The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

From Friend to Frenemy

When friendships end, there are always collateral losses.

Even when you know it's time to let go, it's hard to give up shared history and to risk damaging some of the friendships you have in common

QUESTION

Good Morning,

My friend "S" and I have been friends since high school but we took a break from our friendship between 2008-2009. She was dating someone and either was continuously cancelling on me, or when she did have time, wanted me to go out and spend a lot of money (at that time my finances were limited). In late 2009, we reconciled and she was there for me during the death of my grandmother. For a good year or so there weren't any strains in our relationship.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2011: My friend started going out of her way to spend time with people who had hurt me (one person harassed me online to the point I had to block her on Facebook; another threatened my family and me; and yet another, stood by and laughed while it was happening). When I confronted "S," she replied, "You've already told your side of the story. These people are adults and have the right to make their own choices." When I tried to explain my feelings further, she just blew me off.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

During this time I told my friend about my plans to throw a home party to save myself some money but I had to wait until spring because of my busy work schedule. My friend stole my idea and invited everyone I had intended to invite. When I confronted her, she said, "You didn't tell me your intentions, we are both at fault." When I reminded her that I had, she chose not to reply.

She seems to constantly want to "one up" anything I am doing. In reply to my Facebook statuses, she talks about herself and what she is doing. It's gotten to the point where I now hide most status updates from her. When I posted that I was going to Quebec with family in May, she posted about how she needed to plan a trip and asked who wanted to go with her. Last summer I was supposed to attend a performance of Wicked with a friend of mine. When "S" found out she began to make plans to see the show herself but once she found out my plans fell through, she sold off her tickets.

She expects me to get together with her X times per month although I have a very busy work schedule. She doesn't seem to get this and gets jealous when I spend time with anyone else. However, when she moved at the end of October, she told me at the last minute and has yet to invite me over. Just yesterday, she texted me and asked to get together. I explained to her that December will be busy but I would get back to her. She continued to text me telling me how much she missed me, etc. When I confronted her on how she seemed to have time for people who hurt me and to have people over to her new apartment, she then starting throwing out times she would be available. I could not take it anymore and confronted her (via text) on the fact she continuously stole my ideas and hung out with people who hurt me. I received no response from her-- just dead air. When I am being my own person and asserting myself then she has no time for me.

This friendship causes me a lot of anxiety and does not make me feel good or supported. If there weren't history there (and a lot of mutual friends) I would end it right here and now. I consider her more of a frenemy than a friend. I don't want to affect my relationships with mutual friends but I can't take much more of this. Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks much!

Signed, Jasmine

 

ANSWER

Dear Jasmine,

The close friend you made in high school sounds selfish, competitive, possessive, and insensitive to your feelings. There are two distinct possibilities: 1) She was always that way, and either you didn't realize it or overlooked it, or 2) She's changed over time. It could be that as you matured, grew stronger, and became more assertive, it diminished your friend's ability to control the friendship.

Whatever the reason, your friendship seems to have morphed into an ambivalent relationship between frenemies; you are friends on the surface but the foundations of the friendship are very weak in terms of loyalty and mutual support. As you describe it, the relationship has been creating more grief for you than pleasure. Additionally, the two of you aren't able to communicate in a productive way. These all suggest that it's probably time to let go.

When friendships end, there are always collateral losses. You mention two that concern you: losing your shared history and the effect of the breakup on your mutual friendships. Since you've accumulated a string of memorable disappointments over the last year or two, the loss of your shared history is somewhat of a mixed bag.

In terms of your mutual friends, you can minimize any fallout if you guard against involving them directly in the dissolution of the friendship. Try not to badmouth "S" or explain to others in any great detail why you have become distant. If asked, just say that you and "S" don't feel as close as you once did. As you create more distance between you and your friend, "S" will have less ammunition to use against you. True friends won't take sides in something that doesn't involve them.

Whether you want to explicitly tell your friend you need more distance is up to you. She may find distance a welcome relief as well and step back. On the other hand, it's more likely that she'll act is if nothing is wrong unless you directly tell her that you need a break.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene


Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about frenemies

 

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

more...

Subscribe to The Friendship Doctor

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?