The Friend Zone is a mental health and wellness podcast that debuted in August on the Loud Speakers Network. Each Wednesday, Dustin Ross, Francheska of Hey Fran Hey and Assante explore mental hygiene because, “who wants their mind to be musty?” Episodes cover everything from relationships to fitness to following your dreams. Below are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from the hilarious trio.

1. Parents are people.

Fran, Dustin and Assante expertly dive into the complicated messes that are family relationships. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from them was how to see your parents as people, forming strong, healthy and mature relationships with your parents hinges on the ability to see them as “adult humans,” and not just “mom and dad.” Often, before you can humanize your parents, you must first acknowledge your own mistakes and understand poor choices as a necessary and unavoidable part of life. Recognizing yourself as a flawed human — who still has positive and lovable qualities — will enable you to see your parents in the same light. Being “mom” and “dad” doesn’t give them some superhuman capability to always make the right decisions. They are adults. They are human. They are flawed. And they are just as susceptible to making mistakes as everyone else around you. Understanding this will help you separate the poor choices they’ve made from how much they love you.

2. Do the shadow work.

This concept was revolutionary to me when I heard it on The Friend Zone. “Shadow work” refers to taking care of conflicts and issues that persist in your subconscious, but don’t necessarily affect your ability to function in everyday life. Although these issues are not consistently bothering you, they are slowly weakening your relationships with those around you. I’m talking about that fight you had with your mom three years ago that you still sometimes think about, and the little things that have been building up between you and your best friend that neither of you have made the effort to fully resolve. The Friend Zone recommends writing down a list of these issues on paper — the idea being that if you see a physical representation of the conflicts in front of you, you can begin to have the difficult conversations required to take care of them one by one.


3. Create deeper relationship goals.

Fran reveals how each relationship she’s been in has been a catalyst to the next stage of her life. Relationships should teach us something about ourselves — we should enter into relationships with the expectation that we’ll be different when we come out. A successful relationship includes thriving, growing and changing — helping the other person learn something about themselves that they didn’t know before and vice versa. Hopefully, each of you emerges a better version of yourself. This will require lots of long, in-depth and occasionally painful conversations. The foundation of true intimacy is knowing all of your partner’s flaws, ticks and imperfections, and loving them regardless. Love is about learning someone’s deep, dark secrets and loving them anyway while trusting they’ll do the same for you.


4. Meet people where they are.

To me, this means making an effort to understand people’s reactions and why they might be acting a certain way. Dustin, Fran and Assante talk about how, oftentimes, the way a person acts toward you might have nothing to do with you at all. It takes work to remove yourself from the equation of their emotion and not take other people’s actions personally. For example, take time to understand a potential bae’s unwillingness to commit as the result of a broken family structure, or a parent’s stern discipline as frustration with the responsibilities of parenthood. Taking the time to understand why someone is behaving a certain way can save lots of time and energy that would otherwise be spent on conflict.


Which lesson struck a chord with you? Tell us in the comments below!