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Awhile back I wrote about the four kinds of friends you need in your life to become more resilient. Now let’s talk about the kind of friends you actually have! Or at least the 10 types of female friends described by author Susan Shapiro Barash in her new book, “Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships.” (I promise to follow up with one for the guys, okay?).


For her book, Shapiro interviewed 200 women of assorted backgrounds and ages, and asked them all kinds of nosy questions about their friends. The result is a labyrinth of 10 types of female friendships. I have excerpted the following descriptions from her book:

1. The Leader

The leader is the friend we feel we must have, the one who can make or break our social lives. Being the leader renders one a “winner”–she is strong and outspoken; she understands her potency. She is the one who gets us invited to parties and makes the decisions for herself and for her friends.

2. The Doormat

The doormat is a martyr, and the position she takes among her friends is obvious: She isn’t one to make her demands known and rarely questions anything. She is useful when any friend, in any category, is in a bad way–the doormat absorbs her sorrows willingly. The doormat yearns to belong to a group, and also seeks out intimate friendships. To this end, she isn’t critical and won’t give you a hard time.

3. The Sacrificer

The sacrificer is the one who takes the leap for her friends, and in tough times, we lean on this person, who will answer her phone in the dead of night to console you. The sacrificer’s search for closeness is often what motivates her, and she is confident that she can handle a friend’s expectations. When a sacrificer discovers that her friends are less dedicated than she, she can be very disappointed.

4. The Misery Lover

Enough women describe their misery lover as a friend who cares more about your bad news than your good news. These friends rally when a crisis hits and are even able to make a small incident into a bigger problem, at times. Although we find this friend consoling when the chips are down–if you’ve gained weight or lost your job, had a fight with your sister or mother, begun divorce proceedings, or are suffering along with an unhappy child–when the situation improves, she distances herself.

5. The User

The user stands alone in how every step she takes is purposeful and deliberate….This friend can be enticing and charismatic and knows how to wheedle her way into one’s life and firmly entrench herself. She also has a hidden agenda and, to this end, considers what is best for her. The conflict is that she’s very appealing; there is a sense that the friendship is attractive enough to keep it intact, as frustrating as it can be.

6. The Frenemy

The frenemy is the dark side of the user, with manipulation an underlying factor in these negative relationships. Many times her act is refined, unlike that of blatant enemies on the schoolyard during our grade school days…..Although it is apparent why and when one should walk away from this kind of friend, cultural messages, oddly enough, ramp up our view of frenemies. This gives tacit approval for the emotions and passive-aggressive behaviors that accompany the relationship.

7. The Trophy Friend

The trophy friend is out for the conquest of making you her friend. To this end, you elevate her to a new level and she, in turn, offers you something you don’t already have. This friend is capable of seduction; she discovers you, and it is thrilling to be together….The trophy friend is savvy about intimacy and passion but falls short on commitment.

8. The Mirroring Friend

The mirroring friend has an identity that resonates with our own. So we are drawn to her, even if we aren’t the same exact kind of friend ourselves; it is the mirroring aspect of the equation that makes it work. Our mirroring friends want to be with us in good times and bad with their matching joys and sorrows … and are able to provide great solace.

9. The Sharer

While women are known to trade confidences, the sharer not only will tell all but will pour herself into the friendship. The sharer remains emotional and open, friendly and focused; she wants you to be her best friend. This kind of friend anticipates a serious pledge from her friends and feels that she, based on her own path, can ask for it.

10. The Authentic Friend

The authentic friend is the one we are in search for, a woman who has a high tolerance for her friend’s entanglements and is deeply committed to the relationship. This relationship makes it worth all the ups and downs inherent in female friendship, and operates on mutual self-esteem, care, and flexibility. This is the friend who reinvents her role and adapts as friendships alter with time; she also remains steadfast with the patterns that have succeeded over the years.

Copyright 2009 by Shell Toss LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. St. Martin’s Press.

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