“Frenemies” Cleaning Out Your Friends List

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This past week, one of my Facebook friends posted on her status, “Cleaning out my Friends list.  What a great feeling!”  This got me to thinking.  I recently gave a class “Finding Mr. Right,” to a group of young single women in my community.  We talked about some of the concepts I have written about on my blog under the “Advice for Singles” category.  We talked about getting to know yourself before getting to know someone else, being realistic is not settling, the unsuccessful daters, etc.  

During the class, we also talked about the idea of the laws of attraction; the kind of energy you send out into the world is the kind of energy that will come back to you.  One of the girls raised the issue of what to do if you have a friend in your life that seems to always bring negative energy to the table.  So we discussed the difference between true friends who are going through hard times and what I like to call “frenemies,” people who pose as your friends but do not offer a healthy friendship for you, either because they have ulterior motives or because they just bring negativity into your life.

A few days later, I got some feedback from the girl who had hosted the class in her house.  She said that the girls really liked the information and they were wondering if I could come back and give Part 2, this time not only talking about the kinds of things they should not do when looking for Mr. Right, but the kinds of things they should do.  So, I am currently working on that material.  One of the things I think is really important to talk about when preparing yourself to find a spouse is the kind of life you have already created for yourself.  This includes self-esteem, self-worth, career, school, hobbies and religious values.   It also includes friends. 

I feel that this is a very sensitive topic because many of us have friends who have been a part of our lives for years- sometimes since childhood.  For most us, our friendships mean the world.  However, some of our friendships may not be as healthy as others.  Have you ever (or do you currently) have a friend in your life who appears loyal on the outside and tells you how much she loves and appreciates you but somehow makes you feel really bad about yourself a lot of the time?   Have you ever had a friend who seems to be constantly putting you down but explains that she is helping you and that these put-downs are for your own good?  Have you ever had a friend who acts like she is guiding you or taking you under her wing when really all you want is just to be treated as an equal?  Many times, friendships like these are based on one friend’s conscious or subconscious need to feel good about themselves by making themselves feel superior to another by putting the other person down.  This is not a healthy friendship.  In fact, many times, this is not a friend at all.  This is a frenemy.

I used to be very drawn to being friends with a certain type of girl; a really fun, leader-of-the-pack, A-type personality.  Although I had a lot of fun times with these girls and we got involved in all kinds of awesome projects together, I could never figure out why, for so much of the time spent with them, I felt like (please excuse my language) crap.  Yet, I continued to hang out with them because they were constantly giving me advice about what I should or shouldn’t be doing, and I was listening to them.  Over the years, I slowly started to see that they had a (maybe subconscious?) agenda, or shall we say, ulterior motives, for being friends with me, but I didn’t really see a way to break out of the toxic pattern.  I just found myself getting frequently annoyed with how they spoke to or treated me.

After my divorce, things changed a lot.  I had hit rock-bottom and could really only tolerate anyone who was a hard-core, authentic, REAL person, without any ulterior motives or agendas, conscious or subconscious.  So when I got two separate calls after my divorce, one telling me I obviously had REALLY low self-esteem and would not be able to get re-married for a REALLY long time because I REALLY had to work on this, and the other aggressively demanding of me, “Why didn’t you try harder to make it work?  Why didn’t you go get help from the Rabbis?  Which Rabbis were you seeing?”  I politely excused myself from the conversations and hung up the phone.  I avoided calls from these said parties for the next couple of months.  My TRUE friends stuck with me throughout this process the whole way; through every twist and turn and every high and low.  I knew who I could count on for support.  About six months after my divorce, one of my so-called “friends” called me and reprimanded me for not being in touch.  She told me that she wanted to stay friends with me, but “You have changed so much I just don’t know who you are anymore.”  When I relayed the story over to one of my TRUE friends, she replied,

“You have changed, Anna.  You don’t put up with crap anymore.  And I’m SOOOOO proud of you!!!”

That’s when I knew I was on the right track and I have not looked back since.

So you want to know my honest opinion on frenemies?  At the risk of sounding a little brusque, THEY’RE NOT WORTH IT.  Get rid of them.  Clean out your “Friends” list.  This does not mean you have to stop talking to them altogether; sometimes you can still keep them in your lives, but at arm’s length or on your own terms.  The problem is, often, when a frenemy sees that you have changed and so has your relationship with her, she isn’t able to handle it and the “friendship” has nowhere to go but out the door.

Sometimes, if the frenemy is an understanding person deep down, you can sit down with her and explain that you need things between you and her to change in order for you to stay friends with her.  If she cares enough about you, she’ll get it.  If not, not.

A word of CAUTION:  Sometimes our TRUE friends are going through a rough patch and it may feel like they are bringing toxic energy into our lives.  In times like this, it is our job to be nothing but supportive of them and encouraging of the healing process, without letting it drag us down.  Friends in need are not frenemies, they’re just friends in need and they need us! 

I know that many of you are relating to this post, so I want to hear from you.  What are your experiences with frenemies?  Keep ‘em?  Or delete?