frenemies-gossiping-girls“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

But what if you don’t know who is which?

A frenemy is an enemy who appears to be a friend, or a person who acts as both an enemy and a friend at different points in time. It might seem that spotting such a person would be simple, and getting rid of them would be even more simple. But in my experience, most people who have frenemies are not aware it. Other times, people have a hard time getting rid of them because although the frenemy sabotages you in various ways, they also add value as companions. But the frenemy’s so-called friendship is ultimately a toxic relationship, and should be abandoned as soon as possible.

So how do you recognize such a person? Here are some tips on spotting the frenemy:

1. Pay attention to the tone of their words

Some frenemies will use a sarcastic or blunt tone. Their words may seem innocent, but the tone used will reveal their disdain. In particular, note the tone they use to discuss you when you’re not around (or they think you’re not around).

2. Watch their actions with others

The frenemy tends to be an unfriendly person in general. Note the way the person in question behaves with other people. Do they subtly, or worse, actively, try to tear other people down?

3. Pay attention to their words.

In some events, the frenemy will actually make negative remarks about a person, disguised as helpful comments. In one clear frenemy situation, the frenemy remarked to their so-called friend who was down about their appearance, “Of course, people like you aren’t seen as beautiful by most people. But you win some and lose some.” The comment went over the so-called friend’s head.

4. Note the things they say about others

Related to their general unfriendliness, the frenemy will often make negative remarks about other people. If a person is constantly putting others down, they are more likely to be putting you down as well.

5. Trust yourself

Do you think that the person is causing more harm than good? If you feel that the person is constantly putting you down or making you feel less than your best, trust yourself: you are probably dealing with a frenemy.

Do you have any experience with frenemies? How do you deal with them?

See also:

24 thoughts on “Frenemies

  1. I thought frenemies was just the new word for all female-female friendships. hee he j/k … but it sure seems like it sometimes.

  2. AJ, plenty of women are true friends and support each other. Stop being sexist.

    Men can have frenemies too. In fact, I think many men have frenemies because men can become quite competitive with other men.

  3. I don’t have frenemies. I don’t have many (if any) casual friends, and frenemies tend to fall into this group.

    That being said, I am a naive person so it’s easy to trick me.


    So, you don’t believe in true female-female friendship?

  4. Mira, frenemies can be good friends too. And these are the worst because you value their friendship and may be more forgiving when they attempt to undermine you.

    AJ is only joking. *glares at AJ*

  5. cosign AJ ; )

    But seriously, I had maybe one frenemy in high school. Turned out after we graduated he came-out as gay. Not sure why he was a frenemy, only that we hung out a lot for a short time, but didn’t get along very well at all.

    When it comes to frenemies, I usually find out pretty quickly. Bad people tend to dislike me A LOT. Good people just laugh at me, haha.

  6. *glares at Zek* 😛

    I’ve definitely had frenemies before, though I was either slow on the uptake, naive, or didn’t want to see the truth. I notice that frenemies love to use variations of the phrase, “You think you’re all that!” My guess is that frenemies want to get in on the popularity/social perks that the friend receives while secretly resenting said friend for his/her status.

    I’ll need to poll my guy friends for frenemy experiences–I think they get into that situation just as often as females, but guys are usually discouraged from taking relationships seriously, so they don’t talk about it much.

  7. Zek,

    I think you’d be a prime person for a frenemy to latch on to. 🙂


    *glares at Zek*


    I notice that frenemies love to use variations of the phrase, “You think you’re all that!”

    True, they do.

    The frenemies I had in mind though, for this post, are the kind that are usually more strong in character or personality than the person they are claiming to be friends with, or the type that sees everything and everyone as a competition, even their close friends. And they get a kick out of making the other person feel bad.

    Guys have frenemies — you’d better believe it. It’s just that they are told to be “tough”, so jokes and other abusive behaviors they try to “shake off” even if it bugs them.

  8. Yeah, just messin’… but I’ve never had a frenemy either. There are definitely true female-female friendships, and their bonds often run deeper.

    I’m just saying, if you ask a guy “so tell me about who you hate at work?” and then you ask the same exact question to a woman, one of those answers will be 15 minutes long and mostly talk about their same gender…

    Like if that were a study, there’d be a correlation. Wouldn’t happen every time, but there’d be some interesting findings! So sue me. 🙂

    Also, with all the “bromance” stuff going on, where’s the female-female love?

  9. AJ,

    “I’ve never had a frenemy either.”

    That you know of. 😉

    As for your example, like I said previously, I think a lot of this has to do with socialization. Men are not encouraged to discuss their issues. So of course if you ask them to talk about their problems at work, you’re going to get a shorter answer. I’m not so sure the hypothetical woman’s problem would be with another woman: plenty of women have difficulties with men. But even if they were, I think most people’s issues with others are intra-gender.

  10. It’s always been the same way in societies. Men compete with men of other tribes/companies/groups, not their friends, who they rely on. Women compete within the same tribe with other women, or at least are put in that position.

    If you want it to change, we’d all have to be hippies.

    I just stream-of-consciousness’d that, how’s that sound?

  11. Hold-up, since ya’ll brought up anthropology, I (certified anthropology student) feel compelled to toss another 2 cents into the ring.

    Perhaps the idea of “frenemy” has its roots in the reality TV culture that has sprung up recently? Shows like survivor, road rules, real world, and others highlight social interaction dramatics via temporary “alliances” and the betrayals that seem to inevitably follow as characters/guests vie for the top-spot.

    Perhaps it’s simply a case of people acting out their own cultural stories?

  12. Yeah but reality TV just seems like a dramatized version of what goes on in real life anyways.

    But maybe this culture is more melodramatic now and reality TV is a symptom.

  13. AJ,

    That would be fun!

    As for “frenemies”, they are not a new phenomenon. I think the only thing that’s new is the name.

  14. I’ve always suspected most, if not all people I know don’t really dig me. Ironically, I’m not an insecure person, just extremely reflective as I want to “do what’s right” for me. That means, being totally honest, at least as much as my intelligence and capacity for acceptance allows, to myself first and then others. This has garnered me, along with my emotional state a “crowd” of people vying for my attention, which, initially I enjoyed, but years later realised all the points you highlighted above tis true concerning these “relationships” I’ve been naively encouraging. Last year I finally decided to quietly distance my emotional self from such “friends” and can you believe they’re pursuing me like I’m the last drop of water on our planet. HELP!.

  15. foosrock,

    Ha, you might have the kind of frenemies Jasmin was talking about above; the ones that want to feed off the social status of a person, while secretly resenting them. Good that you decided to distance yourself from them.

  16. I wanted to say thank you very much for this! This is exactly all I needed to consider in deciding whether or not to distance myself from a long-term friend I don’t quit trust and who finds ways to put me down in public at times and has totally gone off on me for no good reason too a couple of times. She has done this long since she quit drinking so there are no more excuses and she is one of these dominant personalities that I never feel I can assert myself with – the power dynamic has been that set for so long. Frenemies – who need them?

  17. I know this is ages after you first posted this. I agree with what you say. Perhaps sharing my experience can add something to the frenemy discussion.
    I’ve just gotten out of a toxic relationship with a frenemy. She got me into her sites, targeted me, and I (living as an expat) am always glad when people are friendly to me. In the beginning, she was extremely helpful, but also extremely imposing too.
    It basically got to the point where she would tell mutual acquaintances and even strangers on the street how she was my friend, and how she was being ‘oh so good to me.’
    I’ve learned that she was playing a game (see Eric Berne, ‘The Games People Play’) to boost her own self-confidence by putting me down. She was not willing to seek medical help or counselling for any of the factors that were bringing her down – she’d rather put me down to give herself a quick boost. So I had to cut that friendship out rather quickly.

    I look back and realize that I was not the first ‘victim’, nor will I be the last. It took me a while to see the signs and add it all up, but for my own self-preservation, I’m glad I did, rather than gloss things over for the sake of having a ‘close girlfriend.’

  18. Ecomama – I can certainly relate to your story. I am still avoiding my mentioned frenemy. She seemed to like me in a one-down position socially from her or whatever and now that I am doing better, she is nowhere around and I am glad. She blew me of again for the last time and I have not called her for any reason – not even to wish her congrats on her marriage. When I look at my frenemy, she has had numerous problems with lots of other women as friends and yet she proudly talks about others potentially being “cut from the team” in terms of her friendship. Hers was a team I did not want to be on. Saw a picture of her facebook holding a box of whip it canisters during her marriage vacation to LV. 49 years old and still huffing. Some of it finally made sense!

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