The Grudge Report

Ever hear that saying, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”? It’s harsh, but spot-on. Harboring resentment, no matter at whom it’s aimed, simply drains your own emotional reserves. “A lot of times a grudge is one-sided,” says Jordan Harbinger, a relationship expert and talk show host on SiriusXM radio. “The other person isn’t necessarily even thinking about the problem.”

The Damage
Even so, says Harbinger, a grudge can wreak havoc on relationships. Say you’re pissed at your girlfriend because she didn’t seem to appreciate the IKEA armoire you spent an entire day slaving over. You decide not to say anything. But when she comes home from the grocery store the next day without the item you asked her to buy, you flip. “She’s thinking, ‘My boyfriend is crazy! I buy rigatoni instead of ravioli, and now I’m sleeping on the couch! What’s going on here?’” says Harbinger. “You just cannot have a healthy relationship if you have a grudge.”

Furthermore, the poisonous effects of a grudge can often spread beyond the two people concerned. If, for instance, you’re not talking to one of your pals, your mutual friends are hardly going to feel inclined to invite both of you to the same dinner party. Says San Diego-based therapist Jeff Palitz: “If you choose to hold on to a grudge, those negative feelings stewing inside of you are bound to affect other relationships you have in your life.” In other words, by harboring a grudge, you end up alienating yourself. The same logic can be applied to families, where grudges can get to the point that no one even remembers what the original problem was, and relatives miss out on decades together without knowing why.

Moving on …
OK, so it’s clear that grudges cause a lot of damage. But getting over hurt feelings … easier said than done, right? And yet, says Palits, “Regardless of the circumstances, there comes a point where you have to decide: I either have to let this go, or I have to do something about it.” Choosing which path to take boils down to one thing: whether you want to maintain a relationship with the other person.

“If the idea of taking the high road is instinctively unappealing to you, maybe that’s a sign you’re not that invested in the relationship,” says Palitz. Just be sure to let the grudge go along with the relationship. To get the feelings out of your system, talk to your friends or family or write in a journal, and keep reminding yourself that holding a grudge against someone with whom you have no intention of resuming a relationship makes absolutely no sense. It will only hurt you, not them.

… Or making up
If, on the other hand, you care about the relationship too much to let it go, you’re going to have to confront the other person. But do so only after you’ve had time to cool down -- which could take 20 minutes or 20 days, depending on the situation. Before approaching the person, Palitz suggests writing a letter to him or her, whether or not you intend to deliver it. In the first draft, let out all the vile, nasty, name-calling things you want. Let it sit for several hours (or days), and then write an edited second draft. It will help you process your emotions and give you a dress rehearsal for talking to the person.

Once you’re ready to talk, be honest. Let’s say one of your friends applied for a job you’d told him about. Because you really wanted it -- and he ended up applying for and landing it -- you immediately stopped talking to him, despite his repeated tries to get in touch with you. Now you’ve got a great new job and you’re kind of missing the old ritual of watching the Patriots together every Sunday. How to break the silence? Pick up your phone and try starting off with: “Listen. It’s been a while since this happened. I don’t even know if you’re still thinking about it, but I want to get it off my chest.” Despite being shocked to hear your voice, he’ll most probably be relieved that you’ve called, and apologetic for what he did. Keep things short on the phone, but make a plan to meet up for the next game. “Guys are often willing to let things roll off their back, particularly with their male friends,” says Palitz. Odds are any awkwardness will be momentary and you’ll soon be rooting for the Pats together like old times.


Conquer Your Male Frenemies

I had a friend in high school -- let’s call him Dean. One-on-one, Dean and I had great times; we traded stories, shared adventures, confided in each other. But in a group, Dean changed. He would dismiss me offhandedly, make jokes at my expense, sometimes even physically shove me aside (not roughly, but still).

Looking back, I see now that Dean was a classic “frenemy” -- he wore the mask of a friend, but was really working against me. The term used to be confined to women, but as my frenemy Dean shows, the concept can apply equally well to men.

Signs of a Male Frenemy
Just as men and women behave differently, male frenemies act a little differently from the female variety. For example, says Chris Illuminati, co-author of A** The Science Behind Getting Your Way -- And Getting Away With It, while female frenemies know that they’re screwing you over, men are more inclined to think that what they’re doing is no big deal. “Male frenemies are the guys who you just don't know where you stand with them,” says Illuminati. “One day they’re your best buddies, and the next they've done something to stab you in the back. It's usually over a girl but it can be extended to screwing you over in the workplace or with other friends.”

Indeed, hiding (or not even fully recognizing) their true nature is a key characteristic of the frenemy. Typically, points out Debbie Mandel, a relationship counselor and author of Addicted to Stress, a male frenemy is smooth, alert, and friendly face-to-face, but becomes subversive, undermining, and critical behind the scenes. “He can steal a guy’s woman for the fun of it ­-- to possess her because he can,” says Mandell. “He can undermine him in social gatherings with the guys by slinging the barbs or making fun of him… even betray a few confidences.”

Motives of the Male Frenemy
If you’ve been on the receiving end of such behavior, you’ve probably wondered: What could possibly motivate such blatant douchery? Why do frenemies act the way they do?

Illuminati thinks it all stems from jealousy. He theorizes that a frenemy probably genuinely likes you, but is jealous of some specific quality of yours that makes him want to see you fail. Mandel agrees, though adds that frenemies are unhappy with themselves and believe that by putting you down, it’s lifting them up.

Marc Rudov, the self-described “No-Nonsense Man” and Fox News commentator, has a different take altogether. He sees the male frenemy phenomenon as a symptom of a societal trend in which men are acting more and more like women. “A lot of this behavior is teenage girl behavior,” Rudov says. “Today’s guys are more like girls. There’s a whole wave of feminization of boys, and I think [frenemy behavior] is the result of that.”

Conquering the Male Frenemy
So how do you deal with a frenemy? It should be easy: De-friend him, just like you’d do on Facebook. That’s exactly what Rudov recommends. But what if your frenemy is part of a circle of friends? That’s clearly a more delicate situation, but there are still a few things you can do:

“Keep it light and superficial,” says Mandel. “There will be other guys to hang with in that circle, so concentrate on them.”

Illuminati takes it a step further; he suggests letting your other friends know that you don’t trust the frenemy. But be prepared. “You've got to have concrete examples of him being a douche,” he says.

Rudov’s advice is the simplest, and maybe best, of all: Rise above it. “If you have confidence in yourself, and you don’t worry about other guys, then you don’t really care.”

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Is it Bromance? How to Pick the Best Wingmen

When you’re out flying the -- hopefully -- friendly skies in search of a good woman, you’ll need a great co-pilot. Here are the traits he’ll need to have.

Meeting women is not a solo sport. For men, it's essential to work in teams -- typically two-man excursions with one man in charge and the other designated as wingman, whose primary role is to assist the "pilot." Whether the setting’s a bar or bookstore, a good wingman can turn a strikeout scenario into a successful sortie.

So what kind of guys should you recruit before suiting up for a mission? Well, when it comes to separating a green pilot from a flying ace, say our sources, a good wingman should be …

  • Assertive As anyone in the game will tell you, it takes guts to approach women cold. "A good wingman will push his buddy to take risks,” says Stephen Simpson, Ph.D., who wrote the book What Women Wish You Knew about Dating. “He gets you to do things you wouldn't. He's the icebreaker, the cheerleader and the commiserator when you get rejected. He makes you go talk to that woman whom you think out of your league.” Think: Sydney Fife (played by Jason Segel) in the recent hit flick I Love You, Man.
  • Similar (to you) No matter how bold your wingman is, if you don't click with him, you're probably going to crash and burn. Dr. Geoffrey Greif, a professor of social work at the University of Maryland, talked to 400 men and 120 women for his book Buddy System: Men and Their Male Friendships. Based on his research, he says, "Nerds don't like hanging out with jocks -- they find them intimidating and uninteresting. Masculine guys hate being thought of as gay, so they won’t hang out with effeminate men." In other words, your wingman should be someone you're comfortable with. While relative looks don't matter that much, he says, "men seek friends who have the same level of masculinity."
  • Adaptable It's called "jumping on a grenade" -- the wingman act of talking (and possibly more) with a girl's friend, freeing up “the pilot” to hook up with said girl. But it's just one of many wingman duties, all tying into being adaptable to any situation. If, for instance, in the middle of the evening you decide to change course and go after his prospect, instead of your own -- your friend should go with it. If you introduce yourself and your wingman as traveling beekeepers (despite his potentially fatal allergy to yellow jacket venom) to spark the interest of a group of women, he should also go along with it. And if you make him pay for the drinks, he should still go along with it (because you’ll get him back later -- right?).

    "He has to understand you -- he has to be able to read you," says Greif. "Men don't like to explain things to a guy, so a good wingman will know when to get you to talk and when to not force you to." Perfect bromantic example: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "They got each other’s humor," says Greif. A more modern bromance: John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) in Wedding Crashers
  • Male Contrary to conventional wisdom, women don't make the best wingmen. While on the surface, enlisting a female co-pilot seems like a good way to show you're "safe," it raises too many questions, says Simpson. "She'll wonder why you hang out with women. She'll think you don't get along well with other men. And she'll have questions about your relationship and history with the woman. The last thing you want is a quiet, mysterious female at your side while you're hitting on someone."

Greif agrees that men make the best wingmen, with different reasoning: "They will not press the guy to be too emotional or emotive. Men like being with men because they will not be pressed to talk about their feelings as much as with women."

The Ultimate Wingman
Put all those qualities together, and who do you have? According to Simpson, Vince Vaughn's character from Swingers, Trent, epitomizes the ideal wingman.

"He begins by encouraging you and offering advice. He pushes and guides you until, suddenly, he's no longer needed. A good wingman wants the student to become the teacher. He wants his buddy to reach the point where he says, 'Don't worry -- I got this.' It's the self-sacrificial aspect of male bonding. We can't die for each other in battle as much as we could a century or two ago. But we can still jump on a grenade now and then."