Some Very Good Reasons to Make Your Girlfriends a Priority
London-based Aussie journalist Kate Leaver believes that friendship is the cure for the modern malaise of solitude, ignorance, ill health and angst. Her new book, The Friendship Cure, explores why friendship now more essential now than ever. Grace Jennings-Edquist sat down for an author Q+A.
You address the great loneliness epidemic in your book. How often do healthy, sociable people with lots of friends feel lonely, and what can they do to solve that?
Oh, all the time. Loneliness does not discriminate, it affects all ages and demographics, including sociable people. My greatest advice, to start, is to rob loneliness of some of its power over you by naming it. If you are able to say "I feel lonely" - out loud to someone who matters, to a doctor or even to yourself - then I think you're already some way to diminishing its hold on you. From there, it's about working out where the chasm is between the quantity of friendships you have and the quality - why do you feel lonely, if you have friends? Are they not the right kind of friends, the kind who lift you up and make your days on this planet better? Look at who belongs in your life and make some changes to the company you keep. If you're not spending time with people, try to ease yourself back into social interactions - they can start out little, just a WhatsApp emoji to someone you adore, a Facebook check-in with an old buddy, a bit of Twitter banter. Then push that towards a coffee or a wine or a walk in the park. If you're not ready for humans, get a dog, a cat or a plant.
Let’s talk about breaking up with a toxic friend. Is ghosting ever acceptable, or do you have to actually actively tell them you’re ending the friendship?
My general rule is that it's better to explain that you don't want to be friends anymore; it's the kindest thing to do. However, when we deal with toxic people, sometimes they thrive on drama and they might actually just escalate their toxic behaviour towards you if you try to call the friendship off. Then, it's OK to cut them out quite harshly. Try and be courteous but if that doesn't work, protect yourself and get out.
What’s the biggest killer of friendships among women, do you think (if you came across this in your research?)
Marriage is probably the biggest culprit, and having kids. When we settle into a romantic relationship, we lose an average of two friendships. I believe we put such a premium on romantic love that we often de-prioritise our female friendships, not to mention the logistics of getting together when you have a family. We can't let it keep happening. If your marriage or relationship ends (and they do, so often), you're going to need the emotional support of your girlfriends so it's extremely wise to maintain and cherish those friendships at all times, not just in crises.
Tell us about your own experiences that led to this book. When has friendship changed your life, changed your perspective, or saved you?
When I moved from Sydney to London a few years ago, I moved 12,500km away from most of the people I know and love. My best friends - the members of my most commonly used WhatsApp group - have ended up scattered around the world. I had this kind of homesickeness for my friends and it made me realise how powerfully important they are in my life. Truly, that's what inspired me to write this book - because I just felt desperately strongly that we need to value our friendships more than we currently do and really proactively cherish our people. Friendship has saved me, and continues to save me, on a fairly regular basis. My closest friends are my brains trust, my emotional support network, my mental healthcare allies and my soul buddies.
The Friendship Cure (Harper Collins Australia) is on sale 19 March. Find it on Booktopia here. Kate Leaver is on Twitter here.