How to Tell the Difference Between Friends and Frenemies

Female friendships are far from a sisterhood…according to an article in the New York Post yesterday (see link below). This article is one of many about the new book “Twisted Sisterhood” by Kelly Valen which  reveals stories of jealousy, undermining and competition amongst women ( A study associated with the book shows that 84% of women have felt palpable pain at the hand of other women. I  imagine this stereotype of cat-fighting women will only be enhanced by the movie Black Swan, coming out later this month with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis playing a dance of good and evil to the extreme in the competitive world of ballet.

There has been a lot of backlash and some noteworthy praise for the book, which lays the case that women are masters of their own troubles — held back by dis-connectivity and negativity. Ms. Valen’s experiences and the stories in the book divulge an undercurrent of betrayal and pain at the hands of other women, from bullying to taunting about weight to the authors own story of being shunned by her sorority sisters after having been raped. It’s important to show this side of female friendship (or not so much friendship) and the damage it can cause. I think every woman has born the brunt of  betrayal by a friend or another female. But the stories I hear from 40-somethings belie the premise the book makes that there is no sisterhood. I could list hundreds of quotes from women celebrating the value of female friendship with tales of comfort, support, escape and camaraderie. And then there is the massive communities that women have built both online and offline to support motherhood, relationships and beyond. From my 40-something journey I have learned a few things…accept your true friends on one hand and get rid of friends who aren’t supportive on the other. From the mouths of 40-somethings:

Value the friends you have. Be accepting and forgiving and it will give back…

“Cherish your friendships. Your female friends will be there forever. Be proactive in keeping in touch. Don’t just assume it will happen. Your friends will have your back. And it’s knowing early on if a friend has your back. Do they care more about the friendship than if they are the center of attention or if a guy likes you? – 40-something, CA

“Do anything you can to make your friends’ lives better because you’ll never know when you’re going to need them. If you want your friends to drop something and come to help you in times of need, then be the kind of person who would be willing drop things and make time for friends. You might think that it’s best to spend your time working and pursuing your career. It is important to do that but you have to make time to be with them as well. – 40-something, CA

“Be forgiving of your friends because people change. If you want to keep those friends you need to keep an open mind and let them grow and change. Forgive them for what you think are mistakes and don’t think are mistakes. Just be there and let them continue to grow and not try to keep them in this little pocket – the way you thought of them when you were 20 and they were 20. You change and you don’t realize how different you are but you see it in other people. – 40-something, CT

Work a little to create positive friendships….

“Create a community of friends. They will be your support group. I created this  group I call the cha-beauties. My charming beauties  I kind of gather people from different places I lived because we moved so much and they are my group of girls. We do trips together and we stick together. And when people are sad or divorced we don’t hide it and put on a happy face we get down with it. And as kids get older the problems get bigger. It goes from acting out to she’s anorexic. Or not doing well in class. And we are honest. We are a group now of 9. Aside from my husband they are all I got. – 40-something, GA

Don’t confuse party friends with good friends. I had a lot of women in my life that were great party friends but they weren’t good friends. If there was a decision to be made between a guy or me…or making themselves look better to someone by badmouthing me they would do it. Yet I didn’t hang out with some of the women who had been really amazing friends because we had different interests at that time. I kick myself for not investing in those friendships. Maybe I would’ve focused on things that were better for me if I had spent more time with that made me feel better about myself.” – 40-something, CA

“You have to choose wisely and know how to cut bait. Do spring cleaning. Don’t waste time on friends that are not going to be happy for you.”  – 40-something, MI

It’s hard sometimes in your 20s perhaps to tell the difference between the good friends and the bad friends. But as in any relationship, when it makes you feel worse about yourself more often than good about yourself, cut the ties.

New York Post Article: (

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