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As an introvert, I have always been able to count my real friends on one hand, but I have also “befriended” many other people, who have become part of my life.
A friend of mine recently discovered they were betrayed by someone they had counted as a friend, and I realized that our concepts of what a friend is and what makes a fake friend are what lead us into muddy water.
When we begin paying attention to what we consider to be the makings of a real friend, we start to see the signs of a fake friend. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
The signs of a fake friend can warn you against over-investing in someone who is clearly only out for personal gain and not for true reciprocity and commitment.
After all, these two ingredients make up the core characteristics of real friendship.
Are you ready to take a really hard look at your friends and finally understand what the signs are telling you? It’s time for the blinkers to come off and see the fake friends for who they truly are.
What Is a Friend?
Let’s start with the basic idea of a friend. A friend is someone who supports you, brings value to your life, and is dependable enough that you can count on them when you need help.
Your real friend is someone you genuinely like, perhaps even love, and they feel the same affection for you.
That being said, you have to be a friend to have a friend. Friendship is a two-way street.
When you (or the friend) do all the doing or all the taking, it unbalances the friendship scales, and you end up in an unhealthy friendship.
It’s not always possible for a friendship to be exactly 50-50 all the time, but overall, it has to balance.
So, an alarm just went off in your mind, and you realized that someone in your life isn’t quite the “count on them for anything” friend. Does that mean they are a fake friend? Not necessarily.
There are many different types of friendship, and “best friends” isn’t the only kind. Aside from the kind of friend whom you could march into battle with, there are other types of friendships too.
A transactional friendship is one such example, and it’s not the same as a fake friend (as long as you both know it’s nothing more than what it is).
A transactional friendship is one where you and the person are friends, and you meet a mutual need or exchange of needs in an equal proportion.
Perhaps you and your colleague at work are transactional friends? You both take turns driving to get to work, saving on fuel costs. It’s mutually beneficial, right?
However, you won’t necessarily ask that friend to go on holiday with you or turn to them for marital advice. It’s not that kind of friendship.
If they suddenly stop driving their turns and constantly have excuses for not bringing their part, it’s a fake friendship, where one party benefits at the cost of the other.
Why Friendship Matters
You may find a fake friend burns you, or a friendship you valued has made you user-friendly, which wasn’t your intention.
Feeling disillusioned in friendship, you may wonder if you even need friendship. After all, it seems like balancing on the edge of a knife.
Friendship is a necessary part of life, and not just in terms of the transactional friendship kind. There are benefits to friendship that makes it an essential component to a healthy and happy life.
So before you ditch friendship because you’ve been burned by it or believe it to be something you can do without, here are the best benefits that make it worthwhile:
Friendship matters because it boosts your health. When you feel stressed or unhappy, you can turn to a friend to unload, share, and ask for advice. So, friendships help alleviate stress, boost your feeling of well-being, and give you someone to turn to.
Purpose and Belonging
When you have a friend (or two), you feel a sense of belonging. You enter a room where they are, and you feel less awkward. When you need someone to call, you have a friend’s number to dial, which makes you feel like you have a reason for picking up the phone.
Friendship Builds Social Agility
Having friends means you socialize more, which helps you navigate the social world better. You learn to communicate based on your interactions with friends.
This can be a good thing or a bad thing, considering whether you have stable friends or mentally unwell friends who could simply cause you to learn to swear, feel negative, or engage in risky behavior.
Stable friends help you create life values, feel better about yourself, embrace your imperfections, and swim society’s waters.
Friends Bring Support and Make You Feel Needed
We all want to feel valued, and having a friend who turns to you for help is a great ego boost as you feel needed.
Being able to turn to that friend when you need help boosts the feeling of reciprocity and connection.You feel like the world is less scary and that you’re not alone in it.
What True Friendship Includes
So, knowing what the benefits of friendship are to your life, you may next wonder what true friendship includes. Is it like a menu at the carwash where you can select the “add-ons” that you’d like? In a way, yes.
However, there are some things that a true friend should offer as an essential “service” and you shouldn’t have to beg or pay for that service.
Real friendship should include:
A Fake Friend: What Is It?
Now you know what a real friendship looks like, you may already have nagging suspicions of some people in your friendship circle. But, let's air out the gremlins and talk about what a fake friend is like.
It’s easy to assume that a fake friend is someone who is simply (and consciously) there to get the best of you, leaving you with nothing but empty promises.
However, people don’t always start out deciding to be a fake friend. In fact, your friend may believe that they are in the friendship for mutual benefit and support. But their actions and words may tell a different story.
Fake friends don’t always fake friendship intentionally. There are many reasons why they could be fake, and not all of these are nefarious.
But you end up with nothing to hold onto when you need to count on that friendship, only to discover that person is fake or isn’t your friend to begin with.
Fake friends don’t support you, they betray you, and they leave you in the red on the friendship energy scale. Plus, you often feel used because of them.
There are many different types of fake friends:
Good Going Friends
Also known as fair-weather friends, these are people who are only there to have a good time with you. When things are difficult, or you struggle, they are nowhere to be found.
The Honey-Lipped User
Someone who constantly praises you, so you fixate on them. They are a flatterer who only uses their honeyed words to use (and abuse) you.
Some competition between friends isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a competitive friend is one who only befriends you, so they can show off that they are better than you.
The Curious Critter
Friends who are only there to find out your secrets and then spread these are gossip, and they use friendship to mine you for information.
The Beggar-in-Disguise Friend
Someone who only wants to be your friend because they think you have more than them, and they can get stuff from you is a false friend. When you run out of “wealth,” they lose interest in you.
The Vampire Friend
A friend who is only there to drain your energy is known as an energy vampire, and they only want to get your enthusiasm because they lack any of their own. These friends often only hang around as long as you focus on them, feeding their ego.
The Manipulator Friend
Someone who is only out to ruin your life, get anything of value from you, and then leave you worse off is a manipulator friend. They only want to use, abuse, and confuse you, just like a narcissist does to their prey.
Why Someone Would Fake a Friendship
If you’ve always been a genuine friend to your friends, it may be difficult to understand why someone would fake friendship.
Of course, there is the simple reason that they want something from you, such as support, money, or favors that help them get ahead in life.
There are other reasons why someone may be a fake friend:
How Fake Friendships Hurt
You may know exactly how fake friendship hurts. After all, you have likely found that some of your “friends” fit just too neatly into the fake-friend box. But fake friends hurt you in many different ways.
The way they hurt you is often an indication they are fake friends. So look out for:
You may feel like you’ve been stabbed by your own Brutus when you realize someone is a fake friend. After all, you trusted them, believed in their persona, and created a part of your life around them, and now, you are left with ash.
If you realize someone is using you because they are a fake friend, you may decide that it’s time to cut them from your life, in which case, you may feel like it’s a death in your life, and you end up mourning a friendship you thought was real but actually wasn’t.
You establish your own credibility with how you judge people’s character and decide what’s true or not.
If you realize a fake friend has snuck under your radar, you may feel like you can’t trust yourself or your judgment in the future. Feeling vulnerable is another side effect of this.
Anger and Rage
Feeling like you’ve been made a fool can trigger feelings of anger and aggression. Your friend has turned into the enemy, and you have every right to be angry (especially if they were intentional fake friends).
Depression and Low Self-Esteem
Being faked by a “friend” can lead to feelings of depression and developing a low self-esteem. They made you feel like you’re not good enough to have a real friend.
Future Friendship Trauma
If you’ve been so badly betrayed by a fake friend, you could fear future friendships. You may find it difficult to be a real friend to others because you doubt that you understand friendship or know how to be a friend.
Fake friends can sneak up on you, and the more insidious their approach, the more you will have to look out for the signs of a fake friend.
15 Signs of a Fake Friend
Being aware of some signs that someone is a fake friend is how you can protect yourself and keep your heart intact to share with real friends.
Look for these signs to warn you if your friends have turned out to be fake friends.
1. They Make Excuses
A fake friend will have excuses ready to avoid accountability and get the best out of your relationship without it actually costing them anything.
Making excuses to get out of their obligations and commitments to you is a sure sign that they are toxic and fake friends who only want to get what they want, caring nothing about you at all.
Always ditching your needs to favor their own while having a lame excuse ready to pull the wool over your eyes is exactly what a fake friend does.
2. They Share Your Business
A fake friend is someone who has no concept of loyalty. They will intentionally find out about your business, so they can use that information against you.
Fake friends who lack loyalty think nothing of talking about your personal stuff with everyone, usually behind your back.
When you don’t want to trust a fake friend, they will usually pretend that you don’t trust them, which is ironic, since they aren’t trustworthy at all.
3. Their Support Is Lacking
Fake friends will avoid supporting you because they want all they can get out of a situation, and they don’t want to spend any time or effort on supporting you.
Instead of supporting you, a fake friend will compete against you, seeking their own fame and victory.
4. Consistently Inconsistent
The only thing you can count on with a fake friend is their inconsistency. You can count on them not being there to help you, making promises they don’t keep, and not showing up for you when you need them.
Fake friends are like teenagers that are scatterbrained and not ready for commitment.
5. They Crack Jokes at Your Expense
When your “friend” teases, and you’re the butt of their joke, you can expect to see more of this happening because they don’t respect you, and you are little more than a plaything for them. This is also a way of establishing dominance over you.
6. You Are Left Feeling Bad
No matter what you do or say, your fake friend will make you feel like a mishap. You will feel like you’ve let them down, when it’s actually they who have let you down. Fake friends thrive on your misery and feeling dejected.
7. They Need to Be the Center of Attention
Fake friends have to constantly feel like they are the focus of everything. They always have more drama than you, better promotions than you, and bigger news than you could ever share. They one-up you on everything, with little real interest in your life.
8. They Spot Flaws All the Time
A fake friend will be very quick to let you know about something you’ve done wrong, a poor decision you’ve made, or a failure you experienced.
Your fake friend will quickly point out that you look bad, you didn’t dress correctly, or that they can see you are no longer dieting.
Sure, they will hide behind “having your best interests at heart,” but really, they are being mean and thrive on your shrinking self-confidence.
9. Giving Negative Emotions and Stealing Positive Ones
If you feel utterly drained when you spend time with someone, chances are they are fake friends.
A fake friend will steal your joy by burying you beneath drama and conspiracy. There’s little happiness to be found in their company.
10. Boundaries Are Suggestions to Them
It’s normal for adults to have boundaries. Even our friends need to respect our boundaries, but when a “friend” simply ignores your boundaries, they are disrespecting you and cutting your right to choose away.
A fake friend may show up without calling, call your boss to make arrangements on your behalf (without you knowing), or even set up dates with people without discussing it with you.
When you tell them their behavior is an infringement of your boundaries, they will pretend to care or that they just think it’s a silly matter.
11. Digging up Old Bones
Having misunderstandings is normal for friends, but when you don’t let go of past transgressions and constantly dig those up to make your friend feel bad, then you are a fake friend.
Friendship is the ultimate form of love, and love forgives, accepts, and endures.
When your “friend” digs up old bones, they are toxic and not real friends.
12. Your Number Is First When Needed
A fake friend is quick to call you when they want something. They basically have you on speed dial when you have to help them, but when they don’t need you, days, weeks, and even months can go past without speaking to you.
Fake friends know you when they need something from you. Remember that their need of you doesn’t mean they are your friends.
13. They Force You to Do Things
Real friends respect your wishes. They’d never force you to do something you don’t want to, but a fake friend uses peer pressure (and any other means necessary) to get you to do what they want.
Their goals aren’t in your best interest, and they merely pressure you, so they can show they are stronger than you.
14. Isolation Is Their Power Play
Fake friends isolate you by turning others against you. It’s about having you reliant on them, so they can continue ruling the roost.
A real friend wants what’s best for you, even if that might not be them. They’d rather walk away if you need that than stick around just for their own benefit.
15. You’re the One Doing All the Work
A friendship is a relationship, and just like other relationships, you should both work at it. A fake friend is only there for all the benefits, so they do all the taking, never putting back.
The result is that you’re the one putting in all the work to contact them, arrange get-togethers, and show up to support them, while they are missing in action.
They just don’t take initiative, and you’re the one who messages and calls since they expect you to be the designated driver of your friendship.
Final Thoughts on Signs of a Fake Friend
Friendships can be a lot of work. If you both work at it, then you are equal friends, and it makes sense to invest that energy in the friendship. Fake friends show up like crows, ready to feast on your efforts, but giving nothing back.
A fake friend can exhaust you and cause you to become shut off for future friendships, which would be a tragic loss for you and the real friends you could have. Don’t let fake friends ruin your belief in friendship.
Watch out for the warning signs of a fake friend, and while you’re at it, watch out for the 17 warning signs you are being used by others.
And learn how to understand why you might be attracting toxic people into your life so you can live a better and happier life with real friends and genuine people in your life.
And if you want to know what true friendship looks like, check out these blog posts:
- 11 Ways to Make Great Friends as an Introvert
- 9 Ways to Make New Friends at a Community College
- 8 Simple Steps to Become a Good Friend to Others