4 Clear Signs That You've Outgrown a Friendship

2. You become an expired version of yourself.

Posted Oct 13, 2020

As children, we learn that friendships last forever. And some do. Some friendships grow and mature. Others atrophy, leaving one or both participants in the friendship feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. Drifting away from a friend can feel confusing and painful. But there are signs that you may have outgrown the relationship.

1. The relationship is depleting rather than invigorating. Some friendships become depleting over time. What does a depleting friendship feel like? You might notice that you get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you go to make plans. When the two of you are together, maybe the conversation is all about them or tends to focus on subjects you don’t care much about.

In a depleting relationship, you may be asked to do a lot of emotional labor, such as being asked to support them while they repeatedly complain about their job or spouse. After hanging out with this person, you may feel exhausted and wrung out. You may feel frustrated or angry but avoid potential conflict. You may vent about the friendship to others. These friendships take far more than they give.

 Sarah Epstein
Source: Source: Sarah Epstein

2. You become an expired version of yourself when you’re with them. Ideally, a friendship grows with you and allows you to be yourself as you are in the moment. But some friendships get stuck in the past, and one or both participants become expired versions of themselves.

In a stuck friendship like this one, you may be called upon to joke about things that no longer feel funny to you. You might be referenced as the “class clown” or “popular guy” or “nerd” long after you grew out of those monikers. Those types of friendships can feel stifling, like you can’t be who you actually are.

3. One person stops putting effort into the friendship. Sometimes, one person stops putting effort into maintaining the relationship. In these friendships, you make all the plans and follow up to make sure the plans happen. You may always offer to meet closer to them or go to restaurants they prefer. You may check in after big life events but not receive the same consideration. You may request more effort but find that the other person either will not or cannot comply.

Alternatively, you may notice that you’re the one no longer putting effort into the relationship. Perhaps you’re not as invested as you once were, and rely on your friend to make gatherings happen. It may feel easier to let the relationship continue rather than have a difficult conversation about where the two of you stand.

4. You have nothing in common anymore. You may have outgrown a friendship if you no longer have anything in common. Perhaps you were once best friends but pursued different interests or education and now find that it is difficult to maintain an easy flow of conversation. Instead, discussions may feel stilted, jumping from topic to topic or landing on a few limited areas of shared interest. You may feel confused or distressed during each hangout to realize that there isn’t much of a thread between you anymore.

Whether the friendship is from childhood, college, or adulthood, once-deep ties can be incredibly painful to end. These friendships are laden with a rich history, joyful memories, and hope for the future. But sometimes, holding onto a relationship that you’ve outgrown can be more painful, exhausting, and frustrating than mourning the loss and letting the person go.

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