I first heard the word frenemy three decades ago. I thought the teenager who used it had made it up, and thought it was quite clever, as it made so much sense. But no—it has been used as far back as 1953.
The urban dictionary’s top definition of Frenemy is:
The type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down (whether you realize it as intentional or not) The type of friend you ought to cut off but don’t cuz…they’re nice… good …you’ve had good times with them. U know…they’re good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future. The friend you may or may not have cornered about their quicksand like ways and keep around because “it’s in the past”…and so was one minute ago. The person that will continue to bring you down until you demand better for yourself.
When you ask yourself is that person my friend or enemy…they are your frenemy. Straighten ‘em out or leave them. Don’t put up with it.
Sounds perfectly right to me.
While it is easy to see why a frenemy is bad for health, understanding these lousy relationships that suck your energy can help deal with them better. The first step, of course is to recognize this energy vampire who pretends to be your BFF yet is constantly undermining you and constantly criticizes, but dresses it up with humor. Ugh.
How to recognize that frenemy?
It’s a complicated and not to mention toxic relationship.
- Makes plans but ditches you because something else seems better
- Is your shoulder when you broke up then got close to your ex
- Acts over-friendly only when you can do them a favor
- Raise you up and bring you down just as abruptly
- Appears well-meaning, but is overly competitive
- Acts like your rock but can’t bring themselves to celebrate successes
- Is a buddy when you’re in trouble but gossips about you later
- Can be a bully disguised as a friend
- Treats you badly, embarrasses you
- Is manipulative and selfish
- Makes you feel insecure
The tricky thing is this: these are relationships where the warmth coexists with jealousy. It’s a love-hate equation that drives you crazy, yet you can’t seem to let them go.
Whatever it is, frenemies affect one’s mental and physical health. Not surprisingly, they can put you at risk for depression and stress. Best thing is to lose them, but what if you want to keep them?
It is true that as humans, we are social creatures and the health benefits of friendships have been thoroughly researched. It is true that quality is more important than quantity in friendship. This makes frenemies a problem. Even if no friendship is perfect or needs to be, with frenemies the imperfection is consistent. And as time passes it becomes tough to ignore their thoughtless comments.
Funny thing is, a big chunk of the people we interact with in our lives is from the frenemy category. This includes family. Interestingly, there is a tendency to look at family as a frenemy and regardless of how annoying it is, it is not easy to ditch them because they are actually around to offer support that’s hard to give up.
Why do we hang on to friendships that make us unhappy? Probably because there’s a long history and we focus on all the good times, preferring to ignore the bad and we just do not want to let go.
So… how to minimize the pain of these relationships?
How can you cope with a frenemy?
Depending on whether it is worth the trouble, here are some tips:
- Try and avoid situations or topics that are problematic. For example, if the frenemy ditches you after making plans to meet, make sure you have a plan B. Avoid discussing subjects that invite nasty remarks.
- Talk to them about you feel about their behavior. Be calm and non-accusatory, or they’ll get defensive.
- Watch their response. Good friends are apologetic. Frenemies will attack and play the blame game and of course you are the one that’s wrong.
- Let’s say they apologize. Watch them for a few days and see how you feel. If they revert to their old nasty selves, you know what to do.
- Distance yourself from them and make new friends. Get busy with what you need to do. If you feel bold enough, just tell them to their faces.
- Be strong. Don’t feel obliged to maintain the status quo with a friendship that does not respect you.
Perhaps it won’t be easy, because after all, there’s a history involved. But remember you deserve to have good friends and if someone doesn’t care for you or your feelings, stop pretending it is okay.
Toxic friendships are common at every stage in life—right from the time we start school. The bullying continues at various levels through to adulthood–so much so, some people tend to accept it without resisting. They believe that’s how friendships should be!
If you are a parent, it is important to help your child understand what good friends are like—respectful, caring and include her in their activities. Encourage her to hang out with those who are kind to her. As she makes friends, observe her behavior so you can spot anything that seems unnatural. Being communicative can help keep track of any issues that might come up. When a child grows up with confidence and self-esteem, she’s less likely to stick to a friendship that treats her badly.
Do you have frenemies?
How do you deal with them?