Friendships are often one of the most significant and consistent relationships people have outside of family- they can span decades and distances. But, just like romantic relationships, friendships are not immune to growing pains. While we may wish for our friendships to last forever, the reality is that we naturally change and outgrow friendships that used to nurture and sustain us.
We treasure our friendships and invest time and energy to maintain them. However, it’s common to outgrow friendships as we evolve and grow as individuals. Although it can be a tough pill to swallow, outgrowing relationships with people is a significant part of growing and finding yourself.
While some relationships may endure and deepen over time, others may fade away or become toxic. It’s important to invest in friendships that uplift and inspire you.
Outgrowing friendships is a process that can cause a range of emotions, from sadness and confusion to even guilt. As a therapist who has witnessed this process first-hand in my clients, I’m here to offer advice on navigating the pain of outgrowing friendships.
Some friendships are lifelong but some will naturally distance over time
Understanding the Stages of Friendship
Friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. As we grow and change, friendships may transition from one stage to another. For example, a childhood friend may become a casual acquaintance, while a coworker may become a close confidant. It’s important to recognize that friendships may ebb and flow, and that’s okay. By understanding the stages of friendship, we can appreciate the role that each person has played in our lives and celebrate the memories we’ve shared.
Acknowledge the discomfort
Outgrowing a friendship can be unsettling, and it’s easy to brush off the discomfort and make excuses for the changes. But, the first step to moving forward in a healthy way is acknowledging the pain and the discomfort that comes with it. Sit with your emotions, make space for them, and don’t judge yourself for feeling the way you do. You may feel guilty for growing distant from what was once a really close friend- but remember that friendship is a two-way street and the burden is not on you alone to keep friendships going.
Recognize when it’s time to move on
Similar to romantic relationships, there are signs that show when a friendship is no longer serving you. Perhaps, you no longer share common interests, values or goals, maybe the friendship has become one-sided, or maybe you feel drained in their presence. Pay attention to these signs and take them seriously. While it can be difficult to end a friendship, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to move on. Signs of a toxic friendship may include feeling drained or belittled after spending time together, constant negativity or drama, or a lack of mutual respect or support. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and surround yourself with positive, empowering influences.
Honoring Your Boundaries
Boundaries are essential in any healthy relationship, including friendships. As you evolve as an individual, your boundaries may shift or become more defined. For example, you may feel uncomfortable with certain topics of conversation or activities that no longer align with your values. It’s important to communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully. If your friend is unable or unwilling to respect your boundaries, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship.
It’s important to communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully to friends
Give yourself permission to let go
Once you’ve recognized that your friendship is no longer adding value to your life or you have a conflicting relationship with a toxic friend, it’s time to let go. Understand that it is okay to grieve the end of a friendship. Give yourself permission to say goodbye and move on from toxic relationships while holding on to positive memories.
Cultivating New Friendships
As you let go of friendships that no longer serve you, it’s important to cultivate new friendships that align with your current values and life goals. This may involve stepping out of your comfort zone and seeking out new social circles or activities. It can be challenging to make friends as an adult, but it’s far from impossible. Join clubs, classes, or groups that align with your interests; show up to networking events and connect with people who work in your industry. Building new relationships can help to ease the pain of losing old ones. Remember, it’s never too late to make new friends and discover new perspectives.
it's important to cultivate new friendships that align with your current values and life goals.
Outgrowing friendships is a normal part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less painful or confusing. It helps to remember that true friendships will naturally grow and change over time, and it’s okay to move on from others. Trust your instincts and be gentle with yourself as you navigate this process. Remember that letting go of toxic friendships does not mean you are alone, and building new relationships can open you up to wonderful new opportunities and connections. If you’re struggling to move on from the loss of an old friendship or create new and meaningful friendships, a therapist can help to guide you through the grieving process and examine the qualities you look for in friendships to start building new connections. WOC Therapy is here for you- book a free 15-minute consultation with us today!
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