Do you feel forced or on your guard or just not at ease in the company of a friend? You may not always have felt this way but gradually the feeling creeps in. It’s something which you have observed only recently. There may even have been a time when you used to enjoy spending time with this particular person. You used to laugh at or talk to him or her without worrying about what your friend may think of you. Now, you realize that you don’t or at least, you feel you cannot.
On the surface, the relationship appears to be friendly. You meet often enough, share confidences, even lend a helping hand when one needs the other’s assistance, and yet there is something amiss. There is a feeling of discomfort when you are with this ‘friend.’ You may not exactly experience a feeling of dread when you have to meet this friend but you wish you did not have to meet him or her, so often or even at all.
It involves deception, duplicity and danger.
After your interactions with this person, you feel tired as if all your energy has been drained. Do you notice how when you smile from within you actually feel energetic but when you force a smile, your facial muscles ache afterwards? This is similar to how you feel when you have met with a frenemy. Your emotions are strained. You are not being your own self but someone who you think your friend expects you to be. You are living up to the relationship’s expectations.
More often than not, even your frenemy, is not aware of his or her behavior or the way in which the relationship is affecting you. In fact, in most cases it may not even be the frenemy’s fault but it is just how the relationship has evolved. By continuing to nurse a relationship which is not doing you any good, you are inviting disappointment.
These kinds of relationships are called ‘ambivalent’ by psychologists. What it means is that you are not sure of your feelings about the person. You could have both positive and negative feelings. This is the key to identify a frenemy. A frenemy is a person you sometimes like and sometimes don’t. A frenemy is an enemy in the guise of a friend. A frenemy is therefore more dangerous than an enemy. Why?
Trust is missing.
Instead, you have replaced trust with empty banter and gestures. You and your frenemy indulge in seemingly heart to heart conversations but one or both of you are trying to find out each other’s secrets. Why do we want to know a secret? It’s because then we feel we have power over the other person. It’s alright to share secrets when there is trust but in the absence of it, it invites the temptation to blackmail at the worst and irritate or criticize at best.
You know where you stand with an enemy. In the case of an enemy, you are standing on quicksand. You know, that you will be pulled down. With a frenemy, you are negotiating a minefield. You don’t know when the relationship is going to sabotage your life.
There is a saying which goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. One way to interpret what this means is to keep a close watch on your enemy so that you are constantly reminded what kind of a person you don’t like so you yourself don’t turn into this person. In the case of a frenemy, you are in danger of turning into a frenemy to your frenemy.
So what do you do? You accept the reality and end the toxic relationship. How? You have to take the initiative and break the relationship before it wreaks your life and your peace of mind. You don’t have to necessarily turn your frenemy into an enemy but you can stay apart, aloof and away. You can bring in other friends whom you really trust when you are with your frenemy to protect yourself.