In the Media – Staten Island Advance – Friend or Frenemy: Redux

September 17, 2008 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading

In an interesting article in yesterday’s Staten Island Advance, relationship columnist Elise McIntosh
looks at the distinctions between friends and frenemies.

She interviewed the authors of the new book Friend or Frenemy: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t (Harper 2008) by co-authors Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler (discussed in a previous blog post here) and also solicited my thoughts about these ambivalent relationships.

McIntosh notes that most people have someone in their lives “who falls in-between a true-blue pal and full-fledged foe.” These are the women with whom we’re ostensibly “friends” but who are very unsettling to be with for a variety of reasons.

What do you think of the term frenemy? Is it helpful to have a word that allows us to better identify, talk about, and resolve these challenging relationships?

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Category: IN THE MEDIA

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  1. nicky says:

    Hi cat,
    your friend sounds very much like the one I had to let go. I think the reason I hung on for so long is because I could not forget how she helped me when i was going through my divorce but when i think about it, i helped her in a very similar way as well. When she took “pot shots” at me, i would often say “it’sokay”, she is angry and did help me when i was down. I finally decided that her “fecetiousess” was overwhelming to say the least and i was acting like an abused person, and making excuses for her behaviour and could not take this treatment anymore. I realized that she helped me and i returned the favour. It certainly did not give her the right to continue abusing our friendship. I realized that lately she has become very competitive with me and seems as if I am being punished for being happy nowdays. You would think that she would be happy for me but instead she seems to drain all my energy. She gossips about everyone and tries to break up friendships with others. Anyway, I had enough and ended the 7 year friendship. She rubs it in about how many friends she has and how i hardly have any but her friendships are not quality friendships, she meets someone one day and all of a sudden this person is gold. I on the other hand, do not make friends easily but when i do, i value them and as opposed to putting someone down for advancing in their life, I am very happy for them, unlike her. So my point to all this is, if your friends poor qualities are majoring her good qualities, it’s time to take a break and reevaluate your friendship. I realize that i would rather be alone then with someone who is going to put me down and is only happy when i am going through troubled times.

  2. nicky says:

    I think the word “frenemy” says it all…..I had a friend for 7 years, she was there for me during my lowest time as i was there for her when she was at her lowest. For the past year or so I found that she has changed a lot. She is very competitive with me in everything. Anything I do or work at she always tries to “trump it”…I never do that especially when it comes to work. She pretends to know everything about everything, including my profession, which i work in at least 40 hours or more per week. All she does is gossips about people and can’t talk about anything else. She is hypocrital of anyone that seems to be advancing in life and even takes pot shots at my past “skeletons”. I went through a lot and have come a long way. My life isn’t perfect but i am happier now than ever before. It seems as if she is punishing me for going from nothing to something. On many occasions she has invited me out then ended up taking someone else. She will be with me and will say she misses her “new friend”. It makes me sad that she treats me like chopped liver and so finally I decided that this friendship is too toxic for me. I can’t tell her any secrets anymore because she tells the whole world and their family. I will call her and she won’t call me back for days, saying she is really busy and then when she does, she invites me somewhere and ends up taking someone else. So, I finally told her that we can’t be friends anymore and ended the friendship. I am always happy for her when she achieves something but when i give her good news, she get upset or makes it seem as if it’s not such a big deal.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Check out the book “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection,” by John Cacioppo and William Patrick.

    It is the quality of your relationships, which is far more important than the quantity. Family members tend to be similar in class, religion and race. Therefore, if the majority of a person’s connections are through family, their social world is limited.

    To put this in context, people stranded on rooftops after Hurricane Katrina perhaps didn’t know anyone with a car and didn’t have a close friend they could stay with for a few days.

    It is surprising to learn how profoundly we are affected by our connectedness. It affects our ability to think, to self-regulate, our sense of self-worth. Cacioppo and Patrick report that “social isolation has an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity or smoking.”

    “Loneliness is not only a sad event, it’s a threatening event. It is a pain signal calling attention to an important need. It’s the same as hunger, thirst and pain.”

  4. Irene says:

    Hi Cat:
    I think you raise a number of good points in your post.
    Yes, a frenemy isn’t necessarily an antagonist. Just because someone is toxic FOR YOU doesn’t mean that she is a bad person. There is something about the relationship between the two of you that is out-of-sync and doesn’t work for you, With another person—or with you at another time—she may be a perfectly reasonable friend.
    Also, when you begin to understand the reasons why someone is the way she is, it doesn’t always make it easier to accept her behaviors or to change them.
    I do think the term is helpful in stimulating thinking about friendships and giving us some license to let go.
    Thanks for your excellent post!
    Best,
    Irene

  5. Cat says:

    I think “frenemy” is both helpful and counterproductive. I think its helpful because a lot of people — both men and women — have friendships that are trying and difficult, and knowing that there is a term out there that sums up this particular phenomenon helps them realize that these kinds of relationships are normal, if troubling. On the other hand, I think it belies the complexity of these friendships. I recently let go of a friend who definitely would qualify as a “frenemy.” On the other hand, I did and still do have trouble calling her that, because it is a negative term that downplays the complexity of our relationship and casts her as the antagonist. She was an often mean-spirited, petty, spiteful manipulator, but at the same time she was also very caring and the nastier parts of her personality could all be traced back to depression or unresolved childhood traumas. So when I would read self-help articles about frenemies, I would feel reluctant to apply the advice to my relationship — even though in hindsight it would have helped a lot.

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