Is She a Frenemy? How to Tell If Your Friend Is True or Your Enemy

How to Spot the Frenemy In Your Life

Gossiping On a Friend
Gossiping breaks down trust in a friendship. Michael Goldman/Getty Images

The term frenemy comes from a combination of the words friend and enemy. Some people use the word frenemy interchangeably with the word toxic. However, I believe that the word toxic should only be applied to relationships and not to people. This is because someone might get along quite well with one person but not with another. 

Frenemies can look like good friends to us at first. They are difficult to spot at first.

A friend who seems to be insincere can leave you confused and wondering if you're being too critical. If you're questioning whether your best gal pal is really just a frenemy in disguise, here are some clues to help you out.

Frenemies Give Backhanded Compliments

We all have moments where we slip up and say stupid things, but the difference between a true friend and a frenemy is intent. A real friend might hurt your feelings on accident, but a frenemy means to say something to bother you, like a backhanded compliment or snarky remark. The variety of things a frenemy can comment on vary from clothes, to boyfriends, to your career.

Some examples of frenemy-type statements include:

  • "That's a great outfit for someone your size."
  • "I'm so happy about your promotion. You almost make as much as I do now."
  • "You should just be happy a guy like that would pay attention to you."

Your true friends will give you a compliment that is sincere, while a frenemy will say something that will make you question whether they just put you down or not.

Often these little jabs come in the middle of regular statements, so you might go home wondering if you heard your frenemy correctly. 

How to Spot a Frenemy

It's difficult to tell when your friend really isn't on your side. Often it takes a while, and rarely is there one specific event that causes a betrayal.

Instead, frenemies say supportive things and pretend to be there for you, but also throw negative energy and hurtful remarks into the mix. You might spend a day with them laughing for the most part, but then stopping a time or two to understand why they said a few things that were so hurtful and rude.

Your first clue that someone is a frenemy may be nothing more than a feeling. Common situations where frenemies show their true colors include:

  • Ruining a positive moment for you with careless words that diminish your achievement.
  • Gossiping about you behind your back.
  • Inability to be totally happy for you.
  • Constantly comparing her life with yours or competing with you.
  • Compliments mixed in with criticism.
  • Hurtful words followed by a hug or big smile.

Frenemies Damage Trust

No one wants to think badly of a friend, so it can be hard to confront someone you think is a frenemy. This is especially true because a frenemy usually says positive things at the same time that she cuts you down. You might question your own loyalty because you wonder if she is, indeed, a friend. The true test is often when you spend time apart and end up feeling better when you aren't around her.

Frenemies damage trust in a friendship because they take the most personal and private things about a person and play them against the friend's own fears.

 Even if your friendship was solid at one time, you need to acknowledge that something has changed. If you have tried to confront your frenemy (for example, giving her a specific example of how she hurt your feelings) and she refuses to change, it is time to find someone who understands what friendships are really about.