Well, if you haven’t gotten rid of your frenemy or narc friend then the only thing left is to learn how to deal with them when the time comes. I recently said Goodbye to my friendship with Lydia (Goodbye, Lydia post) but I did not end contact with her formally. Due to the natural distance (she lives 8 hours away by car) that now exists between us I have reduced my interaction with her – meaning my focus in life and my friendship is towards my true friends and I don’t make the effort of contacting her.
- The first step to dealing with the frenemy or narcissistic friend is to simply accept and grieve the fact that he or she is a frenemy and he or she does not see you as a friend. Dealing with them is not possible if you don’t accept this limitation about him or her. It took me a couple of weeks to accept that about Lydia. I vented to my boyfriend, I wrote in the blog, I sat down and just processed the fact that she is not capable of being a true friend. It is difficult and more difficult if you have had a long relationship with this person…it takes time and you need to give yourself that time.
If that is accomplished then you can officially separate yourself mentally for when they attack. I use the word attack referring to any comment that does not support you, that subtly insults you, makes you feel bad, etc. The verbal attacks will come and the next step is to be prepared so you are in a state of recognizing when it happens, not internalizing or personalizing the message and responding in a way that minimizes the emotionally drain in energy you feel when dealing with them.
- To prepare yourself you need to observe their behaviors…what are the things they say to get attention, to get their self-esteem from others. When, how do they do it? Just observe objectively as best you can.
For Lydia – she is a stay at home Mom. Both kids are now full time in school. She needs to feel like she has a busy life and she is a good parent and secondarily needs to use her husband’s career to feel important and the things she has (anything new: watch, jacket, purse, camera) are important to her. She does not have the self esteem to naturally feel like that, she has to suck it out of other people to feel like that. That is the essence of a frenemy or narcissistic friend. For your frenemy it could be a number of things: career, cars, brand names, busy life, status in life, parenting, showing off (different from sharing) their goodwill to others or animals.
- To respond or not respond to their attention seeking behavior. This is a tough call.
When I didn’t respond to these behaviors with another frenemy, Marian, who I ended contact with formally…she punished me with a lot of verbal attacks because I had stopped supplying her with the supportive responses. It was awful, she started talking behind my back only because I didn’t respond routinely to every attention seeking behavior. With Lydia I have distance on my side…and with most frenemies and narcissists they will develop a new close supply (the people they interact with daily and see face to face). With Marian it was crucial to end contact because I was part of her daily life. So with Lydia I decided not to respond…I limited myself to the Like button on her status posts on Facebook. Evaluate the consequences with regard to your context. And make sure you identify the consequences accurately. Fear of them talking behind your back if you don’t respond is not a valid consequence. You are a strong person, let your character speak for itself. No matter what you do they are already probably talking behind your back…you just haven’t caught them in the act.
Lydia had noticed probably subconsciously that I hadn’t been throwing around my usual positive comments on her Facebook posts lately (about 1 month). She started texting me while on Facebook (ironically while I responding to an email from a true friend).
- Prepare for their attacks – attempts to get the attention they expect from you and the attack on you to get their self-esteem
Lydia spun the conversation to talk about her last post on Facebook and get a comment from me now…I responded in a way that acknowledged the post but quickly turned the subject back to something neutral – the weather. (I love this Tip…turn it to something neutral, it seems to work).
- When interacting with them, try and switch to a neutral topic (weather, news events, tv shows, celebrity gossip). It may be that you don’t enjoy these topics but they can minimize the destruction from your frenemy.
Lydia attacked me twice about not having a job. I was prepared for this one. When observing Lydia I read some of our old emails…she never asks me how is the job search going (which ironically that is how my true friends ask). Nope, Lydia’s questions are: so u r sitting at home doing nothing?; still searching?; job searching again?; I bet u r tired of staying at home?. These are quotes…copy and pasted into this blog. She never has asked the question: How is it going with the job search? This may seem like a small difference but it is a big difference in how she is supporting me during the time I do not have a job.
Looking at those comments…she is referring to the fact…am I still going after my goal. Well, for me…I have a goal and I try and achieve them. My observations of her is that she seems delighted when someone does not reach their goal…she has talked about her other friends to me…and when she talks about them she always points out the fact that they haven’t achieved something they wanted. These comments have nothing to do with me or her friends…they have to do with her. Lydia has mentioned she has wanted to do things…like start her own business, go back to work when the kids are in school full time, other things. It is her problem with achieving goals…not mine or her other friends.
- Separate yourself from his or her attacks. They are not about you…they are about him or her.
My response to her two comments about my lack of job yet when texting was…no response…I just said…’Yup’ (meaning I am actively looking). And I switched the subject back to a neutral topic…I asked about how her kids were doing and if they were enjoying the warm weather this week. I got a short reply (the focus was not on her or on my failures). She then said she had to go.
- Respond non-definisively.
- It would have been quite easy for me to respond to her comment about being at home all the time. But there is nothing to prove to a frenemy. Even if I said I am busy with applying/interviewing/job fairs and language lessons, etc. She would have found something else to attack. They always do.
- There is no reason for you to defend yourself to them; true friends don’t ask that of you.
I don’t know how it will unravel with Lydia. I wish her the best and I wish that I eventually don’t have to deal with her. In the meantime I will stick to what I have learned. I hope this helps those out there dealing with a frenemy or narcissistic friend.
Further Reading on Verbal Attacks