“After graduating college a few years ago, I feel like I don’t have a lot in common anymore with my friends. They want to party, drink, and go out to bars, and I’m just in a different place in my life. Am I outgrowing my friends?”
If you feel like you’re outgrowing your friend group, you’re not alone. The friends you made in your 20s may not have much in common with you when you reach your 30s and 40s. Sometimes, it’s possible to reconnect and repair friendships. Other times, it’s necessary to let go, move on, and make new friends who you have more in common with.
This article will help you identify the signs that you’ve outgrown or grown apart from friends, as well as helping you know what to do.
Growing apart from friends vs. outgrowing friends
On some level, it’s normal to grow apart from friends, especially ones you made growing up or in college. In order to understand why friends grow apart, it’s important to understand how, why, and under what circumstances they develop. According to research, people usually develop friendships with:
- People they see and interact with frequently
- People they have a lot in common with
- People who they spend a lot of time with outside of work or school
- People who show interest in them
- People who they have opened up to and leaned on for support
- People who they can be authentic around
Outgrowing your friends often means that you are in a different place than they are in life and feel like you’ve moved on from some of the old activities and interests you used to bond over. Some of the reasons you might outgrow certain friends include:
- You are more focused on your career
- You have started a family or settled down in a committed relationship
- You are more focused on long term goals and priorities
- You’ve improved your lifestyle or worked to be healthier
- You’ve done some personal or emotional growth, and they have not
- You feel like you have matured faster than them in some way
- You don’t party or go out as much as they do
Here are 10 signs you are growing apart:
1. You don’t feel like they understand you anymore
One of the most common signs that you’ve outgrown a friend is not feeling seen, heard, or understood for who you are now. This is especially true if you’ve done a lot of growing and changing in recent years, but your friend still seems to only see the old version of you that you don’t really identify with anymore. They might tell stories about things you used to like or do but haven’t done in years, or they might make assumptions about you that aren’t correct.
2. It feels like you’re walking on eggshells
You may feel like you are walking on eggshells whenever you’re with your friend. To protect their feelings or avoid making them insecure or jealous, you may feel like you can’t share some of what’s going on in your life.
You may have even had times when you did accidentally offend them or make them feel bad about themselves or their life when you shared things with them in the past. Because of this, it may feel like all of your conversations are superficial or about them, creating an imbalance in the friendship.
3. You have nothing in common with them anymore
Because most friendships develop based on a common interest, hobby, or value, it’s hard to remain close friends with someone who you don’t have a lot in common with. Over time, people change, and so do their beliefs, values, and priorities.
If this has happened, it can feel like you and your old friend don’t have much to talk about, or like your conversations are superficial, always avoiding certain topics that you don’t agree or relate to.
4. Your conversations are surface level
It’s normal to avoid sensitive, personal, or potentially controversial topics with people you don’t know very well, but most people want to be able to talk about these issues with their close friends.
If you don’t feel like you can talk about these issues because of different political, spiritual, or religious views, it can be hard to maintain a sense of closeness. The same is true when you or your friend stick to superficial topics or small talk because you no longer feel comfortable opening up about more personal or sensitive issues.
5. There is an unresolved issue between you
Another sign you’ve grown apart from a friend is when it feels like there is ‘an elephant in the room’ every time you see them. This could be an unresolved conflict or issue you haven’t addressed or an obvious change that has caused you to grow apart.
Some people avoid addressing the elephant in the room because they’re uncomfortable with conflict, and other times because they’ve tried to do so in the past and it didn’t go well. When you don’t feel able to address underlying issues, conflicts, and tensions with a friend, it can be difficult to feel connected to them.
6. You wouldn’t be friends if you met now
If you often have the thought that you and your friend wouldn’t be friends now if it wasn’t for your shared history, this often means there’s been a shift in the relationship. This is a sign that you have grown apart from an old friend and no longer have much in common with them. Sometimes, this can mean that you spend all of your time with them reminiscing about old memories instead of talking about the present.
7. You don’t enjoy seeing them
You might dread seeing your friend and rarely have fun when you’re together. You may only see them from a sense of obligation or guilt. Sometimes, this is because your interactions are negative, conversations feel forced or awkward, or just because you’ve grown so apart that you don’t like this friend anymore.
8. You can’t be yourself around them
When you don’t feel like you can be authentic and genuine with someone, it’s hard to feel like you can relate and connect. Sometimes, it can even feel lonely to be around people who you don’t feel really see you, hear you, or understand you. This can cause you to feel like you can’t openly share your true thoughts, feelings, or confront them when there is a conflict or issue in the friendship. Without open communication and vulnerability, you can’t remain close with a friend, no matter how close you used to be.
9. The friendship has become one-sided
Another common sign that two friends have grown apart is when the relationship becomes one-sided, with one person putting in most of the effort and energy to maintain the relationship. This causes a friendship to become imbalanced and often means that the other person is not making the friendship enough of a priority. Good friendships are reciprocal and require the time and effort of both people to be maintained.
10. Your friend’s life contains too much drama
You may outgrow a friend who is always in crisis or has a lot of drama in their life. While you want to be a good friend to people in need, someone who is always dealing with drama can be draining. This can lead a friendship to become toxic, one-sided, and unhealthy.
What to do when you’ve grown apart from a friend
Sometimes it is possible to rekindle a friendship after you’ve grown apart, especially if both you and your friend have a desire to do so and are willing to put in the time and effort. When this is the case, you can often work on rebuilding closeness by:
- Letting your friend know how you feel and that you’d like to get closer
- Making an effort to talk or see each other more often
- Making a plan to do more things together and be more included in each other’s lives
- Taking the initiative to do thoughtful things to let your friend know you care
- Showing up to support and help your friend if they need you
- Resolving any old conflicts or tensions and clearing up misunderstandings
- Working to improve communication and be more open and vulnerable with them
If one or both of you is not interested in rebuilding the relationship or isn’t willing to put in the time, energy, and effort, you may need to work on letting go of the friendship. It can be painful to lose a friend, especially if they were really close to you, but it is possible to move on. Relying on your support system, strengthening your other friendships, and making an effort to make new friends can all help you move forward after losing a friend.
As people get older and move on with their lives, it’s normal that you might grow and change in ways that make it harder to relate and connect to people you used to be friends with. Sometimes, it’s possible to rebuild these friendships, and other times, it’s important to let go, move on, and focus on building friendships with people who you have more in common with. Letting go of old friendships can make you feel guilty if the other person hasn’t treated you badly, but it’s natural for your social circle to shift as time goes by.
Common questions about growing apart from friends
Is it OK to outgrow your best friend?
Growing apart from a friend is hard, but growing apart from a best friend can be even harder. While this can sometimes happen, you might have fewer regrets if you make an effort to reconnect with a best friend before ending the friendship with them.
Is it normal to outgrow friends?
It is normal to outgrow certain friends, especially when your lives take you in different directions. Often, people find that as they get older, they have less in common with friends they made in childhood, high school, or even college.
Why do I keep outgrowing my friends?
Sometimes you outgrow a friend because you’ve done a lot of work on yourself to grow, learn, and reach your goals. If this pattern keeps you from being able to maintain any friendships, it may mean you need to reflect on yourself, your expectations, and your relationship patterns to see if there’s a deeper issue.
How do you tell if you’re outgrowing a friend?
There are many signs that you’re outgrowing a friend, including feeling like you have less in common with them, not enjoying the time you spend with them, and not feeling understood by them. Having vastly different lifestyles, goals, values, and interests can also be an indication.
What to do if you’ve outgrown your friends?
Sometimes you can work on reconnecting with friends who you feel you’ve outgrown or grown apart from. Other times, you need to cut your losses and move on. Finding like-minded people who you have more in common with is often part of this process.