Frenemies: When Friendships Turn Toxic
Posted by Kara Apel
Friends are generally supposed to be people that support you and help you when you are down. They are your shopping buddies, your wingwomen, your partners in crime.
In an ideal world, friendships would work out the way they’re supposed to. Unfortunately, life gets in the way of that. Events and words get twisted and people change. Eventually you end up in friendships with people that may not truly be your friends.
Here’s how to spot a frenemy and what you can do to fix the situation.
Step 1: Locate the frenemy
Do you have a “friend” that it is almost painful to hang out with? Do you groan when you see she’s calling or maybe even dodge her calls because you just don’t want to talk to her? Do you feel worse after hanging out with this person? Are they generally unsupportive or sometimes randomly mean?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you may have a frenemy on your hands. Don’t freak out — this doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with this person anymore … it just means you need to figure out what is causing your relationship to turn sour.
Step 2: Figure out the problem(s)
Once you’ve figured out that this person is a frenemy, you need to diagnose what the problem is and what is making each of you act the way you’re acting.
A lot of toxic relationships are based on competition and jealously. One friend gets what the other friend wanted and makes the other one jealous. If the two of you are in the same friend group and/or the same extracurriculars/classes/job/etc., it’s likely the two of you are battling it out because you’re competing against one another.
This is one example of what could be ruining your friendship — of course, there are many other reasons why this could happen. The most important thing is to figure out what is causing the turmoil. If you can’t figure it out yourself, ask a third-party observer what he or she thinks. Often, it takes someone else to diagnosis the problems in our own lives. We’re usually too wrapped up in what’s going on that we can’t see it ourselves.
Step 3: Try to fix the relationship (if you want)
Once you’ve figured out what’s really going on between you two, it’s up to you if you want to repair the friendship. Is it worth it to you? Go with your gut on this one. If you think it’s worth a try, then it probably is. If you really don’t feel like it is, then it might be time to move on.
The most mature thing you can do in this situation is to arrange a neutral place that is planned in advance so both of you can kind of prepare what you want to say to each other. If you want, you could both write letters and read them to one another so you can figure out what you want to say ahead of time. But both of you must promise everything you say will be constructive and not just mean. It takes two to tango, so for every problem you see in this relationship, you must be willing to admit your responsibility in it.
Step 4: Watch it all unfold
Once you both have worked out what your problems are and have found a joint solution, you need to give it time to fix itself. As long as both of you are making an effort, it should work out. If one person is putting in more effort than the other, it will become clear pretty quickly.
Give it some time. If it’s not working out after all this work, it might be time to distance yourself from this person and try to branch out and make new friends. Reach out the people you don’t get to hang out with as much. Join a new club. Get to know people in your classes. There are a million ways for you to find new friends and move on with your life — you just have to be ready to do it.