Deciphering Between Friends & Enemies

How to Distinguish Friends From “Frenemies”

Having relationships with our peers is essential for our health and well-being. However, we may have difficulty distinguishing between real friends and those who only appear to be friends. The people we choose to surround ourselves with can encourage and support us. They can also put us down or feel threatened by our growth and change. When we are in recovery, we are striving to improve daily. We are continually finding new ways to grow and provide value to the world. Unfortunately, not everyone that we meet will line up with our positive outlook on life. Some people are afraid of growth, and they might hold us back. They may have the appearance of being our friends. However, they might be “frenemies.”

Warning Signs and Traits of “Frenemies”

When we see some of these behavioral patterns in our friendships, we might have “frenemies” instead of real friends. Remember that sometimes these traits can be worked on and resolved. We can attempt to work out conflicts and potentially grow the relationship into a healthy friendship. We have to understand our limits and how many times we can try to resolve problems. If we find that we have reached our limits of allowing the person to work on the friendship, we may need to begin distancing ourselves. Conflicts with friends and other relationships are often inevitable. While these traits are warning signs, they could indicate that we need to address these issues and not necessarily suggest that we cut ties.

  • Passive-aggressive behaviors:
    • They may have an issue with us, yet they never talk to us about it.
    • This person might talk about us behind our backs.
    • They might say or do things that seem to only “hint” at their feelings, leaving us guessing what we might have done to upset them.
  • Jealousy and Envy:
    • Envy and jealousy can ruin any relationship.
    • If our friend is jealous of the things we have, they may make us feel guilty about the good things we have in our lives.
  • One-sided friendships:
    • When a person only seeks us out when they need help or a favor, our friendship might be one-sided.
    • A lack of reciprocation is present in one-sided relationships, and we feel like they never listen to us. 
    • Our friends might tell us all about themselves, yet they never ask us questions or show any interest in what we have to say.
  • Insulting and putting us down:
    • Friends might “bust” each once in a while in jest; however, sometimes the insults go too far or occur frequently.
    • They may be saying things that put us down, insult us, are riddled with sarcasm, or are not supportive of our growth.
  • Overly or inappropriately involved:
    • When our friends become overly involved in our lives, they may be crossing our boundaries and disrupting our lives.
    • These are people who may reach out to our other family and friends to talk about us without our permission.
    • They may “invite themselves” to activities or events, where we may want to be with other friends or on our own.
  • Ambivalent or inconsistent:
    • Friends showing ambivalence are usually selfish or downright mean.
    • They may fluctuate between being ambivalent and inconsistent and make us feel confused about where we stand in the friendship.

Remember that all relationships, including friendships, can take work and understanding. Sometimes, these behaviors come in waves when our friends are dealing with issues. For example, if our friend lost a loved one recently, they may spend a great deal of time talking about their own emotions and problems as they grieve. We might need to consider the situational forces influencing some of these negative traits.

What to Look For in True Friendships

These are some of the qualities present in real friendships:

  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Fun to be around
  • Listens well
  • Open communication
  • Works on resolving conflicts
  • Willingness to compromise
  • Reliable
  • Empathetic
  • Supportive
  • Positive
  • Shows interest in our lives

Navigating friendships can be tricky. We might hit “rough patches” in our friendships when we need to deal with significant changes or major life events. Remember that one of the keys to true friendship is a willingness to resolve conflicts or issues. Before we were in recovery, we may have displayed unhealthy behaviors in our friendships, and some people stuck by us. They knew that we were genuine and caring, yet going through a rough time. Sometimes, we need to remember the context of what is currently happening in our friends’ lives to determine their friendship value. When we consistently see unhealthy behavioral patterns and feel unhappy or miserable around the person, we might need to re-evaluate our relationship.

We may have a difficult time knowing what makes a friendship healthy. We may not be able to distinguish our friends from “frenemies.” “Frenemies” may appear to be our friends on the surface; however, they might not be truly supportive of us in our growth and change in recovery. We have to remember that sometimes, trusted friends go through rough patches and may display some unhealthy characteristics. We can be patient and understanding during these times, especially if we understand the context of what they are going through. We may need to give some friendships space in order to determine whether or not they are genuine. Look out for negative traits and look for the positive ones. Healthy friendships respect our boundaries and are willing to resolve conflicts when they arise. If you feel lost or confused in your recovery and need additional guidance, call Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center. Alumni are always welcome to seek out support. Call today at (303) 443-3343.

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