The Makings of a Frenemy

Photo Courtesy of Aftab Uzzaman / Flickr

When you meet it’s like magic; twin souls riding the waves of life in perfect synchrony. The energy between you is magnetic, affirming, revitalizing, and you feed off of each other, nurturing one another with love and validation.

You laugh at the same jokes and criticize the same things. You build on each other’s ideas and finish each other’s sentences, basking in a connection so beautiful and so rare, you can barely believe it’s real. You hug, you cry, you laugh, and you dance to the beat of a similar drum, as you struggle to make sense of your ever evolving and complicated lives.

You are best friends and you are grateful, so grateful, you secretly ask the heavens to send you a partner who could love you the same.

But then… something changes.

You get a promotion at work, a book deal, or a hot new boyfriend, and suddenly, there’s a shift in the atmosphere.

You can’t quite place it, but you can feel that something has gone awry. Her messages become less frequent, her responses to your accomplishments taste like stale bread, and the flow of positive vibes you once shared now feels more like friction.

But she’s your best friend. Maybe she’s just having a bad day, week, or month? She’ll get over it, right?

And so you hold on.

You keep reaching out in an effort to salvage what’s left of the sisterhood you once knew, but her remarks grow increasingly sarcastic, her approach noticeably hostile, and her tone a bit belittling.

You talk about something you’re passionate about and she smirks and rolls her eyes. You mention the guy you like and she tells you he’s not right for you. You start making exciting progress in your career and she’s the first to warn you about the pitfalls, making you fearful and filling you with self-doubt.

But you can feel that she still loves you, and love is so complex that deep down somewhere, there’s a chance she still does. So you feel ashamed about your thoughts and your confusion, because it must be in your head. After all, you still can’t really name what’s wrong, you can only feel it.

The makings of a Frenemy.

Where does this come from?

Frenemies or “ambivalent friends” are born out of feelings of insecurity that arise when one friend feels inadequate due to the accomplishments of another. These accomplishments can be personal like getting fit or starting a new relationship, or they can be professional like getting a raise or a new job.

The change from friend to frenemy tends to be gradual and full of subtleties. While the signs are easy to miss, the feelings of confusion and worry that they engender often linger and can cause significant stress that can damage your health.

“Psychologist Bert Uchino found that the more ambivalent relationships you have, the more likely you are to have higher rates of depression, stress and dissatisfaction in your life.”[1]

Moreover, studies show that frenemies cause a lot more stress and anxiety than people you actively dislike. This is because “with toxic relationships, we know we need to cut them out—and often do. Ambivalent relationships, however, are much harder because guessing, wondering and protecting all take a lot more energy.”[2]

What should you do?

Given the impact that a frenemy can have on your life it is important to look out for the signs. If you have an inkling your friend does not have your best interest at heart, trust yourself, and start asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I ever feel like they are not happy for me?
  • If so, is it in general or in a particular area?
  • Is this an area where they have expressed a personal lack of fulfillment?
  • Can I have a constructive conversation with them about this?
  • Is it in my best interest to continue investing in this relationship?

If the answer to number five is a resounding “no,” then it is time to have a conversation and/or start distancing yourself from your frenemy.

To have a frenemy is to have someone rooting for your demise within your inner circle. While it can be hard to come to terms with losing a close friend, remember that friends should bring support, comfort and joy into your life, and most importantly your real friends want you to win.

So don’t fret and keep it moving, because like my cousin Gigi always says “mas pa lante vive gente, y habran mejores vecinos.”


Jaynice Del Rosario wrote this piece for Flux, an online forum for those of us encountering adulthood. Jaynice was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in The Bronx. She is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Administration and concentrating in Economic and Political Development. She is a scholar, a published writer, a gender specialist and an anti-racist feminist. She shares her world on Instagram @jaynicedel.



[1] Van Edwards, Vanessa. The Science of People. Accessed: Nov. 2017. Retrieved from:

[2] Van Edwards, Vanessa. The Science of People. Accessed: Nov. 2017. Retrieved from:


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