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Frenemy:  Urban Dictionary

"An enemy disguised as a friend.  The type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down (whether you realize it as intentional or not) The type of friend you ought to cut off but don’t cuz...they‘re nice... good’ve had good times with them. U know...they‘re good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future. The friend you may or may not have cornered about their quicksand like ways and keep around because “its in the past“...and so was one minute ago. The person that will continue to bring you down until you demand better for yourself."

I had a particularly cruel and public humiliation in sixth grade, prompted by the actions of one of my "best friends".  I'll never forget that moment in front of a classroom of peers.  Her standing up and pointing at me, laughing and making fun while the rest of the class joined in.  I'll never forget the feeling of shame and mortification as my face turned hot coal burning red and there was no place to escape.  And the betrayal.  At 12, my heart was still very innocent and I couldn't understand why someone I cared about could be so mean.

There are scores of teen movies about "mean girls" and while they may not be the headliners, mean boys have always been around...the bullies, the prodders, the show off's, and the arrogant.

One of the things I looked forward to in adulthood was the belief that grown-ups wouldn't have the need to resort to the pettiness, the cattiness, or the competition so common in youth.

In my 30's, my former and I made a decision to move from California to Colorado.  I was a young stay-at-home mother deeply entrenched in being a good and kind Christian.  We found a church and I made friends with another woman who had recently moved to the area.  My husband and I had a lot in common with her and her husband and I was happy knowing we were beginning to make solid and reliable friendships.

But as time went on, this friend was really no friend.  She felt she was "closer to God" than me and would throw Scripture verses as admonitions like the coins that were heard being tossed into the passing tithing basket on Sunday mornings at church.  She believed herself to be a prophet and her job was to straighten the rest of us poor sycophants out.  She lost many friends but I was the one that hung in there the longest.  Surely that was the good Christian thing to do.  

Being that I was of the "trouper" variety and my mother had seared her daily mantra, "peace at any cost" into my developing psyche, I tried for several years to be a good friend to this woman, the woman who thought nothing of pointing out my many faults that she was quite sure the Lord wanted me to be aware of.

Thank God for a secular therapist who helped me see the poison hidden in the pie.  I finally ended the friendship, much to her shock and chagrin, "Mary, people just don't do this!"  Oh, but I did.  It took me some years to release the guilt and perceived act of selfishness I had committed by ending the friendship, but my relief and joy at not being around this woman made me eventually forget the inner taunts and judgments.

Frenemies are not confined to women.  Men are quite adept at being frenemies themselves and I can already see the heads of men who are reading this nodding vehemently in agreement.  The competition in the work force, the drive for status and recognition, the "keeping up with the Joneses" all examples of how we see others as friends but live with the underlying current of one up-manship with those we naively trust and care about.

What would a soap opera or a reality TV show be without the presence of frenemies?  They can certainly make our lives interesting.  But there comes a time where we have to ask ourselves, "Why am I in this friendship when most of the time I'm gutting my way through any time spent with this person? Am I that trained to be so nicey nicey that I'm in essence willing to throw my pearls to swine on a regular basis?

The comedian Dane Cook has a routine where he talks about that friend that everyone puts up with but nobody likes.  He says, "Think of the group of people you've hung out with the most, and this is what I've realized, I had an epiphany:  There is one person in every group of friends that nobody likes." He continues, "If you're sitting here, saying, 'No, we don't have a person like that in our group', it's because YOU'RE that person!"  

But freenmies are usually quite narcissistic and would never recognize themselves as being THAT person.

Having a frenemy means that you're prone to walking on eggshells because the ironic thing about the average frenemy is that they're really good at dishing it out, but the first to disintegrate into a tearful mess at anything remotely resembling confrontation.  They are insensitive to others but hypersensitive about themselves.

So hence the dilemma when you have a frenemy in your life.  They usually don't come solo, they come in a package:  They're in your workplace, the neighborhood, church, or married to someone you love.  

Several years ago I met a man I had the highest respect for.  He is a man full of life and joy and passion and I asked him what his secret was.  He said, "It's simple, Mary.  I made a rule for myself a long time ago that I wouldn't spend a minute of my day with anyone I didn't want to.  Not one minute.  Life goes by quickly enough without spending time with anyone I don't like."

That man became my role model.  Imagine it.  To make that kind of rule and act of self-love for only spend time with those you know love you and you love them.  

Ironically, I don't have a high standard for who I call friend.  I don't care what their political association is, what religion they are or aren't, what job they have, whether they recycle or don' only criteria is this.  If they like me, if they love me, that's good enough for me.  

At this point in my life, I've learned.  Really learned.  I don't like everyone that comes my way and, whoa, surprise of all surprise, some of them don't like me!  And it's finally OK, really more than fine to only surround myself with those I love and care about and that it's reciprocated back in kind.  

Peace at any cost?  No thank you.  Life is just too damn short.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Linda James-Laville wrote Apr 19, 2010
    • Would you be willing to allow me to publish this on our website?  Check us out at [Link Removed]

      I relate to this because going through divorce, I really became aware of who my friends were and who they weren’t. I have a friend right now who is discovering this in her own life and I know there are lots and lots of women out there that need to.  I’ll also post it to my FB page if that’s okay with you.  

      Let me know!  You can also email me at [Link Removed]

      Goodygah, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A. wrote Apr 19, 2010
    • I just emailed you but yes you are more than welcome to publish it on your website and Facebook page.  Many women (and men) relate to the content of this article.  And all of us find us in this situation off and on during our lives.  I understand firsthand the divorce judgement and the withdrawal of friends.  Especially painful during an already raw and vulnerable time.

      Thanks for your interest,  


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      KRIS JULIN wrote Apr 19, 2010
    • I went through the same thing with a gay man, whom I thought was my friend, but he tried to break up my marriage because he wanted my husband.  Once my husband and I realised what he was up to we both ended the friendship. He very nearly broke up our marriage. Then it turned out that a number of my friends whom I had introduced to my ex gay friend to, continued their friendship with him, but to the point of lying about it. Loyality is the first and foremost expectation I have with my friends. Their choice led to the consequence of no longer being friends with my husband and myself.  My husband and I are now in a much better place without all these toxic people

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Dana Cappelletti wrote Apr 20, 2010
    • Life lessons well learned. I feel fortunate to have gotten this concept early on in life.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Apr 20, 2010
    • I can so relate to this.Almost a year ago I began the removal of toxic people from my life and OMG has life opened up and also the feeling of being permanently on call or drained when listening to their latest drama...... I so don't miss all the conversations which began with "you'll never believe what has happened "and then they hardly draw breath before launching into a tirade.

      Great article honey as ever  heart

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Stelyani1 wrote Apr 24, 2010
    • I have been through this and run across this often still, but the realization comes to me quicker than it used to, it’s sad to realize not all people are who you think they are..frown

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Wookiemom09 wrote Apr 25, 2010
    • Had a long time friend that was a frenemy.  She was always telling me what was wrong with me claiming I was the little sister she never had.  It changed over time and after my divorce and mother’s sudden passing it was bad.  she claimed to be a friend, prophet and spiritual sister and I was never good enough.  I drifted off after I refused the 1,000th emergency dilemma I had to help her solve so she cut me off from the group.  After I got past the tears and pain of losing several friends I discovered none were true friends and feared her wraith instead of our friendship.  She posted horrible things about me as I prepared to married my current husband. Ironically past friends called to apologise for not being there in my life as I outgrew them.  Now I am happier and healthier without her.

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