I’m sure you know by now that just like with romantic relationships, not all friendships are created equal. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about female friendships as the dynamic between two women can be very specific & particular. But we sometimes run into friendships that aren’t so friendly.
Back in 2002, I met up with my girlfriends for Sunday brunch. I remember it was a dreadful winter and I had just cut my usually long hair to just refresh my look and couldn’t wait to show it off to my girlfriends. As I was approaching the table, one of my friends, let’s call her AB, gave me the most backhanded compliment ever about my new do! I wasn’t expecting it and was obviously caught off guard.
Back then, the term ‘frenemy’ wasn’t a thing but looking back, I now know that that is exactly what she was to me. If you aren’t familiar with the term frenemy, Merriam-Webster defines it as one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.
My frenemy, AB, was always competitive with me and always found a way to put down what I was saying or doing. She seemed oblivious to the effect that her words had on me. I guess because she said them with a smile on her face, in her mind she wasn’t really insulting me. Do you have any ‘friends’ like that?
From my experience as a psychotherapist & running online group coaching programs, I’ve learned that women have difficulty navigating female friendships because of the frenemies that are posing as true friends in their lives. So, let’s talk about why this is and what you can do about it.
In my early 20s, I always found myself in the types of friendships where I was caught in the middle of a triangle where someone was always mad at me or jealous of my other friendships. It wasn’t until after years of therapy where I learned that I was playing out this unresolved triangle type of experience in my family of origin. I wasn’t aware of it back then. My parents were divorced, I felt split loyalty, etc. but that was something that once I had the realization, it changed my life as I was able to stop attracting these types of people into my life.
You may have a different scenario but here’s the thing. We only have two choices in life. You can either (A) act things out OR (B) talk things out. The things that you’re unaware of seem impossible, right, because they’re deep down in your subconscious mind so how can you even talk them out if you don’t know that they even exist?
You can’t. So what happens is you act them out because your healthy mind wants a resolution, a different ending. For me and my split loyalty between my parents, I just wanted everyone to be happy. But without my new skills, a new outcome was highly unlikely. So that’s the first thing to think about…you and your history, in the mix of things.
The second thing to think about is, what types of friendships are we struggling with? Sometimes we have those friends that we’ve been friends with since childhood and we stay friends with them only because, we’ve always been friends. And so it’s worthwhile to do a little assessment, an honest inventory of which friends you allow to be in your VIP section, and why.
Another thing that can come up in friendships is if you’re in a different life cycle. If your single girlfriend gets married & has kids and you don’t (or vice versa), you’re now in this different space and it can be challenging to maintain the friendship. She may want to talk about her kids 24/7 and while you might love hearing the updates, you don’t necessarily want to talk about only them all the time. Or sometimes a good friend will move away and trying to keep up that long-distance friendship is too difficult.
Then there are the what I like to call them, ‘fork in the road’ friendships. This can be where you’re in different places in your lives or your belief systems are no longer aligned. (Think politics or any other hot-button topic) Life happens and we all change. Sometimes you can still stay friends throughout the change and sometimes, you go your separate ways.
And then you have the AB’s of the world like the frenemy I mentioned. This type of friend is secretly (or not so secretly) competitive with you where something good happening for you seem to mean something bad happening to them. You have a choice with this type of friend. If their friendship is worth saving, you can talk to them and be honest about how you experience your interactions. Much of the time you end up doing this weird dance of when good things happen to you, you just don’t tell those friends.
Then there are the friends that you may not want in your life anymore because they are just so negative.They complain about everything, have nothing positive to say, and gossip about other people. I did an episode on my podcast last year about the effects on your brain of surrounding yourself with chronic complainers and how damaging it is. It’s definitely worth a listen if you haven’t heard it already!
Who needs this type of friend?! There’s enough negative crap in this world. As they say, with friends like that, who the hell needs enemies!
There’s also the selfish, self-centered type of friend. Do you know the kind? All she wants to do is talk and for you to listen. You couldn’t get a word in even if you tried. Everything is at their convenience with no regard to how it would affect you.
Let’s talk about the nature of friendships that you may or may not realize. This shit is voluntary. You don’t need to be friends with anyone that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. Being friends with someone that is toxic and acts like a jealous boyfriend is exhausting. You are not obligated to remain friends with someone like this.
What are the key things that make friendship healthy?
- Holding each other in high esteem
- Showing up for the other person with a certain amount of consistency
- Mutual vulnerability
This is what intimate relationships and friendships are built on. It can’t just be one person holding all this space for the other person because then an imbalance occurs which ultimately leads to anger and bitterness. There are specific reasons why we end up in relationships like this.
I’ve created this tool that I’ve used with past clients so they can identify what it is that they’re repeating from their past so that they can stop & build a high vibe tribe because you deserve to have relationships in your life that lift you up. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my female friendships and frankly, I am as invested in them as I am my marriage.
If any of this speaks to you and you are interested in learning more, I invite you to my mini-course called “Friendship Breakthrough (or Break Up) Guide” where you will learn to discern which friendships are worth keeping and how you can become a better friend as well. There is a supporting webinar for the course where you will get a workbook, a meditation, to get more details and to sign up, CLICK HERE.
So to help further you can watch my video on this HERE where I’ve also provided a little cheat sheet for you, which you can download from the same place, of many of the suggestions I’ve mentioned in this post. Thank you so much for reading, watching, sharing, and as always, take care of you.
Bottom line, friends are not supposed to make you feel anxious, bad about yourself, or used. Period!
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Newsletter, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.