The problem with toxic friendship is that other people tend to write it off, but friends who are more like enemies or “frenemies” can be very abusive. Relationships between enemies tend to be more emotional (controlling, passive-aggressive, or demeaning) than physical. It is usually not as intense as domestic abuse, because it is easier for friends, in most cases, to walk away from the abuse than romantic or family relationships. Because people tend to downplay a friend’s abuse; the victims keep it a secret.
How to know if a friend is a “frenemy” (alternate pronouns)
1. Gossip behind your back. If he says mean things about you to your friends or tells others secrets you shared in confidence, he is trying to build himself up by undermining you.
2. It is not reliable. If he doesn’t keep his promises, or is always late, or likely to not show up, he doesn’t care enough about you. He is too out of control or too wrapped up in himself to be a good friend.
3. Is jealous or upset when something good happens to you. This is not the attitude of a friend, she is a competitor.
4. You only hear from him if he wants something from you. If he only contacts you when he wants a ride, or to take him out to lunch, or help him with homework or a project, or be his “co-pilot” when he wants to troll in a bar; so he’s just using you, and he’s not really a friend. Friendship should go both ways.
5. It lets you know you’re second best. If she suddenly breaks a date or is unavailable if she receives a “better offer” from a date or a more popular friend, she is not a true friend.
6. Criticizes you, your achievements, your family, your home, your job, or your friends. A good friend doesn’t subject you to a constant barrage of negativity and criticism. And if you are a good friend to yourself, you will not accept it. A good friend may feel the need to tell you a hard truth, but even that can be said with kindness.
7. She lets you pay for things and give her things and do things for her, but she rarely or never reciprocates. Even if there is a difference in her financial status, a good friend will try to reciprocate with what she can afford: a home-cooked meal or a gift in return for taking her to lunch; or help him with something in exchange for something he bought.
8. Flirt with your girlfriend or someone you know you’re interested in, or try to steal your best friend. This is not a friend, this is a competitor. A good friend will be happy to see you happy and supportive of your other relationships.
9. When there’s a problem between you, she won’t admit she’s wrong, apologize or talk about it. She blocks you out and tries to make you feel guilty for not liking what she did. Friends can have problems, it’s a natural part of relationships; but good friends can talk it out, work it out, apologize and forgive each other.
10. He is jealous of your success or happiness. A good friend can support you and celebrate with you, even if you are doing better than him.
How to handle jealous friends sensitively and diplomatically:
• What a pain in the butt!! He’s late for lunch, he’s always complaining or whining, he won’t give you your money back. But, she’s your friend, so what do you do? Work with her! It’s easy to teach, if you do it right. Let her know what she likes about what she does, then she’ll listen when she says she doesn’t like something. She uses silence: if she doesn’t like what she is doing or saying, don’t respond; she will get the message, without a word.
• Set limits – if he’s frequently late, make sure he knows when time is important (he hates missing the first 5 minutes of the movie) and when time isn’t an issue (he can read a book or talk to a friend until he gets home). ) When time is important, tell him that if he’s not ready by xxx, you’ll leave without him. It’s amazing how well it works.
• Don’t be too strict about it: if he has a good reason, or it’s just occasional, give him some slack. But don’t be a pushover either.
• Don’t react to unpleasant things, just politely ignore what he is doing or saying, and maintain a pleasant demeanor. Being an adult, be it or not. If you have to treat him like a naughty child, so be it; just don’t let it drag you into your own bad behavior.
• People who react this way usually feel a lot of emotional pain for their own lives. Be as understanding as you can, be willing to listen to your friend’s feelings to a reasonable degree, but don’t let your fight ruin your good feelings toward yourself. If you can, offer the friend time alone with you to help her feel special and important. Often publicly thanking her for the good things she has done for her will help keep her calm.
• Understand the underlying causes of misbehavior: People who have always felt competitive with you are likely to misbehave to gain attention in that way. If someone’s behavior becomes a problem, set some limits. Tell the friend directly what behavior is unacceptable (such as making mean comments when you’re around other friends), and let them know that you can’t be friends with them if their behavior doesn’t improve.
• Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about what friendship means to you: is it okay to cancel a date with a girlfriend (or her with you) because you get a better offer from a guy? Due to illness or family problems? How much loyalty do you expect in friendship and what does that mean?
• Be honest. Lying to your friend about whether you broke an agreement does more harm than breaking the agreement. If you do something with another friend, tell the truth, don’t protect the jealous friend. He gives her a false impression.
• Managing difficult personalities requires skill and knowledge. Here is a technique that anyone can learn to use and that works every time.
Waiting time for adults:
If someone misbehaves in your presence, giving that adult a “time out” is a powerful yet subtle way to fix the problem. Modern parents use time out to discipline young children. An adult variation of time out also works with any adult friends who are acting childish or misbehaving. Just be very distant and polite to the person who doesn’t treat you well. No personal conversation and interaction, no jokes, no emotions. Be very polite, so you can’t accuse him of being obnoxious or rude. There is no need to explain what you are doing: the problem person will get the message from your behavior, which is much more effective.
If you’ve never tried this, you’ll be surprised how effective it can be to become polite and pleasant but distant. Most of the time, your friend’s behavior will immediately become more subdued around you, and often much more caring.
Eventually, he or she may ask you what’s wrong or why you’ve changed, at which point you have the opportunity to tell him or her what the problem behavior is and why you don’t like it. Learning to put unpleasant friends on timeouts right at the start of unpleasant behavior can make harsher tactics unnecessary. And if the person’s behavior doesn’t change, you can leave it in “time out” and you’ll be protected.