I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 12, 2010 11:10AM

Beware the FRENEMY!

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as the world turns

Frenemy:  Urban Dictionary:  An enemy disguised as a friend.  The type of "friend" whose words or actions bring you down (whether you realize it as intentional or not) The type of friend you ought to cut off but don't cuz...they're nice... good've had good times with them. U know...they're good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future. The friend you may or may not have cornered about their quicksand like ways and keep around because "its in the past"...and so was one minute ago. The person that will continue to bring you down until you demand better for yourself.

I had a particularly cruel and public humiliation in sixth grade, prompted by the actions of one of my “best friends”.  I’ll never forget that moment in front of a classroom of peers.  Her standing up and pointing at me, laughing and making fun while the rest of the class joined in.  I’ll never forget the feeling of shame and mortification as my face turned hot coal burning red and there was no place to escape.  And the betrayal.  At 12, my heart was still very innocent and I couldn’t understand why someone I cared about could be so mean.

There are scores of teen movies about “mean girls” and while they may not be the headliners, mean boys have always been around…the bullies, the prodders, the show off’s, and the arrogant.

One of the things I looked forward to in adulthood was the belief that grown-ups wouldn’t have the need to resort to the pettiness, the cattiness, or the competition so common in youth.

I was so wrong. In my 30’s, my former and I made a decision to move from California to Colorado.  I was a young stay-at-home mother deeply entrenched in being a good and kind Christian.  We found a church and I made friends with another woman who had recently moved to the area.  My husband and I had a lot in common with her and her husband and I was happy knowing we were beginning to make solid and reliable friendships.

But as time went on, this friend was really no friend.  She felt she was “closer to God” than me and would throw Scripture verses as admonitions like the coins that were tossed into the passing tithing basket on Sunday mornings at church.  She believed herself to be a prophet and her job was to straighten the rest of us poor sycophants out.  She lost many friends but I was the one that hung in there the longest.  Surely that was the good Christian thing to do.

Being that I was of the “trouper” variety and my mother had seared her daily mantra, “peace at any cost” into my psyche, I tried for several years to be a good friend to this woman, the woman who thought nothing of pointing out my many faults that she was quite sure the Lord wanted me to be aware of.

Thank God for a secular therapist who helped me see the poison hidden in the pie.  I finally ended the friendship, much to her shock and chagrin, “Mary, people just don’t do this!”  Oh, but I did.  It took me some years to release the guilt and perceived act of selfishness I had committed by ending the friendship, but my relief and joy at not being around this woman made me eventually forget the inner taunts and judgments.

Frenemies are not confined to women.  Men are quite adept at being frenemies themselves and I can already see the heads of men who are reading this nodding vehemently in agreement.  The competition in the work force, the drive for status and recognition, the “keeping up with the Joneses”, the subtle sport challenges are all examples of how many men live with the underlying current of one up-manship with those they trust and care about.

What would a soap opera or a reality TV show be without the presence of frenemies?  They can certainly make our lives interesting.  But there comes a time where we have to ask ourselves, “Why am I in this friendship when most of the time I’m gutting my way through any time spent with this person? Am I that trained to be so nicey nicey that I’m in essence willing to throw my pearls to swine on a regular basis?"

The comedian Dane Cook has a routine where he talks about that friend that everyone puts up with but nobody likes.  He says, “Think of the group of people you’ve hung out with the most, and this is what I’ve realized:  There is one person in every group of friends that nobody likes.” He continues, “If you’re sitting here, saying, ‘No, we don’t have a person like that in our group’, it’s because YOU’RE that person!” 

Frenemies are usually quite narcissistic and would never recognize themselves as being THAT person.

Having a frenemy means that you’re prone to walking on eggshells because the ironic thing about the average frenemy is that they’re really good at dishing it out, but the first to disintegrate into a tearful mess at anything remotely resembling confrontation.  They are insensitive to others but hypersensitive when it comes to themselves.

So hence the dilemma when you have a frenemy in your life.  They usually don’t come solo, they come in a package:  They’re in your workplace, the neighborhood, church, or married to someone you love. 

Several years ago I met a man I had the highest respect for.  He is a man full of life and joy and passion and I asked him what his secret was.  He said, “It’s simple, Mary.  I made a rule for myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t spend a minute of my day with anyone I didn’t want to.  Not one minute.  Life goes by quickly enough without spending time with anyone I don’t like.”

That man became my role model.  Imagine it.  To make that kind of rule and act of self-love for yourself…to only spend time with those you know love you and you love them.

One of my wise sisters recently said, "Sometimes we just have to sift through the people in our lives, eliminating those who just really don't like us or have our best interests at heart."  

I now have a higher standard for who I call friend.  I don’t care what their political association is, what religion they are or aren’t, what job they have, whether they recycle or don’t…my only criteria is this.  If they like me, if they love me, that’s good enough for me.  

At this point in my life, I’ve learned.  Really learned.  I don’t like everyone that comes my way and, whoa, surprise of all surprise, some of them don’t like me!  And it’s finally OK, really more than fine to only surround myself with those I love and care about and that there is reciprocation in similar ways.

Peace at any cost?  No thank you.  Life is just too damn short.




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Good post Mary and so true. It is better to say good riddance to bad rubbish even when they are "friends"........too much superficiality and self-sacrifice just to save a relationship is not a good thing...especially when you are aware that that is happening.
single word comments show a lack of skillful use of language. Unfortunately that seems to be my lot, so, I agree.
I had couple of frenemies in the past. I got burned by them. Well!
Now I'm more careful when I meet someone.

yep. my only regret is it took me so long to figure it out. great piece, maryt.
well said. they can be damn dangerous, and rob us of friendships with people who care. i had such a "faux" friend for a number of years, having failed to see the early signals like when he went after an almost girlfriend without thinking twice. I think it's our own needyness that we have to be careful about falling victim too. they specialize in taking advantage of it. i regret only not calling more of them on it earlier than i have. it's important to stand up to them for ones own sense of self-respect.
Excellent post! The problem is not with the friends, but with family. How do you walk away from close family who may say unkind or patronizing things? To me, that's a lot tougher.
Oh yeah, I nodded all the way through this! Sometimes the sifting through happens without thought...but the ones remaining after great tragedy are the ones you will always want along side of you. I try to be the same kind of friend, so I am always evaluating whether or not I can be better at it. I find there is always some room for improvement, but the basics don't go away.

Great topic!
Spot on Mary. I've left a wake of those types that I walked away from and never looked back. They are the embodiment of the old cliche "With friends like that, who needs enemies?" One reason I like OS so much is because there are more "people like me" here than anywhere else (in real- or cyber-life) that I've hung out, which makes it a more likely place to meet some new friends :-)
Yes, definitely sift because your sieve will catch the large-hearted amongst your friends and allow the small-minded to simply fall through. :-D

I like that imagery. Sifting. Oh yeah.

The other aspect I've always disliked was the whole "If you're friends with HIM/HER, then you CAN'T be friends with ME!!!"

Really? Ok then, because I choose whom I want in my circle. If you try to make the choice for me, guess what? You're out.

Good post, Mare. WISE post. It's no wonder why I like coming by here. :-D
Hi Mary, great post on a great topic. I hadn't thought of the male version of frenemies, but it makes sense in all the mini-competitions in sports, etc. Sage advice here.
I loved the Dane Cook routine. Thank god I could think of the one in my group (so that means it's not me....right?)
Great topic. Thanks Mary
So smart. And now I realize why I watch those housewives show: I watch these frenemies, like Vicki or Jill and understand better that we are indeed healthier without them in our lives, so we can concentrate on the positive.
Made me laugh out loud:

"She felt she was “closer to God” than me..."

I love the idea of God competition. Too funny. Kinda defeats the whole damn purpose, doesn't it? Of an ALL-loving God? "God clearly likes me better than you!" Ha...

great job and a concept i'm sure many of us are working on: refining, defining, who stays in our lives and who goes. it changes as well, as our standards change.

and unfort, for me, some people have been grandfather claused in. i just keep my time with those folks to a minimum...maybe more than a minute!
Good lessons all, and learned, a bonus. I like the counsel of my husband and children. I have a few friends with whom I can speak and vent, but we have deep understanding that we do not need to see each other frequently or hang on each other. I like my life the way it is. I too have learned to waste no time, it is too short. Well written and meaningful post. Rated.
The relationship we call Marriage has been subject to intense scrutiny for decades as we try to discern what it means and how to make it work as the world changes around us. But the relationship we call Friendship has received no such focus. Why? I wonder about this omission, as Friendship and Marriage are the two most important forms of relationship a person can experience.
I have a nodding in agreement strain. I guess the truth sometimes hurts.
Wow. I followed Monsieur Chariot.
Two Good Mules tow a garden row.
One mule loses the cadence. O loco.
What Powerful Quotes YOU Share.
I recall a wine server with a bummer.
A butler had a starched white diaper.
A tuxedo drab chap looked tuckered.
Ya recalled that past Memory. Burp.
Burps to blurb a hearty `Burp Ba Ba.
One more home run, one more bullseye on the game of life. My head was nodding from the first few words. Been there, done all that, and it is so comforting to find someone else, someone successful at having found this truth about Other People. They don't all like us no matter what, and we don't have to like them. So simple, so hard to get to. I especially loved the line "Thank God for a secular therapist..." The Christian ethical ideal is a wonderful thing. The magical thinking some bring to it is something else again and no amount of it will change other people. This piece is more important, even, than it would seem on its face. Thanks, Mary, for a wonderful reminder of what we sacrifice in the name of "peace at any cost." The FRENEMY walks among us. Easy to spot, too: When he (or she) walks in it is as though two earnest people just left. A sucking, low-pressure area surrounds the energy vampire. There's a reason for that. :)
Just ditched one on Friday.
there's no one I know like that.

Thanks for the great reminder! I had to adopt a similar policy a couple of years ago. Energy vampires. Don't waste another day with them!
Some people never do get it... In my circle we call it SARS, has much to do with self absorption... All of us have been scarred by those we've perceived as friends, however none of them can do us harm without our permission... In the words of Paulo Coehlo "Life is too short or too long to allow myself the luxury of living it badly"... Like your style Mary, although Alon Gutman's version of word twisting, is more fun practiced in your own head!RRR
Wonderful and wise post, Mary. Life is to short to keep people around that bring us down on a regular basis. Learning to avoid such people is a sign that we are looking out for number 1 first. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do.
Wow, you said it. Grown women who are still mean confound me. And I stay out of their way._r
Hi Mary: This was intelligent, thoughtful, really a good primer for the uninitiated where friendship with an enemy is concerned.
One thing I've observed over time is how we're in a growing stage in our society which is stuck in a groove of teenage-hood. That we all seem scared of getting old enough to look as tho' we're on the road home, as it were, is significant to me in this case. One reason I mention it here is the fact that we are not yet achieving peace in America, in that there are always reasons to be defeating the "Other."
Otherness states that we're better or they're worse, or that there are more superior ways to feel and then deal with a given situation. Yet, we are all individuals, varying in our style of thinking, and so on.
Frenemies can run in packs, as well, as any teenager will tell you happens in their crowd. I've experienced it to the point where I like to figure out who set the tone within any group setting before continuing with them. I've seen some pretty crass levels of behavior among groups. There's always an "us -vs- them" kind of attitude in such cases. And the perqs of such a group belonging mechanism can be measurably different than if one is on the sidelines.
The massively destructive thing to think is that, when one is the odd person out, for example, how he/she might not fit anywhere at all. And that just isn't so.
Maybe we're just learning to temper ourselves by someone else's rules without thinking. In this, we may find we are in a position to feel left out or even put upon when we are less aware of what our role in this world can do for others. In other words, i began to feel the quality of friends I was willing to tolerate at a group level had never fit my level of commitment to the learning process of growth in adult terms. And I experienced everything from coercive behaviors to out and out treachery when I didn't pay attention to those clues. Sorry this got to be such a long comment. I just felt it was relevant.
Thanks. -R-
“If you’re sitting here, saying, ‘No, we don’t have a person like that in our group’, it’s because YOU’RE that person!”
That is too funny!

Mostly I am able to avoid these people (we all have them) but you know there are always one or two that you can't completely get rid of because they are in a package. But when it comes to the frenemy type - I have at least learned that if I am stuck spending time with them, then keep things superficial to protect myself from their barbs.

Wise advice.
While i embrace and promote compassion, it is not at odds with this. There is a great Yiddish sayng: "G-d save us from that which we have to endure".

The frenemy and unkind and miserable and petty are with us always. It is a good thing to not own what they promote about you, to learn from it perhaps, but don't sew it into your clothes.

But when it comes to friends?

You have it right here. Compassion begets compassion, laughter and joy and uplift and firm encouragement are mutual with Good People. If I don't find this with someone after making allowances for a while, for a flexible period of time? Eh.

Fritz Perls that old fraud was right about this: if we find each other, beautiful. if not, it can't be helped.

This is a valuable post. I like you a lot, Mary. xo
One of these days I may learn to recognize a "frenemy" before getting involved with one. I think they're narcissistic and cruel
Well, this one sure as hell nails it on a number of different levels. Project it onto spousal selection and try not to hang yourself. :)
MTK..what a post ?! You really told it like it is. I have dealt with people under the guise of 'good Christian' ideaology, and got slapped so many times.I was going to write an article about, "Am I too just thin-skinned?" Thought maybe I am the one with a problem, could be.:) Long story, but I deleted 9 people off my phone and I have never been happier. Husband is great, but it's a little lonesome at times. Someday I may be able to make friends, I hope. I am kind and very loyal, but I was tired of being 'blown off' and constantly having negative experiences, I decided to ditch the neg, and be happy. It has been 6 mo. I garden, paint, write a little and my husband and I go to the gym daily. That's all I need and I never realized it. I thought to be well adjusted you should have tons of friends. Curious what your thoughts are on that, since you are a professional. Thank-you for your wonderful posts. They are always enjoyable. R
I was thinking of the person you've become on this journey of your life. You a three dimensional human being, not the cardboard cutout of your early years.

Not everyone advances beyond the cardboard cutout stage of their lives. I'm glad you are you. You should be, too.
wow, now if only I could pull this in and hold onto it for longer than it took to read it
life is too short
I thought frenemies were known by their more common name: politicians.
Great post.

It makes me think of a friend-of-a-friend... often shows up at gatherings at my really good friend's house. This friend-of-a-friend is a serious hypochondriac, and a bit narcissistic. Which means that Every Single Conversation revolves around her health, her allergies, the newest recipes she's found to get around her allergies, her newest doctor, her child's allergies, her latest symptoms, yadda yadda yadda.

It's good in that it reminds me NOT to talk about myself all the time, to ask other people about themselves, to remember the art of skilled conversation.

I hate being around this person, and I've actually declined dinner invites when I know she'll be there. My life is too short to deal with this friend-of-a-friend. I'd rather rent a good movie.

Thanks for the reminder that watching a movie is OK.
Excellent observation.
Indeed a freeing lesson once you learn it and incorporate it.

Then, the next move is to decide not to spend a single minute DOING anything that isn't something you love or isn't directly related to something you love. That's what really separated the wheat from the chaff in my life and really has increased my joy of living. Not a single minute.
This is a great post and a well-deserved EP. Congratulations!

I dumped a frenemy a couple of years ago; you expressed it well when you mentioned gutting your way through time spent with this person. That's exactly how I felt, and once I'd served my time at a coffee or a lunch with her, I was frustrated and resentful that I'd wasted it. It was so much healthier just to break off the relationship. I never wished her any ill, and I still don't; I simply can't be around her.

Kudos to you!
I know many people that either blow a look out the door as they head to work, or none at all. It is pretty clear that people are not as thrilled by friendships as in the past. It is very hard to imagine, that we have grown so cold and so odd. But in the past years with the internet, and so many areas now open to a text pad, it is also worrisome that people are not finding human relationships as satisfying anymore. I would like to sit down with a friend once a week to just catch up on the few things that we do share. There are a lot of people with bad news, bills that can't be met, husbands that wander, wives that lie, children that cause concern, it is far from peaceful in most peoples homes, I think that is also another reason that people are skeptical about who they tell what to.

Yup. Of course, calling it like you see it, actually being honest, can often leave one standing alone. That doesn’t mean it leaves one lonelier because I have felt quite lonely in a group of people I knew, and standing alone has never been particularly difficult for me.

But there have been times in my life when I’ve ignored my instincts about someone and tried to win them over, but paid dearly for doing so. You offer excellent advice.

I figured out a while ago, that the people you know who are honest with you, and yet lift you up, encourage you, make you feel like you are a world-beater, that you are witty, successful and have thin thighs - those people are most likely your friends. Those people whom you encounter who leave you feeling insecure, rattled, despairing, and a total failure - even if you have achieved things that you are proud of ... those people are toxic. They are not your friends. Sometimes they can be subtle about it, and sometimes they are your relatives, or even significant others - but if it seems that they achieve feeling good about themselves at the expense of your peace of mind - they are not friends.
This seems to be a pattern with me. When I divorced, everyone said "but he's so nice" - he just had this need to squash me any time I came close to having a success, reaching a goal.

Just too many anecdotes going back to high school. People you expected better of, people you thought liked you.

But over the last few years I've worked under a "frenemy" boss. While the world thinks she's my "biggest advocate", her every move is meant to undermine me. You know, like explaining in a broadcast e-mail how I must have misunderstood something when I actually followed her directions. "Standing up for me" in the form of "yeah, she's got [insert flaws here] but . . . " "Going to bat" for me meant talking about me like I'm a damaged child instead of talking TO me like I'm an adult.

Literally years of this, of her marginalizing me while having everyone convinced she respected me.

I don't think "frenemy" is supposed to be that the person is annoying or even self-centered, but that they seem to be your friend when they are in reality, actively, your enemy. In this case, she needs to push me aside to feel important at work, and she needs to pretend to be my friend to feel good about herself.

It's crazy-making when your frenemy has everyone else convinced they're your friend. They think you're being unreasonable if you complain . . .

SOOOO glad I don't work for her anymore.
Thankfully much of the time we can see these 'frenemies' coming and avoid them and their debilitating energy; although there's always the seductive individual who sneaks through our holistic radar system. And then, there's family. ;-) Another good post, Mary. blessings...
Oy . . . no doubt about it, people can be treacherous, even with the "best" of intentions. There was actually a sermon in our church once regarding how to pray, in which the pastor specifically warned against using prayer as a way to gossip, as in "And please help Sister P. with her lying, cheating, drinking husband . . . and bring healing to her soul and body." The fact that I remember it says a lot.
Standards for friends are a great idea..and standards for ourselves make us great friends for others.
Too damn short, indeed.

"A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. "- Arnold Glasow
Luluand: Thank you...this frenemy stuff is something I have to revisit from time to time, and then, gulp, make sure that I'm not one of them!

lorimarie: You are a true friend through and through and I'm more than fortunate to have you as my best friend. Frenemy is not part of my vocabulary when it comes to you.

bobbot: Hey, I'll take a one-word comment from you anytime! Thanks for reading and commenting...very much appreciated.

Z Bitch: Yes, I think we've all had this experience, but I don't like the thought of anyone burning you! That just burns me...

femme forte: I've had a similar regret. I experienced something more recently and I'm just bonking myself in the side of the head. Some lessons take a very long time to learn.

Ben Sen: Loved your comment and was thinking of your "faux" friend...yes a "faux" friend is definitely one who goes after your maybe girlfriend. There are lines that should never be crossed. And you're right...for me, it's not just about being nicey nice; that's part of it. But it's also the desire to have a friend who is there for you, who listens, who sees. And that makes us more vulnerable as well. I wonder about calling them on this as I think it's safe to say that frenemies are more of the narcissistic type and therefore not too inclined to be able to listen or hear. And then it becomes a waste of precious time. But there is something very empowering about saying it...not to change them but to stand up for ourselves. Thank you.

patricia k: You're is so much tougher! But still necessary because being around those kind of people leave us feeling depleted and crappy. So, yes even for family members, we have to limit, distance, set our boundaries. And not make the mistake of being vulnerable to these people, to give them opportunities to cut you down. And I like Ben Sen's idea, to confront them in loving and firm ways. It is possible, even if you have to go through the "I can't believe you're doing this" phase. There is no shortage of people who are willing to be walked on and frenemies usually have no problem finding them, relatives or friends.

Buffy: I read your post today and definitely saw some correlations. Did you? And yes, it's an opportunity for self-examination. Sometimes the thing that triggers us about someone else is the same thing that we have but have a blind spot for! I hate that. But there's some truth. It's a way to turn these yucky relationships and the need to rid ourselves of them, into becoming a better friend ourselves. Thanks so much for your great comment.

Kellylark: I laughed when I read, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" Perfect! I've had similar experiences with OS and have made such great friends (thinking of the wonderful conversation you and I had last summer)...some I haven't met and some I have. So many wonderful people on this site who truly get it.

Bill S: I loved that "sifting" analogy today. It makes it so much more clear. Yes, and that mandate about "you can't be friends with them and me" nonsense and way too controlling...and SO junior high. Thanks again for your always kind and supportive words Bill...they mean a lot.

Linda: I'd forgotten about the male perspective as well until I remembered a prominent male business man and was my client. One of the things we worked on were are his boundaries with those who were constantly taking advantage of him because of his success.

Beth: You and I share the same sense of humor! Yes, it was a God competition and I was clearly losing! The "grandfathered" in ones are a little tricky, but I like your solution...keep things to a minimum. I wish more of us would give us that kind of permission during the holidays...a time fraught with frenemies and relatives that aren't so nice.

SheilaTGTG55: I love the agreement you have with your friends. I love my friends but my life is very busy...with my husband and children and professional life. We connect on a regular basis but no demands or hurt feelings when life is busy and full and family comes first. Great comment.

Monsieur Chariot: You make a great point. Friendships are huge ways for us to stay connected but so many of us don't do it very well, especially when it comes to the being honest department. And the importance of friendship in all goes hand in hand. Now I'm curious as to why there isn't more conversation around this. I'm realizing we seem to tiptoe a lot around it.

Stacey: The truth does hurt at times, doesn't it?! Although I came up with a motto for myself years ago: "I'd rather be hurt by the truth than be happy with a lie"...except when I ask my husband, "How does my butt look in these pants?" :)

Art James: It's always a better than average day when any post of mine gets graced by a comment from you. Thank you!

AJ: I loved your reminder in your comment in the "magical thinking" realm...this was me many times over. I found a journal from my time struggling with this friend (and several others) and it made me said to read what I wrote: "Please Lord, give me the love and patience I need to love this person who I find so difficult to love. Show me what I'm doing wrong. Help me see my faults in this. Help me learn to love her." SAD! Sweet, sincere maybe. But magical thinking nonetheless and large vats of time wasted. You're so right about this: "When he (or she) walks in it is as though two earnest people just left. A sucking, low-pressure area surrounds the energy vampire. There's a reason for that. :)" What a great point. The energy of this type of person is palpable. And very real. Thanks again for all your great support.

Bonnie: I'm glad you brought up this type of friend. It's another sign of a frenemy. They seem to love it when you're miserable and they really are fantastic friends, but any sign of success, poof, the silence persists and the questions stop being asked. Great point.

Damion Chaplin: I'm jumping up and down for you! Truly I am because I can only guess what it must have taken for you to get to this point, or maybe you're smarter than me and nipped things in the bud early on. At any rate, all my congrats to you.

Cap'n: Don't even try to fool me on that one. You are no enemy I know that for sure. And besides, you have too good a sense of humor....frenemies don't know how to laugh, especially at themselves.

jlynne: Love the image of "energy vampires". It's a great way to describe and so true.

patrick: I love Coehlo and his books and I love the quote. And I like the way you ask me to look at my own permission giving to a person like this. You are so right! We are not victims here, not in the least. But sometimes when you're in the middle of it, it's so hard to see. Giving it space and distance, it's easier to see our part in these things. Helpful comment, thank you.

Just Cathy: Yes, it can be the hardest thing to do, but once we do it, we wonder what took us so long!

Joan H: I agree. I continue to be confounded by mean women who are my age. I just never thought I'd be dealing with them at this age, but as I age, I'm realizing a lot of things just don't change.

Poor Woman: Thank you again for your wonderful comment. I love it when I write a post and it invites conversation and discussion which you have done so well here. I also love how you weave the idea of the frenemy into the general state of our country right now. So much divisiveness! I'll be mulling your comment over later tonight. You said so many great and thought provoking things. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Denise: You got it...when we do have to spend time with these people, it's a great time to be superficial. We have to protect ourselves. I've made the mistake plenty of times to lay myself bare to people like this and that is a huge mistake!

Greg: Love the Yiddish saying and your entire comment. And your focus on the need for laughter, encouragement, uplifting is so true. We can feel it in our bodies when we walk away and begin to question ourselves, "Did I just imagine they said that; am I being too sensitive( that's a big one for me)...maybe I twisted something, etc. etc." I like the Fritz Perls sentiment...I like the casualness of it. We don't have to always figure out the complexities of relationship. At this point in my life, I just want to feel good. Pretty simple. And hey, I like you too!

ladyslipper: Don't you think that sometimes these frenemy types can be quite charismatic and charming? It can be kind of tricky; if not, we all wouldn't be so familiar with the difficulty of detaching. Thanks for reading and your comment.

Gwool: Your comment made me smile...any kind of major life transition is a good sifter of who our friends truly are and I'm pretty sure you know exactly what I mean.

cindy: Thank you for sharing your experience. I love the thought of you deleting all those people when you realized they weren't really friends! It is freeing. And yes, we don't need to have "tons" of fact it feels truly impossible. It takes time to develop the kind of friendship where you trust that you are loved for exactly who you are. Having one or two is a beautiful luxury. Once you are done with your hiatus, I think perhaps you will make different choices and carefully if you decide to venture out to make one or two true friends. You will spot the energy suckers more quickly and perhaps not only be so loyal to them, but yourself more so. I think yours is a story that is still in the making. Thank you so much for sharing.

OE: Now OE your comment made me a little teary to tell you the truth. And I think back on the time we had coffee in NYC and I had the privilege of meeting such a thoughtful and compassionate man. Your words mean a lot and I thank you very much for them.

hybalean-Julie: Hey, I need to re-read this myself from time to time! I sense that you are one true and present friend.

Kevin Lee: Now Kevin, don't you think the term "frenemies" is just a little too nice for THEM?

froggy: I love how you have used this person, who sounds completely hypochondrical (is this a word?) and self-absorbed and who would ruin any meal should you be forced to listen to it. Wouldn't you just love once in your life to stand up in the middle of the conversation and yell, SHUT THE HELL UP OR I'M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND!" Oh, just once I'd like to do that. I also love how you use the negative experience of being around people like this for your own self-examination. That speaks volumes about you as a person. Good movie or obnoxious yadda yadda yadda. I think even a bad movie would be preferable! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Deborah: Thank you!

susanmihalic: I resonated so much with your comment...that feeling of when you left the lunch or the dinner, the relief, the slight feeling that you were "good to go" for awhile, like you had just checked off the "Do your taxes" from your to do list, and then that sickening realization that you just wasted a hell of a lot of time, and on what? I also appreciate that you didn't wish her any ill. If I cross the line into the revenge factor, than I'm just as bad. Thank you.

MOMSACOMIC: Great point about the depersonalization of friendship because of the reliance on texts and technology to communicate. It does make me wonder how this generation of teenagers will forge their friendships in new and different ways. Great comment.

Rick: I love your distinction of the difference between being lonely and leaving one "lonelier". There is something very liberating about no longer paying the price of the effort to please someone else, only to find it makes no difference. And very liberating to be lonelier when we are true to ourselves. A much appreciated comment.

Sgt. Mom: You are so wise and could teach all of us a few lessons on this! Sadly, there are toxic people out there and I do feel compassion for whatever happened to them that lead them to such toxicness. But we are each responsible for being self-aware. If most of those kind of people would take the time to take inventory, they could see the pattern of fractured relationships they've left in their wake and the only common denominator is THEM. Thanks so much for your contribution here.

anybodhi: I'm SO glad you don't work for her anymore! As for the comments from people about you're so "nice" ex...this is more than annoying. Did they not trust that you made a very difficult decision based on your life experience of living with your husband? That is more than arrogant. And your boss sounds like a classic passive aggressive person...and those who are on the more unconscious levels buy this stuff, but there are many who can see through them, probably more than you realize. And you're can start to feel a little crazy when you hear this stuff and all you want to say is, "Oh, if you only knew." Again, glad she is no longer your boss.

dynomyte: Yes, hopefully as we age, our radar becomes more clear and sends us the warnings long before they might have in the past. And the family stuff...that's a whole another post! Hey, maybe an encyclopedia of books! Blessings to you too dynomyte, I really appreciate you reading.
Owl: Your comment made me laugh out loud...I had the sudden rush of memories of the many bible studies I used to attend and how all of us found "legitimate" ways of gossiping about others. I'm nauseated now thinking of it, and I sure was guilty of it myself. Love the pastor that called people out on this. Great comment and I thank you.

JDSmith: Yes, you make a great point that setting great standards for ourselves make us greater friends to others. And the unsaid part...greater friends to ourselves. Thank you!

Amanda G: Love the Arnold Glasow quote and will keep it for safe keeping and sharing. Thank you.
Wonderful column. More than most on this site you have an amazing ability to share the darker moments of your life in a way that lets us all know that we can feel those things too and still be groovy. Rated!
I too decided long ago that I would rather be alone then be with people I didn't feel really comfortable with or close to. I have very few friends because of that -- because I am unwilling to call every acquaintance a friend, and unwilling to spend a lot of time on people who fail to make a good impression the first, or second, or third time. A huge circle of friends is just not a need I have, nor a thing I have time for. I cherish my very few, very close friends.
Damn. I'm THAT person. :(
Great and courageous post ! Timely, for me, as I have been busy at this elimination (spring cleaning my social list) and while it's been quiet and "lonesome" sometimes, the price of these folks is way over my emotional/psychological head. I think more of myself than that now. Thank you for this ...
Thanks, Mary... reading this finally convinced me to "unfriend" a toxic friend on FB... someone I've known for years who has just turned into a bitter, mean person. Thanks for being the push I needed... now I just need to learn to ignore all phone calls and texts.
As the old saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies? Or is that enamaes?

I regret to say at least half my life has been spent with people I don't like. On the other hand, I may be the guy Dane Cook was talking about -- tho I have a sneaking suspicion the ever-caustic Mr Cook learned that bit of wisdom the hard way.

I was taught that if we are lucky we will have five real friends in our life -- the rest are merely acquaintance or habits -- usually bad habits.
Life is too damn short.No more Frenamies EVER!!!!! although I admit I still have one.I keep getting sucked in and I think maybe I really do sort of like this person.Keep you Frenamies close and your Frenamies closer..Hummmm maybe Ill break up with my Frenamie today......
Great post! My most entrenched frenemy used to make cracks about my thighs and introduced me to my ex-husband. GEE THANKS. I said goodbye to her long ago, and except for those with whom I work (I do have to live), I adopted the policy you mention several years ago. It has brought me much peace and joy.
i like this. I had only heard the term Frenemy recently but I think it's an interesting word. Some people just don't mix. When I was in my 20s I had a job that was pretty confrontational. It was the first time in my life when I had to deal with numerous people who really didn't like me and were not happy with the work I needed to do. It caused me stress. I went to see a therapist aboout it. He gave me a book to read. The book was about studies that had been done about friendship and compatibility. I wish I could remember the name of the book. It was all about the fact that studies had shown that for most people, this is true: About 1/3 of the people you meet will like you. About 1/3 of the people you meet will be indifferent about you. About 1/3 of the people you meet will not like you. The same statistics are true about you and other people, according to the reports. So, I should like about 1/3 of the people I meet. I should be indifferent about 1/3 and I should dislike about 1/3. I think this is pretty accurate, probably. I have a hard time sometimes admitting that I don't like people. But there ARE some people who I guess I don't like. Whether or not we like people, though, we still owe them some respect.
I liked this so much I posted it on my Facebook. Last week I went and had drinks with an old friend, and as we were catching up, she told me the story of how one of our other "friends" actually physically attacked her a few months back over a guy at a club. I hope she reads this.
This is fabulous, Mary. I came to this realization a few years ago, too. I can't say I've completely followed it; old habits die hard. But I have found myself questioning sometimes why I "stay" with someone--friendwise--when there is either nothing or too much aggravation in return.
Brilliant piece describing frenemies! And you nailed it! I know I'm in an unrelationship when I feel like I've keep stumbling upon someone's mine field and thought I was tiptoeing through the tulips -- not bombs. And I've often wondered why in heaven's name it's usually so hard to end one of these. Now I'm better at nipping it in the bud -- nicely -- but firmly. Enthusiastically rated!
I have had frenemies! That is a great word that we should have had a long time ago! Well done, Mary.
What a wonderful piece, well done indeed, Mary.
Excellent post, rated.
Oh dear Mary, I so agree. Life is too short. I think it a spiritual necessity to purge non-mutual alliances -- but you know that. Am not a 100% good at it yet, guilt still blurs the vision. Thank you for this well written, dependably clear vision. You are a wise woman. And, yes. I know I am late...
Awesome writing! I'm searching my friend list after this..rated
"Having a frenemy means that you’re prone to walking on eggshells because the ironic thing about the average frenemy is that they’re really good at dishing it out, but the first to disintegrate into a tearful mess at anything remotely resembling confrontation. They are insensitive to others but hypersensitive when it comes to themselves."

Duly bronzed and cast in solid memory. Sometimes it takes years to admit or say out loud.