6 Signs You're Outgrowing a Friendship & Tips on Next Steps

Some friendships last a lifetime, but others are only here for a season. Learn the signs and steps you can take if you're outgrowing a friendship.

Published July 19, 2023
friends arguing

In an ideal world, friendships would last a lifetime. But in reality, many of them only last a season. Just like you outgrow an old hairstyle, outgrowing a friend is a part of life.

Learn how to recognize when you're outgrowing a friendship and ways to cope with the transition out of one.

We All Outgrow Friendships - But Why?

Everyone's outgrown at least one friendship in their lifetime. All those awkward pauses, spacing out during conversations, and extended time in between hang outs are a normal part of growing up. Sometimes outgrowing a friendship happens just because of changes that you make, or circumstances that change in your life or the other person's life - regardless of your age.

We don't maliciously outgrow friendships. Some friendships are only meant to last for a season, and when that season's up, we have to let them go. You can't always predict when you and a friend are going to grow in opposite directions, but some common catalysts are:

  • Moving
  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Starting a new job
  • Having kids
  • Going through therapy or making different life decisions
  • Becoming more independent
  • Becoming more focused on personal growth
  • Surrounding yourself with new friends
  • Changes in interests and activities
  • Changes in beliefs, goals, or values
  • Other lifestyle changes

6 Signs You've Outgrown a Friendship

Some friendships last a lifetime, and others are only there for a season. Knowing which ones are which, and when it's time to move on, is hard. But, if you're in a seasonal friendship and you're starting to grow apart, these are some signs that could mean it's time to consider moving on:

friends looking away from each other

1. Little Things They Do Annoy You (When They Never Did Before)

Getting irritated by people's quirks is a normal thing to do, but it's not quite so normal when it's some of your best friends. If the way they twirl their hair around their finger or tap on the steering wheel while they drive is making you want to go postal, then there could be some underlying frustration there that you're not addressing.

2. You Avoid Making Plans (and Cancel When You Can)

If you're in a healthy place with your friends, you'll want to make plans together and follow through with them. But, if you change the subject every time they bring up setting a date to hang out or come up with an excuse as to why you can't, you might be outgrowing that friendship. You could be in a limbo of sorts, where you don't want to hurt their feelings, but you don't really want to stay friends with them.

3. You Keep Reminiscing About the Past

If every time you get together, the only thing you two talk about is the stuff you did together in the past, then you could be struggling to connect with each other in the present. The past is the only thing that binds you now, so you gravitate towards reliving it over and over in hopes that you're not growing apart.

4. You Scrutinize Everything They Do

Being hyperaware of someone's behavior isn't usually a good thing. If you're lying in wait, just for a friend to say a word wrong so you can correct them, or have a hot take so you can start a debate with them - it might mean you've outgrown that connection.

5. You Feel Like You Can't Change Your Look

One unexpected thing you might not realize could be tied to your friendships is your 'look.' Experimenting with how we present ourselves is a natural part of growing, and if you feel like you're not comfortable with trying new outfits or styles because of how you'll have to explain it to your friends, then you might be outgrowing those connections.

Friends should be evolving and growing with you, and if you feel hesitant to do that around them, it might be time to move on.

6. You Stop Picking Up the Phone to Text/Call

When you're really close to someone, they're on your mind - which means they're often the first person you want to send news or updates to about life. Scroll through your text messages or call log and see how long it's been since you've sent something to that friend in question. If it's been over a month, you're probably growing apart.

Need to Know

Remember that all friendships are different. You may have a good friend that you don't talk to frequently, but when you do get together, it's like you never skipped a beat. Communication can vary from person to person and from friendship to friendship. What's important is that you feel good about the friendship itself - and it works for your specific situation.

How to Cope With Outgrowing a Friendship

When you realize you're starting to outgrow a friendship (or already have) the realization of the reality is usually more panic-inducing than the reality itself. While outgrowing your friendships is a natural experience, it doesn't mean that it's always easy going. But, there are things you can do to cope and part ways amicably.

person writing

Write Out Your Feelings

Put pen to paper and release your feelings about the situation onto the page. Don't worry about crafting a well-written essay - just let the stream of consciousness take you everywhere. Once you've got it out, review what you've written down.

Within your words, you should be able to see what your biggest fears are about the situation. Knowing what you want to avoid or correct the most can inform how you adapt.

Talk With Someone Else

Sometimes, it can be really helpful to get an impartial perspective on your situation. Since you're in the weeds of it, it's hard to know what's really going on. Lay out your case to someone not involved and see what they think is going on and how they'd react.

Friendships are deeply emotional relationships, and that emotion can easily cloud your judgment. But, getting the a-okay from someone else to move on might help you do it too.

Decide If You're Ready to End the Friendship

When you outgrow a friendship, you don't necessarily have to end it with a formal conversation. As you grow more distant, so will the other person. And then you'll wake up one day where it's been years since you last spoke.

However, you do need to decide if you're ready to end the friendship. You don't want to be giving a friend mixed signals about how close you are by doing a push and pull because you're unsure. Think things through and make up your mind before moving forward.

Experts say that it's natural for friendships to end, and it's important to give yourself permission to let go of the friendship and grieve it if you've decided to move on.

Gradually Reach Out Less to Kindly End Things

People are smarter than we give them credit for. If you've decided you're ready to part ways with an old friend, just continue on the natural process you've already started. Continue to add distance by responding less and reaching out less frequently.

As the separation between hang outs and conversations increases, it'll feel more and more normal to not hear from or see that old friend (and the same goes for them).

In a study on ending friendship, results found that gradual termination was one of a common way of moving on from a friendship. This might not work in every situation; one or both of you may want more closure. But it's an option in some situations.

Letting Go Doesn't Have to be Painful

As they say, when you love something, you have to be able to let it go, and the same couldn't be truer for friendships you've outgrown. If you sit in an expired friendship for too long, you can choke out any fondness that lingers there. Don't poison the memories by sticking around. Respect your friend and yourself by knowing when it's time to move on.

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6 Signs You're Outgrowing a Friendship & Tips on Next Steps