Whether your circle of friends is large or small, most of us have a few key people who are always a part of our lives.
There is the long-term friend; someone you’ve known for years who has been with you through many of life’s ups and downs.
The everyday friend who you talk to all the time, catch up with regularly and always have fun with.
There’s the occasional friend; the person you might only talk to and catch up with a couple of times a year, but when you do you it’s easy and relaxed and you just pick up where you left off last time.
And then there’s the frenemy; someone who is supposed to be your friend, but spends most of their time making you feel bad.
A frenemy is a complex thing and it’s something that has fascinated psychologists around the world for years.
Frenemies are part of your life and are meant to be a good friend, but somehow, every time you catch up with them you end up feeling stressed, anxious, or deflated.
They have a knack for backhand compliments, for kicking you when you down, and manipulating you into doing what they want.
They are often all about the ‘me’ and when they’re tired of talking about that will say, “anyway, enough about me. What do you think about me?”.
For many people, the problem with frenemies is that we just can’t seem to cut them out of our lives.
A 2009 study found that most people hold onto these toxic friendships because they don’t want to give up on the person. They are hoping they will eventually change their behaviour and start acting like the real friend you want them to be.
Frenemies are not necessarily bad people. That’s why we hold onto them.
They often have many great qualities; they could be funny, adventurous and always up for a good time.
That’s why it’s hard to cut them out and stop being friends with them.
When you truly loath a person or someone is constantly rude or disappointing, it’s easy to end the friendship.
A frenemy still has many great qualities though. The key is to work out whether the good outweigh the bad.
One study on frenemies advices you to “start with controlling your own behaviour and being the kind of friend you’d want others to be”.
While this may be good advice for some people, others question why they should have to change their behaviour when it is the frenemy who is behaving badly.
For these people the best approach may be “the fade”. Dr Alice Boyes says that rather than a huge bust up, most toxic friendships are ended by fading a person out of your life.
You stop initiating contact with them, make yourself less available to catch up with them and stop agreeing to do favours for them.
While you so-called friend may be confused or annoyed about this in the beginning most will eventually stop trying to contact you, too.
Since most frenemies are all about the ‘me’ they need someone who can pander to their needs for them.
If you’re no longer playing along, they will move onto someone who will.
For the more outspoken types, you may want to hit the nail on the head and call out your frenemy for their bad behaviour. Doctors say you should beware of this approach though, as you could be met with anger and denial, which could make more of a mess than you care to clean up.
If you decide that despite everything you still want this person in your life, it may help to readjust your relationship with them so it works better for you.
If they have a dig at you or put you down, brush it off or tell them with a shrug, “that’s your opinion”. Make it clear that you don’t really care what they say about you because you’re happy with yourself and the choices you have made.
If they’re trying to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do, hold your ground instead of caving in to them.
Eventually, in theory, their behaviour should change and be more in line with the type of friendship you want with them.
What it all boils down to is that friendships should be balanced and mutually beneficial. You should feel good about yourself when you catch up with your friends and they should feel the same way.
That’s why, when you find a truly great friend, it’s important to hang onto to them and treasure all of the laughs and fun you have together.