What’s Up With Frenemies?

FrenemyA frenemy is someone who is rooting for your success and your demise at the same time. They want what’s best for you as true friends do, while wishing you get your worst, as someone who vengefully hates you might.  They are there for your biggest moments and your worst because they are your friends, which means you have given them access to your life, to your inner circle.

Sometimes frenemy relationships last an entire lifetime, managing to balance themselves precariously at the exact right point on the scale, so that they seem to be more friend than foe, but sometimes, this tenuous balance is revealed to be what it is and that’s when the frenemy relationship falls completely apart.  There is also the possibility of a full-out betrayal, when the frenemy moves away from this precarious balance into full-on enemy territory, and it is later revealed, as most things are, that this person is more enemy than friend.

While frenemies are abundant in female culture, especially in young high school female culture, we have seen frenemies lurking everywhere across the gender and age map.  Women, perhaps because in our earlier history, we have been encouraged and expected to compete without having much of an outlet.  We’re not making this up–it’s not women’s names that dominate history books, social history aside.  Women have thus been exposed to frenemies on a larger scale than men have.  The good news is that it seems that as women mature, they are beyond the frienemy trap (although not immune to it), but where we have seen and experienced frenemy at its most intense is with young women.

In all fairness, frenemies are enticing because they pretend to be such good friends.  Who doesn’t want or need an exceptionally good friend?  So that is their appeal.  But beware.

These women really do a dis-service to other women.  They ruin what could be a supportive, fun, and meaningful friendship and turn it into something really ugly.

They behave one way towards you and pretend to be supportive, loyal and fun, but as soon as you’re not around, they are secretly hoping that you fail at everything that you do, gossip about you, and are so unkind that sometimes they even go as far as intentionally damaging your other relationships, or interfering with your success.

Should anyone suspect that this is happening, an easy solution doesn’t always follow.  The problem with confronting these frenemies is that they can be very good liars, plus they can be really mean when challenged because they are aware that you’re onto them, and they may soon be discovered, and lose their hold on the friendship, and your wider circle.  They will probably lie to you about what they did or said, and then, when you’re not looking, they may even say more harmful and hurtful things about you to others, who might believe them by virtue of their close association to you.  It makes sense, if someone so close to you is saying such awful things about you because they just can’t hold it in anymore, then they must be telling the truth about you, right?  Wrong.  Everyone knows a good friend knows no one is perfect and is kind towards you and others.

Anyone on the receiving end of a frenemies’ actions knows that it’s not pretty.  Remember the movie, Mean Girls, written by Tina Fey?  That’s kind of the idea.  While it’s a work of fiction, it was based on the book, Queen Bees and Wanna Bees by Rosalind Wiseman, which was a sociological study examining the behaviour of female relationships.  The Rachel Adams character befriends the Lindsay Lohan character so that she can keep tabs on her as she is the pretty new girl who she wants to keep away from her ex-boyfriend who she still holds a torch for.

In our day and age, when there are no emperors amongst us, and our ambitions are more humble than ruling Empires (on land, at least), what motivates frienemies?  Why do some treat others so badly, while pretending to be a friend?

Maybe it’s because frenemies  feel that a little bit of competition is healthy and helps keep them on their toes?

Or perhaps it’s because they feel that their friends’ success highlights their failures.  Remember the facebook study?  Sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge at Utah Valley University found that some people felt badly when they compared their lives to the lives of their friends on facebook.  Click here to read more about the study.

Perhaps it’s a control issue, the idea that you need to keep your enemies closer. As the old adage goes, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

Kind of sick.  It’s an existential nightmare.  Who wants to be close to their enemies?  We know the logic of why–to keep an eye on them, but who wants to live like that?

Whatever the reason, it of course, all boils down to jealousy.

You can’t change how someone else behaves.  What you can do is, once you’ve recognized that someone is a frenemy, it’s time to either work it out so that the relationship is healed and changed to one of true friendship, or else realize that it’s time to leave the friendship and to live your life surrounded by true friends.

Do you have any other ideas as to why someone is a frenemy?

Do you have a story about a frenemy?

Comments

  1. Ever DundasNo Gravatar says:

    Great post! I have had a lot of experience with frienemies, particularly in my teens. These days I can spot them a mile away, and try my very best to avoid them. I’ve just a written a wee piece on writers and jealousy – difficult not to feel jealous in this profession, I guess. But it’s also always great to see fellow creative creatures do well 🙂

    • Isabel and MarilynNo Gravatar says:

      We also had a lot of experience with frienemies in our teens, so now they are easier to spot. The thing to remember with jealousy is that many people can do well, and isn’t it nice to be surrounded by people who do? As friends of successful people, you can share ideas and be introduced to things outside your own circle. It’s a win-win for everyone. Thanks for your comment!

      -Isabel & Marilyn

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