Beware of the Frenemy

Recognizing and dealing with the unfriendly.

Do you have a friend who often behaves more like an enemy?

Do her compliments come with a sting in the tail? “That dress looks amazing on you. It really hides your shape well.”

Does she seem supportive when you are down, but negative when you are up?

Do you ever feel anxious prior to getting together with this person?

Does she trash your hopes and dreams?

Does she belittle your achievements?

Do you feel worse about yourself after you’ve spoken with her?

If you answered “yes” to more than a few of these questions, then your friend is probably a frenemy. A frenemy— or an enemy disguised as a friend— chips away at your self-esteem to keep you in your place... always one step behind her.

This person may appear to be a good friend at times. She’s there when you are going through a hard time. She’s supportive when you’re feeling down. However, this reaffirms her superior position over you. A frenemy often has nothing good to say when things are going well for you. But a true friend is happy for you during good times and bad.

What should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Here are a few effective options to deal.

Terminate the Friendship

This is a tricky option. Sometimes, it can make things worse, particularly if you have mutual peers or if she is someone you are likely to bump into. Think carefully before choosing this option. You don’t want your soon-to-be former friend causing more problems for you.

Work at the Relationship

If this is the route you’d like to take, you need to do a bit of analysis first. Think back to the start of the friendship. How was it in the beginning? Has your friend-in-question always been like this, or does her attitude reflect a more recent change? If it’s more recent, then you may have more of a chance to fix things. Most importantly, are you sure this is a friendship worth saving?

If you decide to try, don’t attack your friend head on with accusations. This will only serve to put her on the defensive and make her unwilling to communicate. Try the sandwich approach to get through to your difficult gal pal. Start with something positive for the top slice. For example, spotlight how much fun you have with her or how much you appreciated her being there for you during a specific difficult time. For the filling, tackle the difficult issues. Be brief and to the point. Instead of focusing on blame, focus on the effects. For instance, “You made me feel like this” is accusatory, whereas, “When you said that, I felt like this,” is gentler and more effective. Also, take the opportunity to acknowledge anything you may have done wrong yourself. For the bottom slice, finish with another positive comment. For example, how much you value having this person in your life. By sandwiching the difficult issues between two positive thoughts, you’re less likely to come across as accusatory or overly confrontational.

Stay Cordial

This involves gradually distancing yourself from your friend while still remaining on amicable terms. It can feel slightly manipulative, but it serves to protect you and should avoid the escalation of any problems. More than likely, the reason your frenemy behaves this way is due to low self-esteem. Managing the relationship without making her feel worse about herself is often be the best thing for everyone involved.

Whichever approach you take, be prepared for a few bumps along the way. Remember that these are the first steps toward regaining some control in the relationship. This in turn should help to make you feel better about yourself.