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What is a Frienemy or Frenemy?

Updated on February 29, 2020

You might know what a BFF is, you know what a GF or BF is, but what the heck is a frienemy?

A frienemy, or frenemy, is a complex kind of relationship that is negative for both parties involved. The relationship can be described in many ways. A frienemy/frenemy could be a person who behaves as if they are your friend, but is not. Whether this lack of actual friendship is based on your side or theirs, the reasons a person falls into this category between love and hate, friend and foe could be numerous.

Frienemies (credit to for the photo)
Frienemies (credit to for the photo)

How to spot a frenemy

Sometimes, figuring out if a person is truly your friend can be difficult.  Society and our disconnected modern times provide varying levels of friendship.  Be cautious of labeling, for example, a Facebook friend as a frenemy based solely on the hard line definition of the term.

The general rule of thumb in discovering a frenemy or frienemy in your midst is to consider the interactions between you and your friend.  The following behaviors are all signs of a frenemy:

  • Malicious gossip behind your back
  • Admitted dislike of you
  • Behavior in person/public which is contrary to the above

A frienemy can also be termed as a person who is using your good will toward them to serve their own means, a person who is having a negative effect on your life while maintaining the bonds of friendship, or a person who you behave in these manners towards.

Do you have a frenemy?

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Getting rid of a frenemy

The best way to get rid of a frienemy is to separate yourself from them socially, physically and emotionally.  If you are plagued with a "friend" of this type, cut contact with them and give yourself space to recover.  This may lead to the discovery of other frenemies, so be aware that ditching one toxic individual may expand to a few random disappearances in your social circle.

Stop compromising your morals, integrity and common courtesy for the shoddy behavior of others.  By acting out in a malicious, harmful manner, frienemies can damage relationships with your truer, more steadfast companions.

Prepare yourself for the backlash.  The last thing that a frenemy wants is to lose their foothold in your life.  This backlash could range from guilty feelings on your end, to raging from their side.  Stick to your guns, remain civil and mature in any limited dealings you may have with the person, and realize that you will never be friends with everybody.

Turning a Frienemy into a Friend

If you decide you want to make that person in your life who falls into the previously described categories into a friend, there are a few things to consider.  Answer these questions about your relationship with them as guidelines for determining whether the effort is worth it:

  1. Does this person bring qualities to your life that you agree with?
  2. To what degree does this person qualify as an "enemy?"
  3. Are the negative behaviors they have displayed ones that you can forgive?
  4. Can you trust this person?

If a favorable response is had from the above questions, then start by dealing with the things they do or say that you do not approve of or like.  Be honest with the individual, and really open yourself up to listening to what - and HOW - they react to your honesty.  Speak out about the things that upset you or that you do not agree with, and work from there.

Taking the time to identify the frenemies in your life can alleviate a lot of social stress and anxiety for you, and if you manage to turn a frenemy into a real friend, the situation between you becomes a lot more satisfying and rewarding.


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