My Toxic Friends

Is someone in your social network dragging you down? Here's how to protect yourself from poisonous people.

Frenemies: The New Enemy

What to do about the people you love and hate simultaneously.

"Frenemy" is actually in the Oxford Dictionary.  It was added in 2010 along with its friends "vuvuzela" and "chill pill".   (I just thought of a great high school English assignment - write a poem using "frenemy", "vuvuzela", and "chill pill".  But I digress.)

A "frenemy" is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry".  The use of "frenemies" dates all the way back to the 1950s. 
"Frenemy" has even landed its own Wikipedia page.

What did we call frenemies before, well, frenemies?  And more importantly, why do we even have a need for this word?

  • Are we friendly with people we dislike because we feel socially obligated to do so?  (A work environment, for example, would be a situation where it may behoove you to be friendly to your archnemesis in the next cubicle.)
  • Are we friendly with people we dislike because we find (to quote Star Trek) that resistance is futile? If you're going to be around Uncle Aloysius for every holiday, you may just zip your lip and be quiet for the sake of family harmony (I apologize to those of you with an adored Uncle Aloysius).
  • Is it because we have difficulty stating our feelings and needs to someone who we just don't get along with or has treated us poorly?   (So we just continue to put up with it.) 
  • Is it because our frenemies are more like us than we want to admit? (In the words of Bill Shakespeare, "familiarity breeds contempt"). By rejecting them, we may feel like we are rejecting ourselves.
  • Is it because the good parts of the friendship outweigh the bad?  (I guess it depends on the severity of the transgressions.  If your frenemy threw you under a bus, metaphorically or literally, that may be something even the good stuff can't outweigh.)
  • Or are we just gluttons for punishment?   Do we feel we deserve the frenemies' wrath in some way?

Why would we even want to continue contact with certain people when we are a target of their anger, or when we have a fundamental dislike of them?

The fact that there is even a word to describe this love/hate relationship shows that the amount of people who accept frenemies into their lives has reached epic porportions. 

If you are reevaluating your relationship with a frenemy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I getting out of this relationship? 
  • Does this person lift me up, make me a better person? 
  • What price (emotionally, physically, and financially) am I paying for being in this relationship? 
  • If I remain in a friendship with this person, can I truly forgive him/her for what has happened in the past?
  • Would it help if I told this person how I felt about our relationship?  Would they be willing to listen?
  • What might happen if I ceased contact with this person?  What might I gain if I cut my ties or lessen my contact with this person?  Would the benefits outweigh the side effects?
  • Am I required to be in physical proximity to this person (for example, a coworker)? What can I do to possibly change or alleviate that situation? 
  • What is it about this person that I don't like?  Is it something I also don't like about myself?
  • Can I be around this person and just learn to put up my "emotional shield" around him/her? 

Life is too short to have frenemies in your life.  Take a good look at who you are letting into your life and why.  You may be surprised at what you find. 

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My Toxic Friends