Deal With Frenemies

Would you even know if you had frenemies? They're the people in your life who purport to be a friend but do some oddly enemy-like things to you on more than an occasional basis, and in a way that seems pretty predetermined to unsettle you. Spotting them and dealing with them is vital to preserve your own sanity and to know when to ditch the friend who pushes things just a bit too far.


  1. Spot the frenemy in your life. Before you can deal with a frenemy, you need to know you're friends with one. Some indicators might include:
    • They are never able to enjoy your good fortune. If something good happens to you, their bottom lip curls into a sneer and they just have to say something derogatory, Help Your Boss See How a Coworker Is Undermining Others and barbed.
    • They're a master at the art of Give Your Employer a Backhanded Compliment, those compliments which sound okay on the surface but actually can be taken another way to mean something less than flattering (for example, they may say something like, "I like it when you wash your hair, that's when it's pretty," because this is suggesting that you are ugly without your hair washed.) And they seem to use this "art" on you a lot.
    • They gossip about you. When it gets back to you and you raise it with them, they deny knowing anything about it or lie through their teeth and say that someone misinterpreted what they meant.
    • They always backbite about you and try to spoil your friendship with others.
  2. Listen to your own instincts. How does being with this person leave you feeling? Are you uplifted in their presence or do they always manage to take the wind out of your sails and leave you feeling down and unsupported? If you find that whenever you're down and miserable, they're around a lot more than when you're upbeat and in control, this is an indicator that you're with a person who soaks up misery and sees someone down on their luck as a target for control and Deal With an Ex Best Friend Who Emotionally Manipulates You. Moreover, if after spending time with them, you're left feeling sapped and bad about yourself, then you're not with a good friend – good friends make you feel good about yourself. Take note of anything like the following and be wary:
    • Whenever you try to improve yourself, such as by losing weight, studying harder, going for a promotion, etc., they do their best to sabotage the efforts. Indeed, they may even encourage you to do things that will harm your progress, such as Resist the Urge to Badmouth an Ex Employer on Social Networking Sites or eat sweets on the weekend. Frenemies tend to bring out the worst in a person because the relationship is a bad fit.
    • They never have your best interests at heart and you know it. In fact, you feel that every time you want to talk about something with them that they're likely to get really Avoid an Argumentative Person, roll their eyes, make unkind remarks or simply be negative about everything you're trying to do.
    • You asked this person to support you on something weeks ago but when the time comes, they have a truly lame Make Excuses to Get out of Work for wriggling out of the promise. And they do it time and again to you.
  3. Make changes. If you're not sure whether or not this person is a frenemy, talk over your concerns with a friend you're absolutely sure about and don't feel unhappy around. This person may throw new perspective onto the situation, perspective that helps you to realize the value of your relationship with the frenemy. Obviously, be certain you're talking to someone whom you can trust and isn't likely to pass this back to the frenemy. A frenemy who suspects you're onto them through talking to other people (and thereby warning others) can be a very unpleasant person to be around.
  4. Talk to the frenemy outright. Instead of skulking around and carrying this burden on your shoulders, come out and express your concerns to this person. Avoid acting vulnerable or distressed; simply stick to the facts and express how certain things that have happened make you feel. For example:
    • "I felt really put down when you suggested my Costumes was too tight for me in front of our dance class. Did you really mean to be so unkind?"
    • "I consider you to be a friend. As such, it really hurt me yesterday when you said I was too ditzy and easily Prevent the Internet from Distracting You to be a good speechwriter in our group talk. I know you think you said it in a joking and funny way but as I am a bit vague at times, it really struck me as a bizarre way to make a joke, as I felt it came at my expense."
    • "I feel really disappointed when you say things that say one thing but mean another, such as telling me the jeans I bought were great... for the price I paid, as if you were intimating that I had bought cheap jeans that didn't really look so nice. Why is it so hard for you to be friendly and frank with me instead of mocking all the time?"
  5. Expect your frenemy to be surprised or in denial. Being forthright about your feelings is basically calling out the frenemy and forcing them to either own up to their Deal With Harsh Criticism or deny it. It could go either way and even if they deny it, they may not stop the behavior and just keep on doing what they've been doing to hurt you. Or, they may become angry with you and refuse to discuss it, in which case you're getting a very clear indication that it's probably time to let go of this so-called friendship.
    • Remember that if they blow a fuse, that you're not much into them by this stage anyway. At least the truth is out in the open and allows you to begin focusing more on other relationships in your life.
  6. Be realistic about the chances of staying friends with the frenemy. While it is important to be compassionate and realize that your frenemy may have gotten into a pattern of difficult interactions with others and see themselves as clever, witty or superior, it's equally important to look after yourself. If the frenemy can only ever interact like this, you're never going to feel safe, supported or happy around them.
  7. Look to yourself. Is it possible that you have some of the traits of a frenemy too? Hanging around people who use wit and words to denigrate others can soon rub off, especially if there is an attempt to be part of the popular group or the alpha. Be honest with your self-assessment and own up to yourself if you've been carrying on frenemy-like behaviours and attitude with your friends. And put a stop to it.
  8. Make the break. Once you realize that you are dealing with a frenemy and you've asked for reasons but there is no likelihood of change in your frenemy's behavior and attitude, then withdraw yourself from the Get over a Friend Who Backstabbed You. Remind yourself that it isn't a friendship you're ending but a round of toxic interactions and that both of you will be better off for being apart and for going your own ways. Above all, remain polite and nice toward them in a distant way. There is no need to rub salt into the wound.


  • If they talk about you behind your back, don't talk about them back. You'd be just as bad as they are.
  • The word “frenemy” originated in 1977. It was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2009.

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