If you are an international spy working on a dangerous mission, it’s expected that you might not always know friend from foe. For those of us with more traditional lives, however, we shouldn’t have to be worried about which friend will be stabbing us in the back next. Watch for these tricky personality types, and learn to recognize when your friend has morphed into a dreaded frenemy.
Competitor friends come in many varieties. Some are merely competitive conversationally, always trying to one-up your story. If you had a flooded basement, her whole house was under water. If you had a wonderful vacation in Las Vegas, her vacation in Maui was even more amazing, and cheaper, and had more hot guys.
Some Competitor friends take the competition more seriously. She might compliment you on your designer purse and then show up for your next lunch with a more expensive model. If you buy a big screen TV, she makes sure to get one just a little bit larger. It can also get personal, when she flirts with any guy you say you have your eye on.
Competition can be a healthy aspect of friendship, if it means each of you strives to do better and supports your friend in the same goal. If your friend is only concerned with beating you and making you look bad, then she’s a frenemy, and you should start limiting your contact with her. It’s a definite deal breaker if she goes after a guy you’re actually dating or married to.
Like Blair Waldorf ordering around her minions on “Gossip Girl”, the Queen wants it all to be about her. The Queen brings her own preferred beverage, entertainment, and entourage of friends when she’s invited to a party. She always takes the most comfortable chair, and the largest, even if she’s only 5’2. She expects you to go to an experimental theater in an unair-conditioned warehouse 50 miles from your house, but when you ask her to join you at the opera two blocks from her apartment, she tells you “it’s not her thing.” Her life, her interests and her problems are the only things on her mind, and should be on yours, too.
Some Queen types can still be a good friend, if their only fault is preferring to spend time in their own little universe. Often these self-centered gals merely forget that other people exist, and will show a more attentive side once they’re reminded that you’ve got a life and problems too. Cast her in the position of all-knowing and wise overlord…erm…friend, and she’ll be happy to listen to every detail and offer thoughtful advice.
If, however, your Queen friend thinks you are less worthy than her to walk this earth, and she doesn’t have time for your petty problems, then she’s definitely a frenemy. Don’t waste your friendship on a person who doesn’t recognize or appreciate your value. Being a loyal friend is one thing, but being a loyal subject to a Queen is a completely one-sided relationship that’s not in your favor.
The Passive-Aggressive is the toughest friend to have. Her small acts of meanness can add up to a lot, but when you try to point them out, it makes you feel petty. She’s expert at back-handed compliments like, “I love your outfit; that almost matches!” Or she might spill one of your closely guarded secrets to the very person you’d hoped to keep it from. At your horrified expression, she looks contrite and says, “Oh! You never told me not to say anything; I didn’t realize it was a big deal.”
A lot of Passive-Aggressives have self esteem issues of their own that they take out on you. If the backhanded compliments and other little skirmishes are minor, you can still be friends by adopting an aura of total obliviousness. Pretend you are a child and take all of her comments at face value. “I love this outfit too, I’m so glad you agree!” Most Passive-Aggressives aren’t sure how to respond when they see their jabs aren’t landing, so you can shock them into giving up their mean remarks–at least temporarily.
Passive-Aggressives can wear you down long-term, however. If you find your own self esteem sinking after every visit with this friend, or you feel a simmering rage about to boil over, it’s time to label this stealthy frenemy for what she really is. Friends are supposed to help you, support you, and build you up–not tear you down piece by piece. Once you can’t laugh yourself through her attacks, it’s time to drop the friendship.
The Punisher friend can be a more focused version of the Passive-Aggressive. It all starts because you had a fight ten years ago about her boyfriend, or you harshly critiqued her unpublished novel. Whatever the perceived slight, the Punisher wants to make sure you pay for it. She says it’s all water under the bridge, but she’s quietly plotting revenge.
A Punisher friend will cancel plans at the last minute, repeatedly. She’ll forget to return your phone calls, or blow off the party you’ve been telling her about for months in order to hang with or help out another friend. She’ll make it a point to let you know that all of her other friends are more important than you–after all, none of them betrayed her like you did. Some Punishers can take it even further, working to destroy your other relationships or undermine you at work.
If you truly did slight your friend, it’s right to allow some time for her to forgive and forget. If her anger turns to abuse, or you realize you’re on probation and will never be released, it’s time to break away from this frenemy yourself. Friendships shouldn’t be based on guilt or revenge. If she can’t get past it, then you both should move on.