Have You Outgrown Your Friendships?
I wish I could promise that you will never outgrow your friendships. That the laughter and future plans your friends made in those bonding moments would last forever. That you would all look back one day with smiles and hugs as you shared stories about “the good old days.”
But instead, I want to talk to you about something else: how to handle that quivering feeling when you suspect that you might be outgrowing your friends.
When you start to wonder if you are all on different pages when you make excuses because you don’t want to spend as much time with them anymore, when you feel like a stranger around them… is that bad? Is it wrong? Or is it a natural part of growing up?
Here are three signs that you may have outgrown
friendships and what you can do about it:
Sign #1: The usual activities your friends do together no longer interest you.
When you wonder if you have outgrown your friendships, consider that you may have just outgrown the activities that you have historically done with those friends.
Maybe you and your friend used to make fun of people who promoted themselves and their work on social media, but now that you’re starting your own business (and promoting it on social media!), it feels funky and uncomfortable to keep gossiping about that. Or maybe you stopped drinking, but your friend group still hangs out at the bar every Thursday and expects you to join them.
It’s easy to get stuck in repetitive grooves of where to go, what to do, who to invite, and even what conversation topics to bring up with longtime friends. As time goes on, those grooves may not feel good to you anymore.
What to do:
State your desires and feelings with your friends as clearly as possible. This will prevent headaches, drama, and misunderstandings, and it may even reignite your friendship. It’s possible that some of your friends are also tired of going to the bar or repeating the same negative conversations, but they haven’t had the courage to say something.
You can interrupt the status quo by first stating what isn’t working for you anymore, and then proposing a new activity:
“No thanks – I actually don’t drink anymore so will not be going to bars, period. But if you’re free on Saturday, I would love to check out this roller-skating rink with you!”
“Hey, I know we typically complain about her boyfriend, but I’m wondering if we could shift the conversation to something different. Have you listened to any good podcasts lately?”
Sign #2: You hold back from sharing your life with them.
You once had a natural connection and could talk to your friends about anything, but now you find yourself walking on eggshells around them, nodding your head and smiling at their stories without listening, and losing that feeling of closeness.
When the conversation shifts to you, you try to shift it back to something else. When they ask about your partner, you give a vague explanation of how things have been going and promptly change the subject. Even though you were once able to tell them anything, for some reason you don’t feel comfortable sharing yourself vulnerably with your friends anymore.
What to do:
Check in with yourself first to see what might be holding you back from opening up. Is there an area of your life that feels lonely or riddled with shame? Are you worried they will judge you for your actions? Have you been evolving and are unsure if they will still accept you?
Going out of your way to be brave and share your true feelings and stories with them, even if it feels uncomfortable, might help you bust through self-doubt and bring you all closer together.
It’s also possible that you have drifted apart from those particular friends and are feeling closer with other people in your life right now. If that’s the case, it’s okay to spend more time with the people you are connecting with the most and open up to them instead.
Friends orbit back and forth, especially if you have been friends a long time, so tune into your feelings to assess where you would like to spend your time and who makes you feel the most safe.
Sign #3: You’re the only one putting in the effort.
We all get busy, and maybe you or your friends are overwhelmed, struggling with depression, or trying to juggle so many commitments that spending time together falls to the bottom of the to-do list. For some people, the act of reaching out and initiating social plans can cause anxiety.
Practice empathy for yourself and others when you fall into these patterns. Just because a friend isn’t reaching out doesn’t mean they stopped caring about you, and most long-term friendships go through periods where you don’t keep in touch as often as you would like.
But if you find that you’re the only one who consistently makes an effort to keep your friendship afloat, and you’re getting tired of it, that could be a sign that it’s time to branch out.
What to do:
You could consider having a conversation with your friend to check-in and make sure everything is okay. They may have completely different desires around how often you should keep in touch, and getting clear on those expectations will help you structure your friendship in a way that works for both of you
Another option is to shift your attention away from that friend for a while. They know how to contact you and where to find you, so rather than focusing on them, you can take back your time and focus on self-care, trying new interests, exploring your hobbies, or making new friends who reciprocate your efforts.
This doesn’t need to come from a passive-aggressive place but simply an understanding that sometimes people can’t commit the amount of time that you would like – and you are allowed to expand your circle.
When A Friendship Ends
Friendships evolve depending on time, distance, and circumstances, and while it’s common to drift apart, it’s not usually necessary for a friendship to come to a concrete end.
But sometimes you will set a boundary, and your friend will react so harshly that you have no choice but to walk away. Or your friends refuse to stop talking behind your back even after you repeatedly asked them to stop. Or you find yourself scrolling through social media and discover that your friends unfriended or unfollowed you — years of love and memories evaporated with a click.
If a friend makes it impossible to continue your relationship or “breaks up” with you because you set a boundary, your setting the boundary was not the problem. There is nothing wrong with you, and their actions reflect their own needs, opinions, and insecurities right now – not yours.
You are a lovable supernova of light, filled with potential, and it’s okay to feel sad, confused, and abandoned when friendships end. Friendship breakups can be even more traumatic, messy, and confusing than romantic breakups, and it takes a healthy dose of resilience and self-care to rebuild your self-esteem and move forward.
In these situations, it’s crucial to feel your feelings and take care of yourself. Cry, lean on a trusted support system, and honor the lessons you learned and the positive memories you can cherish from your friendship.
Whether you reinvigorate your existing friendships, drift apart, take a break, break up, reconnect, or make new friends entirely – you deserve amazing friendships that nourish you and feel positive. May today be the day that you take a stand for yourself and create the type of friendships that you desire.
Listen to Broken Friendships with Natalie Rosado, LMHC in the Sanity & Self App now.
Have you experienced losing a friend or your friend group? Broken friendships can be just as painful as breakups, whether they are caused by an argument, life transition, or difference in values. This program will help you grieve your loss, work through your feelings, manage mutual friends, and feel empowered to heal & grow from this experience. Learn how to move on, embracing the lessons to be learned, and find trust in new healthy friendships.
About the Author
Kelsey Horton is an author & creativity coach. She helps aspiring writers, artists, and influencers bring their passion projects to life and share their work with the world. Kelsey is the author of, Robot Coconut Trees: Break Through Writer’s Block, Unleash Your Creative Voice, and Become the Writer You Already Are. Be sure to visit Kelsey online at www.kelseyhorton.com and check out her audio series in the Sanity & Self app including From Grumpy to Grateful and Find Your Voice. You can also work with Kelsey 1:1 with Chat 1:1 and get unlimited messaging with Kelsey to work on your creativity, confidence, self-sabotage and so much more.