Friendships can be fickle. One minute they're great, but the next, it can feel like someone put up a wall between you for reasons you don’t understand. So, what do you do when you suddenly realize your friend is ignoring your texts, calls, and invitations to hang out? Knowing the correct response and how to work past problems in friendships isn’t always simple, but it can help ensure you stand up for yourself and your emotions without overstepping any boundaries.
In most cases, relationships (with friends, family members, partners — you name it) occur cyclically. While you may wish friendships were always on a “high,” the reality is that there are peaks and valleys. In the same way that we accept and allow romantic relationships to ebb and flow, we should approach friendships the same way. There will be times when things are great, and other periods where issues will inevitably arise. If you feel like you're being ignored, then chances are, you're in one of these valleys.
Still, most people don’t invest the same emotional energy and effort in friendships as they do in romantic or family relationships. Psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Marisa Franco says this is likely because we tend to compartmentalize what makes a friendship successful, as opposed to other types of relationships. “Research finds that people are less likely to have that open conflict in their friendships, compared to romantic relationships,” she tells Elite Daily. “Often, when people have a problem with their friend, they don't bring it up, and instead they just choose to distance themselves or to leave the relationship altogether.”
Having open conflict in an empathic way actually creates more closeness in any relationship, including a platonic one. That being said, here’s what friendship experts have to say about what it might mean when a friend ignores you, how to identify the problem, and the ways to find a solution.
Why It Feels Like A Friend Is Ignoring You
It can be difficult to figure out why a friend is ignoring you all of a sudden and how to respond to the situation. A friend ignoring you can manifest in many different ways, according to Franco. It can be anything from not hearing back from a friend for a while, always being the only person reaching out, seeing your friend hang out with other people without inviting you, or generally just feeling like something is off, but nobody is addressing it directly.
As friendship expert and connection coach Kat Vellos explains, any time there's an imbalance or lack of reciprocity in a friendship, it can feel like one person ignoring the other, but perception is not always reality. “The act of ignoring is a willful action — it means purposely avoiding giving attention or response to another,” Vellos tells Elite Daily. “So, we need to be aware that our interpretation is not necessarily reality. Someone may not be giving [you] their attention if their mind and calendar are focused on other things, but it doesn't mean that they are willfully choosing to ignore you directly.”
There are plenty of situations when a friend doesn't reply in a long time that aren’t purposeful or malicious. People get busy and don't always realize they're blocking others out. For example, let's say your friend just got a new job in a new city. Whereas they used to live five minutes away and have a predictable schedule that left them with a lot of free time, they're now in a new city with fresh challenges and obligations.
It could simply be a byproduct of a demanding schedule that requires more of your friend’s time and energy. Or maybe they are dealing with something in their life that is taking up time or emotional space, such as caring for someone else or dealing with their own mental health. Vellos recommends resisting the urge to make up a story about why your friend isn't reaching out, because you truly don’t always know what is going on, no matter how close you are.
Still, it can be hurtful to feel as though you’re being ignored by someone you care about. After all, friendships are incredibly influential in our lives. “Friends are just really important for our sense of who we are, and for us to experience the richness and the depth and the fullness of who we are,” says Franco. Prioritizing friendships throughout life is associated with better health and well-being, according to a 2021 study from Michigan State University — and in some cases, close friendships may be even more psychologically beneficial than positive relationships with family members.
If things go south with a friend, or at least you feel like that’s the case, it can feel like a deeply personal loss. “When we suspect that our friend might be purposely ignoring us, it's painful because it might mean that we’re not important enough to them to be a priority,” Vellos says.
However, it’s essential not to assume the worst or take things too personally if you haven’t talked with your friend. “A friend’s behavior may be out of alignment with what our personal needs and desires are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person wants to hurt us,” Vellos says. “Instead of playing psychic, invite a conversation to really learn and understand the other person.” The only way to fully understand what’s going on is to have a conversation about it.
How To Handle The Situation
If you feel like you're being ignored — whether purposefully or unintentionally — it's important to take action and get to the root cause, but in an emotionally thoughtful way. Sometimes when you feel hurt, it’s easy to go on the offensive. “When we are in a state of suffering, we tend to be more egocentric,” Franco says.
That being said, here are four ways to deal with a friend who ignores you, according to the experts:
1. Talk It Out
The ultimate way to get clarity is to have a conversation with your friend, keeping in mind that you want to avoid coming off as blaming or attacking them. “Try to avoid making accusations that will cause them to feel like they did something wrong or that would put them on the defensive,” explains Vellos. “Instead, focus on observations of facts, and share your feelings and requests.”
Sending something simple such as, “Hey, I noticed I haven't heard back from you the last couple of times I tried to reach out, so I just want to check in to see what might be going on on your end” should do the trick to get things started. Approach the situation from a place of love and respect. “[The] first step is to frame the discussion by indicating to your friend that you bring up this problem because you value the relationship,” says Franco.
While smartphones and social media are great for communication, meeting face-to-face is the best way to go about resolving something like this, as facial expressions and body language make things easier for both parties to understand each other. So, if you can, try to get together in person with your friend for a conversation about the issue.
2. Take Care Of Yourself
If you begin to think that a friend is ignoring you, it might feel painful or difficult to do anything about it immediately. If that’s the case, Franco recommends taking time to take care of yourself. “Don't trivialize your feelings,” she says.
When a friend hurts you by ghosting you, even if it’s accidental or you don’t know the entirety of the situation yet, prioritizing self-care is essential, because if you don’t, it’s easy to ruminate on the issue and feel despondent. Allowing yourself to spiral might make you forget that you are ultimately trying to figure out a solution that will work for both you and your friend. “Take a beat, take a pause, and take a breath,” Franco advises.
3. Talk To Another Friend
Another part of self-care is finding a healthy outlet to express your feelings, so confiding in another friend can be incredibly cathartic in this situation. “It’s uncertainty that really feels unraveling for us, and when we confide in people, it really improves our mental health and well-being, because our feelings need to complete or be expressed,” says Franco.
If feelings of isolation and inadequacy are bubbling up as a result of someone ignoring you, spending time with another friend who cares about you can help bring you out of those depths and remind you of the importance of your platonic relationships. If your friendship is strong, you should be able to move past a rough patch with any of your good friends.
4. If Needed, Move On
At the end of the day, there are some things you can’t control. If you've exhausted all your options and made no progress, there comes a time when you just need to move on.
Perhaps you talked to your friend and found that the reason they’re not giving you as much attention as you'd like is because they actually don't feel as invested in the friendship as you do. “That might sting at first, but be grateful that you received clarity — you no longer have to wonder what's happening or why,” says Vellos. Or, alternatively, maybe you’ve tried to reach out and rekindle your friendship, but they are unwilling to do so and keep ignoring you.
In both of these cases, it’s time to accept that the friendship has ended and allow yourself to grieve, however long that timeline may be, explains Franco. Mourning a friendship will always be painful, but it’s important to remember the parts of it that were positive in your life. “Make meaning of the friendship, and think about what you did get out of this friendship,” she says. “Think: ‘This is what it revealed to me about what my deeper needs are in friendships going forward.’”
Ultimately, there is no one answer of what to do if a friend is ignoring you, but it is important to keep in mind that things are usually not as bad as they seem. Hopefully, you can have an honest conversation with your bestie about ways to repair the relationship and move your friendship forward together.
Lu, P., Oh, J., Leahy, K. E., & Chopik, W. J. (2021). Friendship Importance Around the World: Links to Cultural Factors, Health, and Well-Being. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 570839. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.570839
Dr. Marisa Franco, psychologist and friendship expert
Kat Vellos, friendship expert and connection coach
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