Frenemies look and even act like friends, but as soon as you think it’s safe enough to get close, you experience the painful truth.

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When I first moved to Los Angeles, I thought my roommate was my best friend, but she was actually a frenemy. Things were great when I played the role she assigned. As long as I was her “lady in waiting” and she was the “queen,” our friendship was fine, or so I thought. She often did things that struck me like a figurative slap in the face, but there were good times, too. And those slaps, which I dismissed as unintentional, were justified as being “in the past” when really, it was more like yesterday.

By the time I realized the price I was paying in lowered self-esteem — minimizing me to maximize her — I was so angry I couldn’t sleep at night. Not a productive emotional space for a happy singular life!

The experience helped me to realize that one of the most important things you can have when you’re single are your friends. I’m not talking about acquaintances or hang-out buddies – I’m talking about true friends, people you can actually trust.

When you’re married, that default true friend is supposed to be your spouse. That’s the one who’s supposed to love you, accept you, support you, be your champion, holder of all your secrets and your faithful defender. Of course, it frequently doesn’t work out that way, but hoping it will is one of the big reasons why people seek a spouse.

But when you’re single, there is no default “true friend.”. It’s one of the big challenges of living single. You have to determine for yourself who merits “true friend” status. And make no mistake; life is a lot easier with them because these are the people who will keep your life moving forward, no matter how daunting the challenge.

Like a spouse in a healthy marriage, a true friend may occasionally disappoint, say something that hurts or do something rude or thoughtless, but you know it’s a little slip and not a hideous betrayal. Feathers get ruffled but blood is never shed.

And just like the footwork that goes into finding the right spouse, footwork is required to find a true friend. You need to “date” friends and take risks to reveal who you are, bit by bit, and then watch how they react. If you see that it’s safe, you reveal more until you can decide that yes, this person is trustworthy.

Your true friends are the people who know all about you, the good and the bad, and accept you all the same. They’ve seen you at your best and cheered you without envy. They’ve seen you at your worst, and didn’t take it personally or feel the need to punish you.

It’s the opposite with frenemies. On the outside, they look like friends and on a superficial level, they act like friends, but just as you start to feel comfortable – bam! They show you who they really are and their true feelings for you. Their intention of having you in their social sphere is selfish. “What can you do for me?” is the general theme, along with “play by my rules or you will pay.” When you choose to give a frenemy “true friend” status, you implicitly agree to behave a certain way or risk retaliation.

So how do you tell the difference between a true friend and a frenemy?

  • True friends accept you. Frenemies control you.
  • True friends disappoint sometimes. Frenemies devastate a lot.
  • True friends find our quirks endearing. Frenemies use our quirks as weapons against us.
  • True friends enjoy sharing and are generous. Frenemies keep tabs of what you’ve done for them, what they’ve done for you, and they expect payback.

True friends are crucial. They’re not just a luxury, and friendships don’t spontaneously happen. It takes time to determine who your friends are and time to develop the relationship – just as you would do if you were choosing a mate.

Who are the true friends in your life today?

Copyright © Kim Calvert / 2016 Singular Communications, LLC.

Kim Calvert
Kim Calvert is the editor of 
Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.

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4 thoughts on “Frenemies

  1. I had a similar experience with my so-called “best” friend who I have moved to LA with a few years ago. We were great friends, or so I thought, until I started noticing that she got upset every single time good things were happening to me and not to her. She would often act weird and do something spiteful, thinking clearly about her needs and not mine. One time I remember a random (cute) guy came up to me to talk while both of us where in a coffee shop. After the guy took my phone number and left, she became furious and even told me, “how come he started talking to you and not to me? Am I invisible?!” I used to discard these kind of “memories” and constantly make excuses for her up until I got tired of doing that. Luckily, we moved apart and I got a chance to see our friendship from a different angle and realize what was really going on. Toxic friends or “frenemies”, even if you’ve known them for a long time, are truly not worth keeping around.

    1. That is eerie, I had almost the exact same experience. We were at this salsa dancing club and my frenemy would be upset when good-looking guys would approach me and want to dance. Of course, as a married woman, I hardly think she SHOULD be so interested in attracting other men anyhow (she never wears her wedding ring in public and her husband is always traveling and almost never with her, so other men wouldn’t know she was married. I wonder what he’d think of all her flirting). By contrast, my true friends are thrilled for me when any cute, nice guy approaches me. Another time, my frenemy got sort of pissy when everyone else complimented me on this beautiful red dress I was wearing at a party, and saying how good I looked in it. My true friends will also compliment me, rather than keeping a mental tally on who is getting more attention. I also got tired of all her backhanded comments and one insult was the final straw for me. These narcissistic frenemies all apparently play by the same tiresome book. That was a valuable life lesson in knowing who true friends are.

  2. Kim- Thank you for writing about a painful and common subject. I am guessing, based on the stories I hear, that you are sharing for a lot of us. Hope to say hi to you at a future event SOON!! Becky

  3. This is a really great article Kim, one of your best! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I could have written this almost word for word, about a certain former “frenemy” of mine, a narcissist who basically expected to be the “star” while I was the sidekick (insert eye roll here–it turns out she’s not God’s gift to the world as she thinks she is). Thank you for reminding me about why I defriended her off Facebook and have not contacted her for a year (and why I’m so much better off without her toxic influence on my life)

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