In an ideal world, friends would be forever. Relationships would be endless summer afternoons and nothing would ever to change. And that’s what expect out of friendships, thanks to movies and TV and music. But it can be pretty shocking to realize you’ve outgrown someone you love (romantically or otherwise). In those moments, you find yourself thinking, «Now when did this happen?» Maybe the panic sets in. You’ve known this person for so long. What does this mean for your relationship? Are you going to stop talking? What do you do? I’m going to tell you something they should have told you in high school.
It’s okay to outgrow the people you love.
Shocking, I know, and maybe even a little hurtful to hear, but it’s a truth worth embracing. There comes a point where you begin to emotionally mature. And because it varies for everyone, you might start maturing more than your friends or romantic partner at some point in time. In high school, and even in college, difference in maturity isn’t pronounced enough to really divide friendships. You tend to be more lenient and make excuses for friends which, while not inherently a bad thing, can be dangerous. We usually expect friends to be on the same page as us, or at least not take long to catch up.
But no one tells you that your interests and priorities are going to start taking shape in your 20s and 30s. You start seeing that your adult junk might be wildly different from your friends’ or partner’s adult junk and compatibility begins to wane. This doesn’t mean things have to end in massive blowups or that you wind up hating each other. Most friendships from our youth just fade as distance (physical or emotional) begins to take place. And that’s okay.
This doesn’t make you a bad person. And it doesn’t render your relationship meaningless. While you should do your due diligence in maintaining any relationship, it’s also important to your own well-being to acknowledge when a friendship is coming to a close. I’ve been guilty of trying to keep certain relationships afloat when they’re long past their due date, out of a need to prove that I did everything I could and I didn’t give up on someone. But recognizing that a relationship is over and being able to let go is a vital life skill to have.
Sometimes you’ll still prioritize the friendship, even if the hang outs aren’t as fun anymore or they rarely happen at all. If the other person doesn’t initiate as much as they used to, or they seem reluctant to communicate, it’s hard not to take it personally. The reality is that their priorities are changing. Yours can and will change too.
Growing apart is natural. Maybe you’re the friend who isn’t prioritizing the relationship anymore. Most of your interactions happen over social media, with promises to hang out soon. But there’s a part of you that doesn’t expect it to happen, so it doesn’t.
Sometimes distance happens because one person refuses to grow. This isn’t always intentional; I don’t think I know anyone who’s ever sat down and been like «f*ck emotional growth, who the hell needs that?» We all have that friend who keeps making the same mistake because they don’t learn from their experiences and aren’t ready to grow. You put in the time and energy to help them and listen to their problems, only to look up and realize you’ve been trapped in this cycle with them for the past year or more. It begins to stunt your own growth because you’re putting more effort into helping this person than helping yourself. And that’s not very fair to you.
It’s okay to step away from those friendships. There are only so many times you can give them the same advice before you punch yourself in the face out of frustration.
Nostalgia can’t be the only thing holding a relationship together. Take care of yourself and embrace your own growth as a person. Be gentle with yourself.
Have you recently outgrown a friendship? Feel free to talk it out with me on Twitter.
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