Signs You’ve Outgrown Friendships and How to Cope
One of the phases of life that many people aren’t talking about, is the phase where we outgrow friendships. A majority of the individuals I work with in my counseling practice are young adults, aging between 18-35, and this specific struggle has been a very common trend in my office lately. It leaves so many people feeling so alone because frankly, nobody is talking about it AND making friends as an adult is hard!
Most people start to notice the distance happening in their relationships when they/their friends enter different stages in life - whether that be high school friends moving to different colleges/states or friends entering different phases of their career or relationships. Oftentimes we see friendships change when individuals become married and start families - but sometimes the connection we feel to our friends starts to fizzle out for seemingly no reason at all. Naturally though, as we age, our interests and viewpoints change which can and often does change what our relationships look like.
One sign that you may be outgrowing a friendship is when you notice yourself feeling unfulfilled or identify that the relationship feels one sided. When relationships turn one sided it often leads to resentment - whether you are frustrated you are doing more or become angry that your friend is no longer meeting your expectations.
It is important to ask yourself- “is my friend going through a life change” in which case they may need some space, grace or support. If there are no life events prompting this friend to be showing up differently, it may be time to have a conversation with them or re-evaluate your expectations of the relationship.
The How: This person was and is still someone you care deeply for! Try to express your feelings of missing them or the (insert emotion) you feel as a result of doing more or hearing from them less. Offer solutions or attempt to understand where the person is coming from. If you feel efforts are still not being made or reciprocated, it may be time to evaluate if staying in the friendship serves you.
I read something once and it said something along the lines of “some people come into our lives to serve certain purposes - some are there to bring us from one milestone to another - but not all are there for the entire journey; not all are capable of going where we are meant to go”. This perspective has provided so much comfort in my life and in my relationships as they naturally ebbed and flowed. It’s interesting to think that someone can be a key player in our lives (for a long time even) but that doesn’t mean that they have to or that I am entitled to that forever.
Another sign you may be outgrowing a friendship is the feeling of a change in interests or lifestyle. Perhaps you find yourself only connecting to the past, or you find yourself feeling you cannot talk about what your life looks like in the present day, for fear your once close friend will not understand or be able to show up for you in the way you need them to, for where you are in life today. If you are married or have children, some of your friends who are perhaps without children or not actively in a relationship may struggle to understand your life dynamic and may struggle to celebrate that with you.
The How: Challenge yourself to get to know the person your friend is today or better yet, challenge yourself to try to introduce the version of you today to your longtime friend. Coping doesn’t always have to mean cutting off the relationship but could just look like changing the frequency of how much you interact, or changing the atmosphere that you spend time in. If you feel a clean break is needed, try to avoid ghosting and communicate what has changed and what is important to prioritize for you in the future.
As I said, outgrowing friendships is the piece of adulthood that nobody really prepares you for - we prepare and are familiar with relationships ending and the grief that comes with that, but often overlook the immense grief in either losing a friend, or becoming more distant from someone you spent a lot of time with.
Be gracious with yourself as you move through all of the different kinds of feelings - wishing you hadn’t drifted apart, trying to make it work (successfully or unsuccessfully), being frustrated with them or yourself for not doing more, being sad in moments you wish they could’ve/would’ve been around, etc. To outgrow one relationship of any kind creates room in your life for abundance in new relationships. Allow yourself to grieve what has changed while also inviting the possibility for new connection in the future.
If you are looking for one-on-one support with therapy, I invite you to contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305 so we can discuss how I can help!