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Is she your friend or is she your frenemy? Sometimes you truly can’t tell. She can be your biggest cheerleader at times, and other times, she can feel like your worst enemy.

According to, the formal definition of a “frenemy” is “a person who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy; a rival with which one maintains friendly relations.” If I could add to this definition, I would take it a step further and include that they can actually be a friend at times, because frenemies are often there for you at your worst times and can provide that shoulder for you to lean on. You might even feel like you couldn’t have made it without them.

And then everything changes suddenly. The other shoe drops and they do or say something drastically out of character, leaving you stunned and wondering what happened.

I had a frenemy in college, but didn’t recognize it until I was knee-deep into our “friendship.” Her name was “Rena.” When I first met Rena, I was sitting in our school’s dining hall, and all I saw were these pearly white teeth heading to my table. Her huge smile introduced her before she could, and it was clear that she was looking to make friends. Since I was sitting alone, I didn’t see the harm in allowing her to sit with me, though I did think it was a bit presumptuous of her to assume that I wanted the company. But as soon as she sat down, I could feel her warmth, and her wit was a breath of fresh air. We hit it off quickly, and because our families were from the same region, we ended up liking a lot of the same things. We went everywhere together and she stood by my side through some of the most painful situations. If you saw Rena on campus, you probably saw me too. I counted her as my “ride or die” and someone I always knew that I could count on.

But Rena had a jealous streak. This character flaw would rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times. I tried to think nothing of it, but it really started to get in the way of how I felt about her. If I showed her a picture of a new guy I was dating, she would pick him apart from head-to-toe. It was the craziest thing because nothing would really be wrong with the guy, she just needed me to feel that there was. In retrospect, it was her way of “bursting my bubble.”

As our friendship progressed, I began to see that it wasn’t just the guys I dated that would garner a negative response from her. Rena was an equal opportunity “Debbie Downer” when she felt like my life was moving in a positive direction, one that hers wasn’t moving towards. She competed with me in everything, from getting good internships, to grades and even clothes. After about two straight years of low-key and then obvious shade throwing, I had to let Rena go. Our relationship was too toxic to grow or be saved.

I learned quite a few things from that situation, specifically how to spot and stay away from frenemies in the future. They never start off bad, but they slowly get worse and worse.

For one, a frenemy is never really able to enjoy any positive developments in your life. If something good happens to you, they are usually the first person to sneer and have something negative to say about the situation in the hopes of undermining you.

A frenemy is the “friend” that can point out the negative in the most pristine and seemingly perfect situations.

They’re the queen of shade but can mask it with compliments. On the surface, these compliments sound decent enough, but can actually be taken to mean something else if you’re really paying attention.

Because frenemies really don’t have your best interest at heart, it’s a given that they throw you under the bus to other people too. Don’t be shocked if people you don’t talk to know things about you that you haven’t shared with them.

And frenemies will compete with you in the hopes that they can “one-up” you. If I went to a particular upscale restaurant on a date, Rena wouldn’t rest until she went to the same restaurant. She would come back and report her outing to me as if she had made some major accomplishment in her life. So if your “friend” has to have whatever you have, she’s probably a frenemy.

But true sisterhood is not about any of the things you just read. Instead, it’s about loyalty, support and unconditional love. A real friend is happy when something good happens to you because they love you, and because they know your past struggles, they happily cheer for you. Your real friends don’t have to tear you down to make themselves shine. They should be able to shine on their own and enjoy seeing you glow just as bright as well.

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