The notion of friends who are, in part, enemy, isn’t a new one – everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to The Disney Channel have pondered what it means to keep company that leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Friends proper understand when to whatsapp R Kelly lyrics as motivation on a crappy day. They introduce you by a name not your own in seedy downtown bars when the company is that which you’d rather not keep. They always pick up the phone, even if it’s not yet even 9 a.m., and they sing praises golden when you’re not around. Friends, supportive life cheerleaders that they are, are the family that we get choose.
A frenemy, though, is the “mate” who simultaneously manages to compliment your new haircut while also reminding you that you couldn’t get a date to the high school prom. She’ll celebrate your new promotion but you’ll wake up the next morning wondering exactly what she meant when she wished you “better luck this time”. He might put you down in front of your crush, or use you as the butt of the joke. Basically, a frenemy makes you feel terrible about yourself so that they can feel better about themselves.
And it has to stop.
Toxic friendships need to be busted. Cosmo culture has us believe that where romantic relationships come and go, friendships are for life. But if your partner used you as an emotional punching bag your homies would be the first to make it known that you’re worth more than that – and so too, then, in friendships.
Downgrading a friendship isn’t easy, especially if you move in the same circles. There could be multiple solutions for sorting the issue out, too – does she realise she’s doing it? Is it a cry for help? Do you genuinely need putting in your place? The reasons for their behaviour are vast, but the one unwavering fact remains: you deserve better than to be treated like shit. The crazy thing is that your frenemy? Your frenemy spends a lot of time planting the seeds that make you genuinely believe otherwise.
Here’s how to navigate a friendship sabbatical:
1. It doesn’t make you a bad person
Recognising that there is a friendship in your life that you’d like to change doesn’t reflect badly on you. It’s empowering to understand your worth, and it’s okay to speak up when others don’t. Wanting what you want, needing what you need – none of those things make you a terrible human. It’s how you navigate those needs and wants that will define you. So stay classy, and trust yourself.
2. Take some time to reflect
This could be a phase. It’s true that we often hit out at the people who love us most, because we trust that they won’t go anywhere. If your once-time friend becomes and frenemy quite suddenly, it could be symptomatic of something they just aren’t ready to confront yet. But if this behaviour continues, it suggests a simmering resentment to you on some level, and so you’ll need to deal with it head-on. If you’re struggling to decide the difference between the two, gently step back from your friendship for some time, and see how the distance or absence makes you feel. Listen to you gut.
3. Brave the talk
They’ll come a time when you need to sit down, however casually, and say: “Hey – what’s up?” Girls, in particular, aren’t socialized to voice their upset very well, and so often the knee-jerk response is, “Oh! Nothing! I’m fine!” This is the part at which you’ll have to persist. Be strong. State the facts. “Well, I’m not fine, because things have changed between us and I know you’d rather me say how I feel, so here’s the deal: I don’t think you’re being very nice to me lately.” Take it from there.
4. Prepare for the fallout
Not even “I’m sorry” deserves an “It’s okay.” Once you’ve spoken with your friend, it could be that they simply needed an excuse to blow off some steam, and you asking the question leads to all sorts of revelations that make your friendship stronger and more fulfilling for both of you. Or. Or it could be that your “friend” doesn’t really have a reason, or their reasons don’t stand up to your scrutiny. This is the difficult part, where you need to be really honest with yourself, and with them, about what you’re willing to compromise on, and what isn’t grounds for discussion. Some people just won’t meet your terms, and again: that isn’t your fault.
5. Move on
Dumping a friend is fucking soul-destroying, especially if you have the same friendship group. If you don’t, it could be that you can cut them off completely, like you would an ex-boyfriend in a different state. Perhaps it suits you better to just downgrade them, though: to slowly reduce the number of text messages and phone calls, invitations and rendez-vous’, until the friendship dies of its own accord. It’s totally up to you, and sometimes sad fact of life: some friendships will reveal themselves to be flimsier than others, and so just not worth your time.
But there are a million more out there that are.