Frenemy: How to spot the fake from the real deal…..

High school has bittersweet memories for me. Being skinny and awkward, neither athletic nor overtly academic, I was popular by default: having an association with some of the beautiful, popular girls in school due to a common interest.

These friendships were largely superficial and competitive, with high school being notorious for establishing and breaking cliques constantly.

It was a sad, lonely time. As you get older though, life experiences and emotional maturity shift that mind-set and most women acknowledge the need to have good wing-women on their side to provide the love and support that is critical when facing life’s challenges. 

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I met Maria* through a mutual friend. We had similar values and kids the same age and our friendship was easy and uncomplicated. Our regular coffee dates often ended with us in hysterics over shared stories about our everyday stressors.

Maria was fun and entertaining, so I couldnĂ¢??t really fathom why a shadow of doubt always hung over me, whispering in my ear constantly that something was amiss with Maria. I chose to ignore my instinct, citing my high school experience as the reason for second guessing people.

Within a few short months of this friendship, Maria’s characteristics and mannerisms changed. Usually funny and free-spirited, she became sullen, withdrawn, negative and depressed. She demanded a lot of my time and attention and became upset when I did not respond to e-mails or text messages fast enough.

Grappling with my conscience, I endured it for a while thinking that a true friend should support another during periods of trouble. This soon became the norm though and I felt my mood altering when I was around Maria. It became a full on pity party that lasted for days on end. It was extremely unhealthy.

Maria’s husband afforded her the luxury of being a stay at home mum, she had a full life that involved a lot of social events and good times and had two adorable children – which to me, translated into her having a pretty good life.

For whatever reason, Maria simply chose to dwell on the negative and our intermittent chats only revolved around her (self-induced) misery. I started discovering a different side to her thereafter.

A competitive streak emerged and soon all my movements and status updates on social media networks were mirrored by her, my dress sense was adopted by her and a full onslaught against other friends I have, began.

Unwilling to endure this any longer, I confronted her and severed the friendship. 

I know many women who have “frenemies” in their lives and are entrapped in the cycle of negativity and emotional instability this brings. Some friendships are there for a season, to teach us something about ourselves or to fulfill a need at the time.

It may be easier to simply accept this kind of person in your life rather than deal with the conflict that realisation may bring. But, if you want to live your best life then it is vital to be selective when allowing people into your life.

A true friend is someone who can set you straight when you go awry, who cries with you, laughs with you and has your best interests at heart. There is no room for competing, no element of jealousy or the constant need for validation within a healthy friendship.

I am fortunate enough to have the real deal with a small group of women who share similar values and lead parallel lives to mine which ensure that we constantly learn and evolve from each other. Friendships like these are hard to find. If you have one true friend, consider yourself lucky. 

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*Name has been changed to protect identity