What To Do When You’re Being Ghosted By A Friend

Love can come and go, but it’s with friends we often form our most enduring relationships.

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” So said Greek philosopher Aristotle sometime around 350 BC, showing that even in ancient times friendship was seen as one of the most important relationships in a person’s life. And who among us would disagree with that, all these years later? Good friends simply make life better.

In a recent study by the University of Queensland as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, it was found that middle-aged women who had good friendships may be better protected from chronic health conditions in later years.

Another study that compared breast cancer patients who had close friends to those who had none showed those with friends quadrupled their chance of survival. Basically, friends help us live longer.

Friendships are equally as meaningful for the young. A 2020 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that more than four in five respondents aged 15 to 19 rated their friendships as being either extremely important or very important, which was a little higher than the rating given to family.

Popular shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, Girls, Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother and, yes, even The Real Housewives franchise, have shown the enduring love we have for our friends.

And yet throughout history, the role of a friend has taken a backseat to the other great love of our lives: love itself. Friends may have been about friends, but the biggest plotlines revolved around “We were on a break” Ross and Rachel, and surprisingly sweet couple Monica and Chandler.

The friends in How I Met Your Mother all liked each other at some point and Sex and the City was consumed by Carrie’s love-life and whether Mr Big was Mr Right. With an estimated 100 million love songs in the world and romance novels still the highest-selling genre, the language of love remains number one.


But it is precisely this – language – that British journalist, bestselling author and host of award-winning How To Fail podcast Elizabeth Day would like to change around how we talk about friendship. It’s just one of the things she writes about in her most recent book, Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict.

“Part of the issue with expressing how we feel about friendship is that for so long there hasn’t been a language that we can reach for that is unique to this kind of platonic love,” she tells marie claire.

“As a society, we do have a tendency to elevate romantic love above all others. There are a number of reasons for that: living in a patriarchal tradition, seeing a family as a means of production in terms of children … Whatever the reason, I think friendship has been somewhat marginalised. But that’s beginning to shift now.”

While friendship has always been important to Day, it was when she went through a divorce in her late 30s that she realised just how vital friends are.

“The mark of a true friend is someone who is willing to be there for both ends of the spectrum, who can celebrate your triumphs as well as hold your hand through your devastations,” she says.

“I hope I’ve been there for my friends in the same capacity because another thing that really marks out true and lasting friendship is reciprocity, and reciprocity of spirit. It’s not a checks and balances thing. You don’t always have to reply to their phone call within two hours. It’s just about thinking the best of each other and being able to meet each other where you are. Even though I’m now married to an amazing partner, friendship is still the most consistent, longest lasting love of my life.”

Here are four kinds of friends Day writes about in Friendaholic – showing why even the hard friendships, and the friendships that have ended, are still worthwhile.


In its 2020 Friendship Report, which involved 30,000 participants from 16 countries, including Australia, social media company Snapchat found more than half of respondents had met their closest friends at school, and one-third met their best friend during primary school.

For Elizabeth Day, it was different. She met her best friend, Emma, at age 19 at university, but it wouldn’t be until years later that they would put a label on their friendship for fear of offending close friends.

“Becoming a friendaholic actually came from a place of insecurity and feeling left out and like an outsider because of my school experiences. That made me into someone with quite a sort of insecure attachment style, where I just needed to be liked by as many people as possible to avoid that position that felt really unsafe and scary,” Day admits.

“Emma had a different reaction to feeling left out, which was to rely on herself and be self-sufficient and avoidant. And so, for both of us, the label of ‘best friend’ provides a layer of safety that is necessary. She feels safe enough to creep out of her little avoidant cave and be vulnerable, and I feel I have a position of importance and priority in her life.”

How I Met Your Mother

Yet while the label of “best friend” is important to Day, she acknowledges it won’t be for everyone. Some might find the label “really exclusive and twee” and that’s OK.

Not everyone needs to have a singular best friend; you might have a close circle of friends. It’s also important to note that best friends are not always fellow humans – your best friend could be your dog or your cat. Or your llama; whatever floats your boat.


Being ghosted by a date is hurtful, being ghosted by a friend is infinitely more painful, as Daycan attest. For the uninitiated (lucky you), ghosting is when someone suddenly cuts off all communication and actively avoids and ignores you. The most cruel aspect of ghosting is perhaps never having any semblance of closure.

After her close friend Becca ghosted her, Day grieved for years. “It is a slow-motion grief, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before,” she says. “I genuinely went through the stages of grief – I felt really sad. I felt really … not angry exactly, but kind of defensive. And then I was resigned. Now I’m at peace with it, because I feel for her, I really do. And actually writing about our friendship made me realise how important it was. Even if a friendship ends, I don’t believe it’s a failure. It will always change the way you view your life and your emotional landscape.”

Testament to how prolific “friend ghosting” has become, Day received an overwhelming response from people about her chapter on the subject. “It made me feel so much less alone. And less ashamed. Because I think that was the other thing that you’re left with when a friend drops out of your life like that. You’re left thinking, ‘What did I do wrong? Am I an awful person? Why did this happen?’ There was a period of soul searching,” she says.

Ultimately, Day believes being ghosted made her a better friend because she learnt to communicate more clearly and directly, and be more aware of herself and others. “I genuinely do think [ghosting happens] because people don’t know how to say, ‘I love you. I’ve loved our friend­ship, but things have changed. And I want to let you go with love.’ That’s such a difficult conversation to have. That’s why we ghost.” Just like romantic relation­ships, friendships end, and we must learn to have those difficult conversations.


Work friends, gym friends, bar-hopping friends, mother’s group friends, school friends, trivia-night friends, movie friends – many of us have friends who fit into a partic­ular group. They might not be our closest friends, but an overriding common interest means a certain friendship need is being met.

While Day thinks it is great to have friends for all seasons, she personally doesn’t have them. She subscribes more to the theory of “friendship layers” by Professor Robin Dunbar, considered the father of friendship studies. In the innermost layer of friendship, you can have up to five key, profound close relationships. Nurturing your inner circle requires time, attention and effort you willingly give, but you can’t do that for everyone.

“Where I was going wrong was I was trying to treat every single friend the same, and there’s just not enough time in the world to do that,” Day tells marie claire. “And so I realised I have friends who exist in other layers who I love and adore, but I might only see every six months. Or I have a friend where the agreement is we never put any pressure on each other, but if we happen to be free we’ll have a night in where we order delivery and watch TV.

“So I have layers rather than friends for specific purposes. But I absolutely think it is really helpful for anyone to just have a little think about how your friendship constellation is organised. Because it could be that you’re running around spreading yourself too thinly. It’s just about recalibration.”


Toxic friendships can sneak up on you. “Pay attention to your energy after your interaction with a friend,” advises Day. “Do you feel drained? Or do you feel nourished? If it’s the former, the chances are the friendship is not serving you in the way the best kind of friendships should. And it could also be you’re not serving the friendship either. It’s not selfish to remove yourself from a draining friendship.”

To improve matters, Day suggests slightly distancing yourself, making communication less frequent and lengthy. This is different to ghosting, where all communication is cut without warning. If that doesn’t help the friendship and you feel it is beyond repair, then it’s time to speak up.

Karen and Grace in Will and Grace

“When you end a friendship, it doesn’t mean it ceases to be part of your life, because you can take those lessons into your future. And friendships can come back in unexpected ways,” says Day.

“My dear friend Bonnie, who’s in her 70s, had a terrible falling out with a close friend when she was in her 40s. And then the pandemic happened and Bonnie sent her an email, and her friend wrote back, saying, ‘I’m so sorry. I was going through all this stuff and I took it out on you.’ Now they’re friends again. So, yes, there’s always hope.”

Elizabeth Day will be speaking at the Sydney Opera House on February 26. Tickets are now on sale. Her new book is Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict (HarperCollins, $32.99).

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