I struggled with starting this one; I don’t know how to fully express the emotional damage that comes with outgrowing friends.
This isn’t one of those “they’re not on my level & everybody can’t go” rants (which can get hella classist if left unchecked), but something deeper. Something more…painful.
As we move through the ebbs and flows of life, it changes us. For better or worse. Dealing with our personal changes is hard enough, but dealing with the changes of the people around us at the same time? Talk about daunting…
You can go from swearing you share one brain with someone to not knowing who they are anymore. And it sucks.
Everyone has their own opinion on whether you truly outgrow people but it happens. To me and countless others. And I’m not going to invalidate anyone’s experience, especially my own.
The hard truth is that we’re going to outgrow our friends–whether we’re entering or leaving college, becoming a parent, moving away, or going through any other lifestyle change. I’m not saying that people don’t have lifelong friends (because that’s a lie), but it’s completely normal if your circle of friends looks different than it did 5 years ago.
I’m not gonna tell you the signs or what to look for (in this post), but I want to give you some nuggets of truth to hold onto while you’re navigating this painful & confusing process.
If/when you’re outgrowing your friends, please remember these 3 things:
Friendships are still relationships. We need time to grieve, like with any loss we experience.
If we agree that our friends can be our true soulmates then why do we underestimate a friendship breakup’s impact on our wellbeing?
There’s no shortage of music, shows, movies, or memes that explain the pain of navigating a romantic breakup, and understandably so, but we don’t extend ourselves nearly the same amount of grace for friendship. That baffles me because, personally, losing a friend cuts and scars deeper than the loss of any boyfriend I’ve ever had.
Being bound together by the shared memories, support, and emotions over time is something special. We can argue all day about the significance of losing lovers vs. friends but, the thing is, our hearts can’t tell the difference.
I used to make the mistake of acting unbothered when I lost a friend and, eventually, I imploded. I became a very isolated and guarded shelf of myself. My point here? Don’t ignore what happened. Give yourself space and time to grieve what once was.
Acknowledge your pain.
Feel every emotion.
Process it, but don’t fixate on it.
Talk to someone about it.
Embrace new relationships openly.
Take care of yourself.
There’s no comfortable way to pump the brakes on a friendship.
How do you successfully communicate that you don’t have the desire for a friendship (as it is)?
You can have the awkward conversations. Or be blunt and possibly hurt someone’s feelings. Or ghost them without explanation. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you that it’ll feel uncomfortable no matter how you do it.
It’s tricky because everyone’s relationship is different; there’s not a “one size fits all” solution. Some situations can be resolved with a conversation & changed behavior while others may require a hard stop in communication (emotional abuse, for example).
There is no right response, just a right for you response.
As long as we move in the kindest, most honest and thoughtful way possible then that’s all we can control.
Outgrowing someone doesn’t mean it’s the end–only an adjustment
The funny (read: unfortunate) thing about personal growth is that, sometimes, we act like we’re the only ones who change. We’re constantly evolving and, simultaneously, letting outdated versions of others exist in our heads, and I think we do this for at least one of two reasons:
- It’s hard to acknowledge other people’s progress when we’re unsure of our own progression.
- It’s easier to cling to these “outdated versions” of our people than accepting that these changes are offensive to the current dynamic of our relationship.
Once we accept that the old ways of a relationship don’t work for us, we have two options: fight or flight.
I know I’m using a lot of break up-esque language all up & through here but please know this: outgrowing a friend doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the friendship. Or that there’s any bad blood.
If you want to make a relationship work in a way that supports your growth, then fight for it; make an effort to understand yourself, your needs, & how (and if) you can be a better friend to this other evolving person with evolving needs.
On the other hand, some people are only meant to be around us for a phase (and that’s ok). I have so many friends from my childhood and twenties who I barely spend time with now and there’s not an ounce of animosity between us! As we grow, we can end any era of our life in love, cherish the time spent, and leave it there.
On our own separate journeys, one of two things will happen: we’ll cross paths again and make it work, or we’ll reflect and understand why it didn’t. Whatever the outcome, please don’t make it an issue when it’s only an adjustment.