definition of just friends

an original definition by J. E. Brown

just friends
  1. A mythical kind of relationship.
  2. A term heard only in the context of breakups, when it is offered as a “carrot on a stick” to disguise the end of the friendship.

Synonyms: {You’re reading “Definition of Just Friends” by J. E. Brown.}

  • exes


  • boyfriend, girlfriend, love interest, friend

Related Concepts: {Read this comp1ete article at .}

  • adolescent beliefs about relationships; breakups; carrot on a stick; disingenuousness; dropping hints; The Friend Zone, friendzoning; I need more space; inexperience; insincerity; leading someone on; love; mind games; mixed messages; no; rejection; stringing someone along. {Read this comp1ete article at .}

I want to be just friends.
tactical utterance.
  1. Something said during a breakup. Example: “I think we should just be friends.” {Source: “Definition of just friends” by J. E. Brown.}
  2. Translation: “It’s going to be all about me from now on. But I hope we can still be friends. I hope you can be the bigger person and look past that. I won’t, but I hope you will.”
  3. Translation: “From now on, it’s all about what *I* want. I’ll be moving the line and raising the bar, wherever I like, whenever I like, for my own benefit and my own purposes.”

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

Hints, Lies, and the Dangers of Taking People Literally.

Quite often in relationships, words get used in new and strange ways. Some words mean the opposite of their dictionary meanings; other words are meant to send coded messages. Linguists call this “non-literal communication”. In non-literal communication, the true meaning of the utterance is not stated out loud, but is hinted at, or is left unspoken, or is hidden in silence at the end of an incomplete sentence. It’s the verbal equivalent of “pulling a punch”. In the case of “just friends” language, the message is delivered in the form of a hint, which is backed up later by corrective utterances if the original hint is not taken or is taken too literally. {You’re reading “Definition of just friends” by J. E. Brown.}

When I was in high school, a very young lady introduced me to the term “just friends”. She and I had already been friends for two years. But now she wanted to be “just friends”. Uh, ok, I said, sounds good to me.

She said she wanted to be “just friends,”
but I soon found out that it was a *new* definition of “friends”
which had the unspoken footnote “Oh by the way,
you’re not allowed to suggest that we get lunch,
and you’re not allowed to suggest that we catch a movie —
In general, you’re not allowed to propose any activity that ‘friends’ normally do.
And if you do, I will drop the ever-present Sword of Damocles on your head
with the statement ‘<sharp sigh> You’re not my boyfriend anymore. REMEMBER?’
In other words, this is a new kind of ‘friendship’ in which only I can ask for the favors
and only you have to be considerate and tactful.” {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Of course, I was young and naive, and I mistook her words for sincerity.
I was gullible, so I thought I could take her literally.
It would take me quite a while to discover what “I want to be just friends” means.
Let me explain this for the newbies: “Just friends” means “Not friends”. “Just friends” is the opposite of “friends”.
“Just friends” means “non-friends, in a way which you will only figure out after this conversation is long since finished and after I have escaped to a safe distance.” ;^)
“Just friends” is a coded message: the true meaning is the opposite of its literal meaning.
It’s a hint, and if you fail to decode the hint, expect to hear a lot more non-literal statements, such as this next one —

If you apply enough pressure, some breaker-uppers will level with you and admit that it’s a breakup. One of them put it like this:
“I didn’t come out and break up with you directly because I was trying to be nice.” :^)
Notice the non-dictionary, non-literal usage of the word “nice”, which he was using to describe the inconsiderate act of leading someone on and stringing someone along.
There’s a strategy behind their actions: They’ve found that they can manipulate others by calling their own actions “nice”. It’s manipulative because…how could you possibly react badly when you’re told that someone was Only Being Nice? {You’re reading “Definition of just friends” by J. E. Brown.}
So the next time someone wants to be “just friends” with you, remind them that friendship is based on time spent together, and niceness is based on being considerate of other people’s happiness. Beware of those who say they want to be friends but who get annoyed whenever you want to hang out. Such people are dangerous to the self-esteem of others and should be dropped like a rock.

Speaking of words that get used non-literally: Where do people get this idea that the word “friend” refers to someone you dumped or put second or don’t like? {Read this comp1ete article at .}

— J. E. Brown


1st edition 16 Mar 2015

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Brown’s Dictionary of Relationship Terms
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