• Keeping Friends

Friendship by the Book: An interview with the authors of Friend or Frenemy?

September 28, 2008 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading

The term ‘frenemy’ is increasingly becoming a part of the friendship lexicon so I was pleased to recently conduct an email interview with Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, the co-authors of Friend or Frenemy? A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t.

Andrea is an editor at Cosmopolitan. Her likes: dessert, a white wine spritzer on a warm summer night (seriously), and watching Gossip Girl. She lives, works, shops, and lives to shop in New York City.

Jessica works in book publishing. Her likes: comfort foods, a tall pint of Guinness on a cold winter night, and reruns of the Golden Girls. She lives, works, plays, and lives to play in New York City.


Do you think every woman has a frenemy at some point in her life?


Not every woman has a textbook frenemy (think: the feuds between starlets that the supermarket tabloids love so much), but we think that many of us have had, at one time or another, a friendship that ends up being more negative than it is positive or more toxic than it is healthy. Our friends are often like a second family, so it’s inevitable that drama can sometimes arise.


Are some women more prone to these relationships than others?


Definitely. As women, we’re sometimes taught to avoid confrontation and put our own feelings last. That being said, a frenemy might take advantage of someone who is nonconfrontational. Also, excessive frenemy drama can surround people who secretly feed off of it. And, while frenemies can happen at any age, they seem to be more prevalent when someone is younger.


How can a woman recognize a frenemy when she has one?


We like to joke that a surefire way to know if someone is a frenemy is that if she (or, in some cases, he) cancels plans at the last minute, you feel a wave of relief. In all seriousness, a frenemy is a negative force in your life who often brings out the worst in you. She’s emotionally draining and takes more than she gives in a friendship. To sum it up, even though she’s toxic, it’s really hard to end the friendship because no one actually expects to break up with a friend.


Why do some of these relationships linger and go on?


In some cases the unpleasantness of remaining in the friendship is nothing compared to the drama of ending it. In other situations, such as at work, you’re forced to interact with the person on a regular basis, making it nearly impossible to severe ties. Another reason why these relationships linger is because most women are conditioned to be mindful of other’s feelings and would rather endure a friend’s flaws than risk coming off as insensitive or unkind.


Why did you choose to focus your writing on frenemies?


We like to write about issues that are pertinent to women our age. After completing our first book, The Hookup Handbook, we were in our mid-20s and realized that our friendships were changing due to a variety of factors. On one hand, things like online social networking, text messaging, and email was making it easier than ever to stay in constant communication with our friends, but also watering down the quality of the friendships. We also noticed that people were hitting milestones, like marriage and children, at different rates, which put a strain on friends that used to have everything in common. And of course, there is the pop culture element: real-life Hollywood frenemies have been dominating the tabloids for a few years now and shows like The Hills and Gossip Girl focus on friend drama.


Do you think that the introduction of the term ‘frenemy’ into popular culture will help women? How?


Absolutely. We all have friends that bring out the worst in us or make us feel bad about ourselves. Only now we know that they’re not really friends. They are frenemies and should be treated as such (i.e. manage your expectations of this person and limit your contact with them.)

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Comments (5)

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  1. meilleurs prix des jeux says:

    These are really basic instructions…but still important.really its very useful and informative.its good tips and easy steps. so thanks for nice post.

  2. Irene says:

    Hi Cat:

    There are so many reasons why it’s hard to step back from a fractured friendship. Andrea and Jessica discussed several in their response.

    Many times, situations need to be crystal clear before women are willing to make a clean break. How many times have you heard of women whose friends tell them to end a painful affair with a married man but they aren’t able to do it until they reach bottom and realize it themselves? How many stories have you heard about people who are afraid to leave therapists who aren’t really helping them, and continue to stay with them for a longer time than is useful?

    When you make an emotional investment in another person, it’s hard to recognize and admit that it hasn’t paid off. And it’s also hard to take action. Often women don’t know HOW to end a friendship in a way that isn’t hurtful to them or their friend.

    I’m glad if this blog has been helpful to you and appreciate your contributions.


  3. Irene says:

    Hi Sophie:

    You make an excellent point. The points at which friendships begin and end are imprecise, at best, compared to legal ties like marriage or civil unions. As I’ve probably written many times, people are also reluctant to cut off female friendships because there’s a social stigma associated with women who can’t keep friends.

    Many friendships with away because both parties are no longer getting anything from the relationship but many one-sided endings result in the toxic situations you describe.

    I always value your insight and comments!






  4. Sophie says:

    You know, it occurs to me that one reason frenemy relationships linger is that there is no proscribed start and finish to friendship. In romantic love relationships, you know roughly when it starts, you often have a discussion about becoming exclusive and the break-up is usually explicit. But it almost feels foolish to officially “break up” with a friend unless there is some sort of egregious betrayal, so the endings drag out into unreturned phone calls and emails and other passive-aggressive messages that the toxic friend may not recognize and that the friend who is trying to escape might feel guilty about.

  5. Cat says:

    I enjoyed this QA, especially the part where Andrea and Jessica address why bad friendships sometimes go on and on. Irene, I was wondering if you could at some point address this aspect of “frenemy” relationships. I’m curious about why it’s so hard to step back. I identify with some of the reasons discussed above, like being mindful of my ex-friend’s feelings and just not ever having thought I would actually have to break up with any of my friends, but I felt like there were also some other things at play. I often thought “if X was my boyfriend, I would have dumped her a long time ago, with pleasure” but because she was my friend, something kept holding me back and something kept prompting me to answer her calls and hang out with her. I don’t think of myself as being particularly afraid of confrontation, but something kept stopping me from saying “no” to her, even as it became more and more difficult to justify her behavior.

    The fact that I let this relationship drag on for years and years longer than it should have gone on makes me disappointed in myself for not being the forthright, direct and fair person I strive to be, but I know a lot of other women have a hard time listening to their own advice when figuring out how to deal with frenemies.

    Thanks for your blog — it’s been very helpful as I try to understand what happened in my friendship and the effect it had on me.

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