How to Tell a Frenemy Apart from a Friend


In these intensely competitive times, people are not always what they appear to be. The same goes for friends too. Someone who you like hanging out with or sharing confidences may be secretly chipping away at your self-esteem and making you feel unworthy. Such a person is usually referred to as a frenemy, in an obvious conjunction of the words ‘Friend’ and ‘Enemy’. This is a person who is actually the latter but masquerades as the former. It may not always be easy to tell a frenemy apart from a genuine friend but here are some tips that you can put you on alert.

Back-handed compliments

One of the easiest ways to spot a frenemy is to carefully analyze the kind of compliments she gives.  These usually have a demeaning subtext and make you feel as though you have been put in your place. So when you have just picked up a lovely jacket, she will probably say, “that color looks pretty good for someone with your build”. Or if you have just introduced her to your new partner, she would make a remark like, “he seems so much better than the kind of guys you usually attract”. The essence of these compliments is that you have an unflattering height which can spoil anything you wear and that your choice in dating partners is inevitably wrong. Such remarks make you feel unworthy and imply that she has lower standards for you than what she has for herself. A real friend on the other hand will give you genuine feedback when you ask her opinion of something. She will give a sincere compliment when something suits you but never couch it in hurtful terms. Unfortunately, often such back-handed compliments may not even be motivated by a willful intention to hurt you; rather they are another way your frenemy seeks to bolster her own ego and what better to do this than by putting someone down, namely you.

Insincere suggestions

A frenemy will often come up with suggestions that seem helpful on the surface; but the real reason she makes them is to buttress her own sense of self-superiority. For instance when you are out shopping for clothes, she may suggest that you try on a particular color or cut and then smirk and say that she’d never wear something like that herself. Or when it comes to dating, a frenemy may constantly encourage you to date guys who are really wrong for you or whom you may not even find attractive or interesting. While a real friend would encourage you to date partners who are either compatible with you or who you want to go out with, a frenemy will take delight in hinting that the person you have the hots for, would never settle for a partner like you. The whole point of suggestions by such people is to make you feel that you don’t deserve to look, be or love the best.

Put down your successes

Yet another way you can differentiate a frenemy from a friend is by noticing how each tries to handle your successes. If you have been promoted at work or have been invited to a dinner gala in town, your best friend will be genuinely happy for you. A frenemy on the other hand while feigning happiness will dismiss the importance of the much-coveted invitation or remark how you still haven’t got a personal cabin at your workplace. In fact if you pursue interests which you are particularly good at, like baking or biking, she will point out how such hobbies are passé or unlady-like and so not suited for someone like you. In the process she will not only discount your achievements but actually try to drag you to her favorite activities, all the while negating what you want to do. You can spot a frenemy by recognizing that her words are being motivated by jealousy and self-doubt. Your successes seem to prove that she’s not really a step ahead of you and that she does not have all the answers. To overcome this, she’ll try to get you feeling bad about yourself so that she can get you back into line behind her. While a real friend will tell you which spectacle frames make you look least geeky, your frenemy will tsk-tsk about how you need to wear specs and shrilly insist that it is so much better than being completely blind.

The way she makes you feel

Every relationship has its ups and downs and even a real friend can, once in a while, come up with a caustic remark or tell it like it is. Indeed one of the marks of a genuine friend is that she will never mislead you if a dress or a guy isn’t good for you. However what differentiates a frenemy from a friend is the feeling each evokes in you. A true friend will be supportive and hopeful in times you are feeling low even if she isn’t always enthusiastic about your post-modern poetry or your green boots. A frenemy on the other hand will leave you second-guessing yourself or feeling miserable after a lengthy phone call even during times when things are generally going well for you. Also if you find yourself constantly complaining to other pals about the way a certain friend talks to you, or worse, constantly asking your other friends for reassurance about doubts in your mind planted by that friend, then you may be in a less-than-supportive friendship. Finally your instinct is a good guide and if you carefully consider the people you turn to when you need some cheering up, you will zero in on the real friends and find that your heart has kept the frenemy out.