8 Signs You’re Outgrowing a Friendship—and What to Do About It (2023)


written by JULIA DELLITT

    In true social media fashion, I recently found myself scrolling through my Facebook home feed, only to land on a wedding video. I started watching, and my husband peered over my shoulder. “Who’s that?” he asked. “Oh, just this girl I used to be friends with,” I replied. Actually, she had been one of my best friends. So what happened? Well, we grew apart. And while the reasons we grew apart make sense in hindsight, I still feel a little sad thinking of her all these years later. I don’t think I’m alone: We all deal with friendships that take a different turn than expected, and it can be hard to deal with. Losing the thread of connection with a close friend sometimes feels more heartbreaking than the end of any romantic relationship. To help, we’ve compiled signs you’re outgrowing a friend and some suggestions for what to do about it.

    1. They are “too busy” all the time

    You know that friend who never texts back? Or maybe they fail to respond to your emails, don’t return your phone calls, or are always “busy” when you try to make plans? Yeah, same. Considering that one of the most basic tenets of friendships is (duh) talking to each other every so often, having that one friend who you simply can’t reach is problematic at best and annoying AF at worst. But it’s important to know the difference between truly mismatched schedules and a complete lack of interest. In other words, is a disconnect temporary or permanent?

    If that person is going through a big change (i.e. new relationship, baby, divorce, new job, or a big move), it could just be that they’re busy. If they’re going through a hard time, they might need some space, or if they’re overstressed at work, they might feel too overwhelmed. If it is based on life circumstance, a friend would typically let you know. They might respond with, “Hey, I’m swamped this week with a project, not ignoring you!” or “I’m not feeling up to chatting lately due to my exhaustion/depression/anxiety, but I’ll be in touch soon.” If you keep reaching out and you’re getting zero ROI, stop investing in someone who doesn’t ever prioritize you.

    2. You don’t really care to connect

    In contrast, what if you’re the person going MIA on your friends because you just don’t feel like getting together? Be honest with yourself and figure out why you’re backing off in the first place. Do you even like this person? Do you want to drop $50 on drinks over small talk with them? Do you get excited to put plans on your calendar, or do you say no every time you’re asked to hang out? It sounds harsh, but friendships are often a simple matter of “have to” vs. “want to.” If a friendship no longer feels fun or fulfilling to you, don’t pretend like it is.

    Now, this is the tricky part: deciding between an awkward conversation, bluntness that could hurt feelings, or ghosting. My advice is to do what feels right in a thoughtful fashion. There’s no reason to burn bridges, and the solution could be as simple as indicating that you don’t have the extra capacity for a friendship right then. Be honest but kind, and then move on so you can dedicate time and energy to people who actually matter to you.

    3. You crave new friendships

    Sometimes, I think of the old Girl Scouts sing-song refrain: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Real talk: You need both. However, sometimes the “old” friends are not worth keeping because you’ve simply grown in different directions. The most beautiful thing about outgrowing a friendship is that it opens up room for other, better connections.

    Maybe you’re newly single and want more nights on the town or your wifed-up friends don’t understand what you’re going through. Maybe you’re caring for a sick relative and need people who’ve been in your shoes. Maybe you just got fired, and your successful friends can’t quite understand. Whatever it is, honor what you need, and look for friendships that add to your life rather than subtract from it. Tend to those “old” friendships that are worth keeping, regardless of different life circumstances, but if you just have nothing in common anymore? It’s OK to leave those friendships and find better ones.

    4. The only thing you have in common is the past

    I once knew a group of women who, when together, seemed to only talk about one thing: the past. That’s not necessarily bad, of course (I live for a good reminiscing session), but it becomes stagnant if you don’t have new memories too. For example, I met my best friend in 5th grade. We stayed close all throughout school, visited each other in college, and made a point to stay in touch every week since graduation.

    When we get together, we can definitely bring up that time what’s-her-name flirted with my boyfriend after cheerleading practice or indulge in gossip about people we both knew back then. But we’ve also both evolved; we can discuss everything from health care policy to date nights to favorite books. We’ve also supported each other as we’ve grown into the people we are now. Dwelling on the past can be fun, but your friendships should support the present and future you, too. Focus on friendships that can change with youinstead of ones that hold you back in a certain place and time.

    5. You constantly complain about them

    We’re all guilty of judging or criticizing good friends at one point or another. Maybe you vent about a disagreement to your mom or are upfront with them when you think they’re making a mistake. But when a friendship is no longer working, you may notice that you’re complaining about them 24/7. Newsflash: You don’t have to be friends with people you don’t like. Move away from toxic relationships that bring out the worst in you because it doesn’t do them (or you) any favors. When you steadily feel, think, or say a flood of snide remarks, ask yourself why you’re trying to be friends with that person in general. If they make you feel more negative emotions (whether that’s annoyance, frustration, or stress) than positive emotions, you might have outgrown your friendship.

    6. You can’t get past a fight

    Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen at some point, but what happens when you can’t seem to move past a fight with a friend? Either you find a way to resolve the problem or the relationship ends. Conflict can actually strengthen friendships if both parties are willing to do the work because you’re communicating and working through an issue together. But of course, it depends on the nature of the issue. For instance, it’s easier to fix a miscommunication about dinner plans than bridge the divide between opposing political viewpoints. If you want to work it out, try, but if you don’t feel inclined (or can’t), move on.

    7. You don’t feel supported

    Good friends are there for you throughout the ups and downs of life. Sure, it’s fun to celebrate each other’s wins, but it’s critical to be there for the hard parts as well. Even worse is when you make an effort to support friends who flat out don’t return the favor (raise your hand if you’ve gone to a million wedding showers and then can’t get all those married friends to show up to brunch). Friends support one another, and they communicate about what they need to feel supported. That last part is vital; what’s sufficient to one person may not be enough for another. But the bottom line is that it should feel like a two-way street, where both of you make an effort to care in a way that resonates. If it’s not, you know what to do: Move on.

    8. You’ve run out of things to talk about

    Some friendships begin to dissipate very slowly, and the first marker is when you legitimately run out of things to talk about (awkward!). When small talk functions as the buoy saving your life over a dinner table, you need to decide if this is a person you want to keep around. The good news is that it may not be personal. I’ve hung out with people who I thought I’d click with, only to learn that we had zilch in common—not in a negative way but more of an “oh OK, so there’s no conversational chemistry here” way. If you can’t talk to each other, then you most likely won’t enjoy spending time together, and without those two things, you can’t really call it a friendship. Move on and call it good.

    How to Know When It’s Time to End a Toxic Friendship



    8 Signs You’re Outgrowing a Friendship—and What to Do About It? ›

    The five stages of grief is a framework that includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After losing a best friend, you may experience some or all of these feelings.

    What are 4 signs you've outgrown a friendship? ›

    Table of Contents
    • #1 Your Friendship is Rooted in the Past.
    • #2 You Don't Have Much In Common Anymore.
    • #3 You Revert Back to a Younger Version of Yourself When Around Them.
    • #4 You Don't Want to Engage in Old (Bad) Habits.
    • #5 You Feel Exhausted Around Them Instead of Energized.
    • #6 The Friendship Has Become One-Sided.

    What are some signs that you're outgrowing a friendship? ›

    Other significant signs you're outgrowing a friendship:
    • Conversations with friends are surface level.
    • Unresolved issues keep occurring.
    • You do not enjoy or feel happy when you see them.
    • You cannot be your authentic self when you're around them.
    • Your friend's life involves constant drama and crisis.
    Jun 17, 2022

    How do you deal with an outgrowing friendship? ›

    We chatted to a bunch of young people on the ReachOut Online Forums and put together some ideas on how to cope when friendships change.
    1. Give it some time. ...
    2. Try to see the situation from a different point of view. ...
    3. Talk about how you're feeling. ...
    4. Be open to meeting new people.

    When should you let a friendship go? ›

    Here are some signs that it may be time to move on.
    1. You're not a priority. You may notice that your friend doesn't make an effort to be with you. ...
    2. You don't connect at the same level. Friendships work best when both people want the same type of connection. ...
    3. You give more than you take.

    What are the stages of friendship ending? ›

    The five stages of grief is a framework that includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After losing a best friend, you may experience some or all of these feelings.

    What are 3 signs that indicate it's time to end a friendship? ›

    4 Signs You Might Want To End A Friendship
    • You spend more time trying to please them than yourself. ...
    • They don't respect your boundaries. ...
    • You can't connect with them. ...
    • It feels exhausting to spend time with them. ...
    • Moving Forward. ...
    • Other Helpful Articles.
    Jul 14, 2022

    How do you know if your friend doesn't value you? ›

    They're never around in difficult times

    So, being too busy, citing excuses, or flaking out on you every time you need help or support is one of the unmistakable signs your friend doesn't truly care about you.

    When a friendship suddenly ends? ›

    One of the biggest challenges when experiencing a friendship ending is not having that person to lean on. Focus on scheduling activities and reconnecting with loved ones (but avoid bad-mouthing your situation to mutual friends). It may also help to reach out to a therapist, who can help you sort through your emotions.

    How do you know when a friendship is not worth keeping? ›

    1. The friendship is consistently one-sided. ...
    2. They betray your trust. ...
    3. They don't keep your secrets. ...
    4. They are overly negative and pessimistic. ...
    5. You have little or nothing to talk about. ...
    6. They create or attract drama. ...
    7. They are passive-aggressive when you say "no" to them. ...
    8. They dismiss it when you raise a concern.
    Dec 9, 2018

    How long do most friendships last? ›

    Obviously, most people don't meet all of their friends during childhood and, unfortunately, not all friendships last forever. The poll found that the average friendship lasts for 17 years, however, 17 percent say they've had the same best friend for over 30 years!

    How do you know if someone doesn t want to be your friend anymore? ›

    While a friend might use relaxed language, share a few jokes, or otherwise interact in a light-hearted manner, a person that doesn't consider you their friend may sound more official or formal, giving clipped responses when you meet up with them in person or otherwise engage them in conversation.

    What are 3 signs of a toxic friendship? ›

    Toxic friendship signs
    • They disrespect your boundaries. ...
    • They always need something from you. ...
    • They don't take accountability. ...
    • They may weaponize their struggles. ...
    • They make you feel guilty for spending time with other people. ...
    • They dismiss your values. ...
    • They ignore your efforts to be a good friend to them.
    Oct 12, 2022

    When should you let a friendship fade away? ›

    Even if you've been friends with someone for a long time, people can grow apart or no longer put equal effort and care into the relationship. If you can't count on them, or feel like you're doing all the work to maintain the friendship, it's okay to go with your gut and cut it off.

    How do you know if a friendship is one sided? ›

    Strong friendships are based on mutual support, however. In a one-sided friendship, the communication, time, and effort needed to sustain the connection typically falls to one person. When they need something, they seek you out right away. But when you're in need, you just can't seem to reach them.

    What are 5 qualities of a bad friend? ›

    What a toxic friend does
    • Put you down. ...
    • Gossip. ...
    • Apologize without sincerity. ...
    • Make you feel nervous. ...
    • Leave you unsettled. ...
    • Compare you to other people. ...
    • Put themselves front and center — always. ...
    • Try to change you.
    May 19, 2020

    What weakens a friendship? ›

    Lacking Appreciation Or Balance. Friendships typically need a certain level of appreciation to survive, just like any relationship. If you are constantly asking your friend for favors, yet never seem gracious or available when they need help, the friendship might not last.

    Is my friend toxic or am I? ›

    If you feel you need your friend to give you meaning, affirmation, and purpose — in other words, you seek validation from them — it's another sign of being a toxic friend, according to Dr. Klapow. “You are not looking for a relationship that is honest; rather, one that is reinforcing all the time,” he says.

    What causes most friendships ending? ›

    The most common reason isn't tension; it's just that friendships fizzle out, both experts say. Friends move, get a new job, start a family and may just gradually stop talking to each other. One study found we lose about half our friends every seven years, Franco says.

    When a friend goes off the deep end? ›

    If you say that someone has gone off the deep end, you mean that their mind has stopped working in a normal way and their behaviour has become very strange as a result.

    How do you move on from a friendship without closure? ›

    Tips for How to Get Over A Friendship Breakup
    1. Acknowledge your pain. First, know that your grief is normal. ...
    2. Practice self-care. ...
    3. Avoid rumination. ...
    4. Exercise. ...
    5. Talk to someone. ...
    6. Read about others in your situation. ...
    7. Try a new friend group. ...
    8. Examine what went wrong in the friendship.

    What age do people stop hanging out with friends? ›

    Time with friends drops off abruptly in the mid-30s, just as time spent with children peaks. Around the age of 60—nearing and then entering retirement, for many—people stop hanging out with co-workers as much, and start spending more time with partners. Others are more surprising.

    What are the signs of toxic friends? ›

    Toxic friendship signs
    • They disrespect your boundaries. ...
    • They always need something from you. ...
    • They don't take accountability. ...
    • They may weaponize their struggles. ...
    • They make you feel guilty for spending time with other people. ...
    • They dismiss your values. ...
    • They ignore your efforts to be a good friend to them.
    Oct 12, 2022

    What defines a toxic friendship? ›

    “Toxic friendships happen when one person is being emotionally harmed or used by another, making the relationship more of a burden than support,” says Suzanne Degges-White, author of Toxic Friendships. A bad friendship can increase your blood pressure, lower your immunity, and affect your mental health.

    What is the most common reason for ending a friendship? ›

    The most significant factors in ending a friendship were discovered to be, broadly, selfishness, being more likely to end friendships with those who looked after their own interest, were not supportive of them, were dishonest, and were taking without giving, among the prime reasons.

    How do you restart a friendship that ended badly? ›

    So here are some simple and helpful tips from experts that you can try (I'm planning to try them, too).
    1. Take a leap of faith and make that first move to reconnect. ...
    2. Ask to meet up in person. ...
    3. Address the issue early on in the conversation. ...
    4. Own up to your faults. ...
    5. Find new commonalities.
    Jun 18, 2018

    Why do people lose friends as they get older? ›

    People become more focused on certain connections and strive to retain them. As we grow older, we become busier at work and, for some, at raising a family. This cuts down on the amount of time we have to socialize.

    What age is hardest to make friends? ›

    According to psychologists, people don't change much beyond their 30's. This could mean that, if you've spent a significant portion of your adult life alone or without friends, it may be tougher to make friends in your 40's.

    What age do most people make lifelong friends? ›

    According to “The Friendship Report,” a global study commissioned by Snapchat in 2019, the average age at which we meet our best friends is 21—a stage when we're not only bonding over formative new experiences such as first love and first heartbreak, but also growing more discerning about whom we befriend.


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