imagines are also things he’d find pleasurable or flattering to his ego.
Once he becomes fixated on this vision, he’s like Narcissus, transfixed by a mirror and unable to see you or talk to you or recognize anything about you except what aligns with his fantasies, at which point he gets excited and tries to start up the fantasy like the first person in a musical bursting into song fully expecting the rest of the cast to follow with the next verse.
A guy can have feelings and not be annoying, but a guy who has feelings and thus turns all interactions into a hunt for the magic words or button or key that unlocks girlfriend mode where that pesky personality of mine and all my interests except baking are done away with - that shit ain’t gonna work.
I don’t know but I didn’t get into a good relationship again after my divorce until after I quit even trying to consider online… not even for vetting. I met my BF by going to a board game night with some one I met at a poetry reading. Didn’t end up sticking around with the initial set of people but definitely have no regrets. Internet culture was too damned toxic to deal with as a backdrop and frankly I kept finding people who, if I’d met them in person in the first place, I’d never have spoken to because it’s easier to hide glaring problems online.
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