11 Steps To Turn A Frenemy Into A Genuine Friend (Yes, It's Absolutely Possible)
At some point in their lives, everyone has at least one frenemy. Having a frenemy is not an experience that's limited to women, either — anyone can have one. It's a complex bond involving a person with whom you're cordial or even friendly toward, but beneath the surface of coolness, there's an underlying layer of resentment or even hate there. Sometimes these complicated feelings can be the result of competition between the two of you (especially with work frenemies) or some other sort of ego-based issue at hand, or perhaps it's the result of years of tiny issues coming up between you that might've driven you apart if it weren't for other forces keeping you together. Whatever it is, something prevents the friendship from being, well, normal. This doesn't have to be a permanent situation. There are ways to shift a fremeny into an actual friend (and wouldn't that be so much better?)
Let's first explore how a frenemiship forms even: It joins two people with like interests, social circles, or professional goals but plants something ugly beneath it all. Because there's got to be something in the way of a full-fledged, totally healthy friendship. Usually this stems from personal issues. Maybe one or both of you find the other one threatening in some capacity. Or perhaps one or both of you feel secretly very terrified about your current position in life or immediate future goals. It could even be a case of extreme lack of self-confidence. Whatever the seed of frenemy planted, you can still probably untangle the twisted relationship.
Basically a frenemiship is a energy- and positivity-sucking friendship. There's zero payoff for perpetuating this cycle, but what about an actual friendship? That's the good stuff. Here's how you can turn a fremeny into a friend:
Don't give in to impulses to be snippy or mean
Say you go to meet your frenemy for drinks and when greeting them, you notice they look pretty tired. Previously, you might have rapidly leapt on such an opportunity to undermine them in a subtle, stinging way by saying something like, "Oh wow, you look soooo tired!" You can't do that anymore. If you actually want to be helpful, suggest you order a round of Irish coffees or scrap the whole booze component and grab cold-pressed juices together instead.
Don't flip out if they don't follow your friendly lead
Remember, when you don't tell someone about a thing you are trying to do, how can you expect them to know? Similarly, if you decide not to be clear about new intentions with this person, there's no reasonable way to anticipate them guessing. So when they flippantly refer to a big project you've been working on as "that cute little thing you've been tinkering with," breathe deeply and actually update them as if they'd called it exactly what you call it. Don't take their bait, is my point.
Ask about their lives and actually listen
Instead of getting all chest-puffy when you speak to your frenemy, be sincere in catching up with their goings-on. Refrain from the urge to talk up all the Pinterest recipes you absolutely murdered recently, or the rad date you just had, or a bad-ass work accomplishment, etc. Hold back and respectively absorb their updates first. (Are you starting to notice that most of these tips are really just "be an actual good friend and eventually the "enemy" part will fall away?)
Don't take their successes as an attack on you
Everyone finds their motivation in different outlets and if you suspect this person draws theirs from smiting you or putting you down, who cares? It's almost definitely not the whole story and to confidently assume such as true is a pretty egotistical outlook. Are you sure you have that much power? Their hangups are probably not totally about you, so just take away their ability to get a reaction out of you and they will likely just stop. Try instead to be happy for them. That would be a normal reaction for any friend and since that's what you're chasing, try on the proper congratulatory response and see how that goes.
Scale back on gloating
If you find out about a frenemy's failure or shortcoming, don't rub it in their face. If they don't bring something up, you shouldn't either. If they do, empathize but move on just as quickly unless it becomes clear they want to unpack the issue further (which they probably won't, as confident rapport isn't the hallmark of frenemiships). While we're at it...
Eliminate any condescending words or phrases from your vocabulary
One of the most glaring examples is the cursed "like I said" which subtly asserts a sort of dominance over another person. It suggests a mismatched intelligence. That isn't a great assumption to have in any friendship. If you truly want to make the switch here, you must stop saying arrogant, patronizing words and phrases that imply you're better than this person. You're equal, so start actually believing that, and let the words you choose — and don't choose to use — show that.
Ask yourself what it is about them that inherently bothers you
As previously mentioned, your feelings about this person are probably tethered to your own inner issues or self-confidence. I once had a frenemiship, and when I honestly asked myself why she bugged me so hard, the answer was simple: She was really good at eating well and not overindulging with alcohol, two practices I had problems maintaining. So really, a big part of why I found her so annoying was because I was jealous she could do something seemingly easy that I just couldn't. Confronting that truth really helped me to stop taking out my feelings on her. If I was punishing someone for something they were good at, what kind of person was I? (Spoiler: A somewhat lame one.)
Expose some vulnerability
Usually, your frenemy is the last person you'd want to expose any weaknesses to. However, you're trying to change that. Showing a little of your own vulnerability is one step in that direction.
Ask for advice
Once I put a finger on the exact issue I had with that one aforementioned frenemy, I pushed forward and asked her for advice on how she curbed junky or boozy cravings. She provided some helpful tips and maybe better yet, confessed she also had a lot of trouble keeping up with it herself. So she was human! Sometimes we forget pretty much everyone is and as such, has weaknesses.
If you don't feel like you're making any headway in the natural transition, add a verbal component: talk with them openly about what you're trying to with your friendship. Do it in a non-confrontational way that assigns guilt to both parties, because, hell, neither of you are exactly saints. You've probably both played a part in perpetuating your frenemy status, so be clear about owning the things you've done wrong. Start with something like, "I really appreciate and enjoy our friendship, but I want to talk about some ugly hunches I have. Why do you think we have combative tendencies?" Chances are, they'll admit having noticed, too, and be game to figure out a remedy together. A solution is going to take a little give from you and from them.
Be real about all possibilities
You know, a lot of people don't really like being called on the messy parts of their lives, including their relationship. Some people go to great lengths to avoid holding a mirror to those things. So you have to accept the possibility your frenemy will want to stay in this icky place. They might continue to carry on with the ugliness with their own derogatory vocabulary and subtle power plays. Should you find, after a thorough and honest investigation, this person won't budge into a vulnerable, healthy place where a real friendship may grow, you might have to let that lie.
Which is not to say that you have to continue being a part of this frenemiship. In fact, at that point, if you've tried everything you can to be a good friend to this person and they aren't having any of it, I'd recommend just moving on. You tried and sometimes efforts fail. So going into this, know this isn't a guaranteed win (what in life ever is?) and by doing it anyway, you run a little risk of losing this person even as a frenemy. But honestly? In almost every scenario, dismissing an unnecessary toxic relationship from your world is a win. However, it's truly best to try to rework the situation as opposed to simply throwing it away, so give it a real go and see how it shakes out.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (11)