When I was a kid my mum took me on a trip back to Ukraine (where I was born) and I was lucky enough to meet all of her 101 friends, literally it felt like the woman was friends with the entire city. And these weren’t just ‘coffee’ friends or ‘text’ friends (yes I’m aware that wasn’t a concept yet) – but friends who she’d known for years, hadn’t seen in years, and experienced every scenario life could throw.

It was right then and there that my very naïve 10-year-old self decided that as my mum’s daughter I too would grow up to have 101 friends that were just as real, kind, loyal and genuine …. And then life happened.

As I grew older and took on school, uni, work and general life – like most ‘adulting’ light-bulb moments I realized that ‘friendship’ is one big umbrella that holds different roles, those who are our real friends and those who turn out to be frenemies.

So, how can we tell the difference?

Well, in my experience, and it’s taken a great many years to get here – there are signs, kind of the same as dating … Are you being yourself? Are you being judged? Is it one-sided? Can you really tell the person what you think and feel? On paper this probably all sounds completely ludicrous – I mean really what kind of a friendship is it if you can’t have all the above. But the truth is, we often make excuses for people we have known, and loved, for a long time, until one day you just can’t – it’s the same rule as any relationship.

Who’s a frenemy?

By definition – a “Frenemy” is an oxymoron and a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that refers to “a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry” or “a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy”.

The best way I could describe it (from personal experience) is a ‘wolf in a sheep’s clothing’ – looks the part but sooner or later takes the disguise off. The trouble is when the true character is revealed a great deal of time and emotion could have been invested, years in fact, and those on the receiving end are left lost, hurt and confused. ‘How could they not have known that it was a frenemy all along?’ is a typical question that I have not only heard time and time again but sadly have had to ask myself.

If you are always the supporter, the cheerleader, the therapist, the saviour – but not actually receiving the same support in return, then sorry to say you have a frenemy. It often takes a while to realize any of this is going on, but generally true colours come through the moment you aren’t ‘playing your role’ or taking a path different from those around you.

You see, at this point, a real friend gets excited for you, they’re understanding, not to mention ecstatic for the joyous moments in your life – after all, you had always been there for them and a real friendship should always be a two-way street. But a frenemy goes the other way because you no longer serve the same purpose, the sheep’s clothing slowly starts to come off and you see things in their truth.

So, what are the choices?

Well, if you do want to have 101 ‘friends’, then, by all means, keep up the smiles and the one ended acts of loyalty. But if you want to have true friendship – be it 3 friends or 30 – be yourself! Chase your own path and live your best life, you will be amazed at how many real, true and kind people will gravitate towards you, and when the pain of the loss does subside (and it will) you’ll know that your life is filled with real people and real happiness.