Sunday, 24 April 2011

How to lose friends and alienate people

"Frenemy" (alternately spelled "frienemy") is a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" that can refer to either an enemy disguised as a friend or to a partner who is simultaneously a competitor and rival.

I recently went through a short, sharp and quite painful breakup. No, not with the Italian but a friend who I’d been inseparable with for over a year. Brought together by our love for fashion, writing and the loneliness of moving to London, we found solace and comfort within each other.

Everything was fine for a while, more than fine. We spent hours pawing through our favourite glossy magazines with aspirations to break into the fierce world of fashion. We saw ourselves as the straight-talking, no nonsense girls who would bring a sense of reality to an industry dominated by private school girls and toffs.

The friendship began to take a turn for the worse when I secured a full-time writing job and she graduated from a journalism course. She was in the soul-destroying role of intern and became frustrated when a permanent job didn't come quite as quickly as imagined.

Meanwhile, my career was progressing well. The support and advice I had been giving her started to seem resented, and I was accused of being spoiled, not earning my place and in one instance, so, so lucky to be where I am.

What she failed to realise was that I’d been working my arse off from the age of 16. Spending Easter breaks with local journalists and radio stations, I had aimed to get as much experience as I could, as this was and still is, all I have ever wanted to do. After doing a specialist degree and Post Graduate course in my field, she had decided on becoming a writer a couple of years after graduating in Law.

Snidey comments and bitchy texts would cast a shadow over my entire day and I began to spend more time worrying about our friendship than enjoying it. News of an exciting project at work was met by a cold and calculated response of, ‘why are they asking you to do that?’

I started to distance myself from her and came to the realisation that I didn’t even care anymore. As time went on the texts became worse and the accusations more serious. “Why have you been speaking to everyone on Facebook but me?’ The answer was simple; those friends weren’t as needy, jealous and quite frankly psychotic. I just wanted her out of my life.

My birthday came as the final blow. Hers had been a few weeks earlier and I’d arranged a day out in London with a makeover and cocktails afterwards. In hindsight, she didn't deserve it and I think it was my last-ditch attempt at salvaging our friendship. A month later she arrived to my birthday party two hours late, dressed to the Nines and without apology or even a card. Her stance on the friendship was clear. She had become the ultimate frienemy.

So what is it that makes some friendships so complicated? With marriage coming later in life and careers taking precedent, many are looking to each other for support more than ever. Now, flat shares and singledom mean women are less at the edges but at the centre of our lives - and at times, expecting a little too much.

According to Huffington Post psychologist Dr Irene S Levine, women are taught and conditioned to overlook, forgive, and forget - and we get good at it. From a very young age, we learn that friendships are supposed to last forever and whether the decision is yours or hers, there's stigma attached to losing a once-close friend. So how long should we hold on, even when the relationship turns toxic?

Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton are one of the most high-profile examples of frienemies. Once loyal BFF’s their relationship became bitter, and in April 2005 Paris Hilton launched a statement reading, "It's no big secret that Nicole and I are no longer friends. Nicole knows what she did, and that's all I'm ever going to say about it." I’d put money on the fact that it involved competitiveness, money and ego.

So when life doesn’t turn out to be quite the Friends episode you expected, should we beat ourselves up and feel eternally guilty for culling the single most negative and unfulfilling relationship in our lives? I’d say not. Move on, learn from it and hold on to the friends you know will never turn their back on you - no matter how much money you earn or how many times you get a promotion.


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