Mean girls

They’re the ones who want to be your brides­maid, then hint that your wed­ding dress is too tight, your ears are too big or you’re look­ing too old and need a fa­cial or Botox. They tell every­one your se­crets and try to un­der­mine you at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity whil

Friday - - Contents -

It seems fren­e­mies are par­tic­u­larly com­mon in ex­pat cir­cles.

Emmy was ex­cit­edly plan­ning her wed­ding in Dubai. All her friends were look­ing for­ward to her big day and loved be­ing part of the prepa­ra­tions, chat­ting about her ivory lace dress, her beau­ti­ful flow­ers, the re­cep­tion for 90 guests and her hon­ey­moon in the Mal­dives.

But one friend – Judy – seemed more in­ter­ested than the oth­ers. At first, she went over ev­ery de­tail of the wed­ding, mak­ing some bril­liant sug­ges­tions, and even sort­ing out how Emmy’s di­vorced par­ents could both be at the cer­e­mony. But ev­ery now and then, some­thing she did or said left Emmy feel­ing un­com­fort­able, un­der­mined or de­pressed.

“We’d been friends for about 10 years,” says Emmy, a 37-year-old ac­coun­tant who mar­ried in March 2012. “We got on so well that I thought we were best friends. At first, dur­ing the wed­ding prepa­ra­tions, she was re­ally sweet and she be­came my first port of call with any new idea. But she got sneaky. She’d hint that she thought brides over 30 were too old for a meringue dress and flow­ers – I was 35. She tried to per­suade me not to wear my hair up, and then started talk­ing about peo­ple whose ears stuck out. She turned it around and pre­tended I was the one who was so both­ered about my ears that she gave me de­tails of a cos­metic sur­geon who might be able to op­er­ate and pin my ears back be­fore my wed­ding!

“As the day got nearer, she sug­gested dif­fer­ent fa­cials for tired skin, or she would text me af­ter a night out, when I’d been feel­ing per­fectly all right, and ask: ‘Are you feel­ing bet­ter? You weren’t look­ing well last night’. I started get­ting in­se­cure about how I looked and af­ter a while, I came away quite de­pressed af­ter see­ing her. I be­came ob­sessed that I was an older bride and af­ter the wed­ding, I saw less and less of her.”

What Emmy didn’t re­alise was that Judy wasn’t a friend. She was a fren­emy – some­one who

Fren­e­mies plant seeds of doubt in your mind, then sit back and en­joy watch­ing them grow

mas­quer­ades as a friend but is ac­tu­ally quite neg­a­tive. Fren­e­mies are sneaky by na­ture and pre­tend to have your best in­ter­ests at heart, but they will try to emo­tion­ally wound you when­ever they get the chance.

They plant seeds of doubt in your mind, then sit back and en­joy watch­ing them grow. If you’re hap­pily mar­ried and your hus­band works shifts, they will ask where your hus­band is so of­ten that even you will start to doubt he’s re­ally at the of­fice. Then, in the next breath, they will tell you a story about another friend who found out her hus­band was hav­ing an af­fair while he was sup­posed to be work­ing for a pro­mo­tion. But be­cause they’re so sub­tle and seem so car­ing, you take on board what they say.

Ac­cord­ing to Dubai life coach Adam Zargar, women have more fren­e­mies than men, and they’re par­tic­u­larly rife in ex­pat com­mu­ni­ties like Dubai.

“I think fren­e­mies are all over the world, but there seem to be more in heav­ily ex­pat, tran­sient and op­u­lent coun­tries,” says Adam, Head of Em­pow­er­ment Coach­ing for 2blim­it­less (www.2blim­it­less.com). “These fren­e­mies tend to con­gre­gate in cof­fee morn­ings and moth­ers’ cir­cles. They’re usu­ally in cliques and be­have like teenagers in the way they in­ter­act and bitch about peo­ple.

“They’re nice to your face, then they tell your friends what you have said. They give up your se­crets or they crit­i­cise you or your ideas. They do this to make them­selves more in­ter­est­ing, get pro­mo­tion, or get closer to the peo­ple they are chat­ting to. They are de­vi­ous and will do most of their work be­hind your back, when at the same time they are all sweet­ness and light to your face.

“Men may find fren­e­mies in the world of busi­ness. They may have a col­league who says one thing to their face and another to their boss. They may praise you for a piece of work, then go be­hind your back and take credit for it, or they lis­ten to your ideas, then steal them and slyly pre­tend it was their idea all along.

“So­cially, a fren­emy will try to steal the lime­light. At a party they may wear a re­veal­ing dress to up­stage the host­ess. At a wed­ding they might make a speech about their best friend, the bride, and her groom, but their un­der­ly­ing mes­sage is how won­der­ful they them­selves are.”

Ac­cord­ing to UK au­thor Annie Ash­down, a fren­emy is a jeal­ous, toxic

friend, and she urges us to ques­tion why we spend time with them.

“If they sub­tly put you down, and are not there to cel­e­brate all the good things hap­pen­ing for you, then why are you friends with them?” asks Annie, au­thor of Door­mat Nor Diva Be – How to win back con­trol of your life and

re­la­tion­ships (In­fi­nite Ideas). “They’re the ones who en­cour­age you to eat sugar when you’re on a diet or con­vince you to have another cig­a­rette when you’re try­ing to give up smok­ing. A fren­emy never jumps up and down when you get a pay rise or lose weight or get a new job or a new part­ner.”

But why would a so-called friend be­have like this – surely our friends should be our cham­pi­ons and be happy for us?

Adam Zargar be­lieves they’re ba­si­cally jeal­ous and in­se­cure. “They want what­ever you’ve got. They want your ring, your car, your child, your hus­band, your looks or your busi­ness and it eats away at them. Some­times they can’t help it and they don’t re­alise they’re do­ing it. They live in a ‘never sat­is­fied’ and ‘I want more’ world. These peo­ple will never be happy un­til they are se­cure and happy within them­selves.

“Time is the best way of root­ing these peo­ple out. You’ll even­tu­ally re­alise they’re not the great friends they pur­port to be. I also rec­om­mend us­ing my emo­tional friend­ship bank. Take a piece of pa­per and list your friends. Then make a list of all the times they’ve left you feel­ing good and been there for you, and note down how they do this. This in­for­ma­tion is the de­posit in your emo­tional bank.

“Now, in another col­umn, make a list of the times when they have let you down or made you feel sad or in­ad­e­quate. Like any bank, a good friend should leave you with credit. If you’re not in credit, spend less time with them. Work out how much time to spend with cer­tain friends based on the way they make you feel.”

So what can we do if we re­alise a friend is ac­tu­ally a fren­emy and they’re sap­ping our con­fi­dence and drag­ging us down? We’ve of­ten been friends with our fren­e­mies for years. Hav­ing been through good times and bad, through mar­riages, di­vorces, chil­dren, be­reave­ments and jobs, it’s of­ten hard to move them from speed dial, and sever links with them.

Annie Ash­down says we have two choices – we ei­ther move away from them, or we have a very hon­est con­ver­sa­tion with them.

“You may lose this person or you may rene­go­ti­ate the friend­ship, but hon­esty is al­ways the best way for­ward,” says Annie. “Be­fore con­fronting any­one, al­ways take three deep breaths from your di­aphragm. Re­mem­ber 38 per cent of our mes­sage comes from our tone of voice. Breath­ing re­laxes the mus­cles around our jaw, which nor­mally tend to tighten. Al­ways speak slowly – talk­ing too fast can come across as con­trol­ling or ag­gres­sive.

“Then tell your fren­emy you felt re­ally up­set when they crit­i­cised your ears, or you felt dis­re­spected when they went be­hind your back at work. When they say some­thing snidey, tell them you feel it’s unlov­ing to make a re­mark like that.

“Peo­ple can ar­gue with facts but they can’t ar­gue with feel­ings so ex­press how you feel. Your con­fi­dence will rise and you will leave a space for real friends to en­ter your life.

“Fren­e­mies of­ten ex­ag­ger­ate is­sues and drama­tise the ob­sta­cles they’re fac­ing be­cause they like at­ten­tion, so they make their sit­u­a­tion far worse than it ac­tu­ally is. When they do this, don’t en­gage in the drama. Just say: ‘Sorry to hear you’re hav­ing chal­lenges’. With­out en­cour­age­ment, they of­ten be­come more pos­i­tive.

“Don’t take their words per­son­ally and re­mem­ber their opin­ions are just that – opin­ions, not facts, so don’t make ev­ery­thing they say about you. Re­duce con­tact if you need to, or keep the con­ver­sa­tion short when you meet. Be­ware of flat­tery – fren­e­mies of­ten use com­pli­ments to ma­nip­u­late you. Be­fore you know it, they have you in their claws and they’re back in your life.”

‘Stop be­ing Mr Nice Guy or Girl. Once we have bound­aries, we’re not an easy tar­get for fren­e­mies’

And fi­nally, urges Annie, stop be­ing Mr Nice Guy or Girl. Once we have bound­aries, we’re not an easy tar­get for fren­e­mies.

“Don’t let peo­ple take ad­van­tage of your kind na­ture,” she ad­vises. “Say no now and then.

“Don’t al­ways be the one to drive on nights out or don’t do the shop­ping for your in-laws all the time. Peo­ple will re­spect you far more if you’re not so nice and 100 per cent will­ing.

“Neg­a­tive peo­ple like fren­e­mies grav­i­tate to­wards peo­ple who are big-hearted, com­pas­sion­ate and easy­go­ing. They sniff out peo­ple who have vul­ner­a­ble hotspots and don’t speak up. They rarely hang around with those who are con­fi­dent and have firm pos­i­tive bound­aries.”

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