Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Friends come in and out of our lives at different times. At least once in most of our lives, we will have the experience of outgrowing a friendship. This can be a painful experience for plenty of reasons; it can be especially tricky to outgrow a friendship when you still belong to the same community as your friend. Here are some things to keep in mind if you feel like you’re outgrowing friends:

Ask yourself what has changed in your relationship.

Have you suddenly developed a new interest, and started associating more with a different group of people? Have you and your friend moved to different geographic locations, making it difficult to maintain the friendship? Or have you simply matured as an individual, and found that spending time with your friend no longer makes you feel good.

If you and your friend have simply developed different interests or moved to different places, it might be worth trying to preserve your relationship. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the same relationship you used to—but if your friend still means something to you, you should consider keeping a line of communication open.

If you no longer enjoy spending time with your friend, you might want to have a gentle talk with them. Being ghosted by a friend can be extremely painful; it’s kinder to give your friend some indication of what is going on so that they understand the situation and can move on. (If you feel that your friendship has become a toxic relationship, reach out to a guardian, family member, or friend.)

Discover new communities and make new friends.

It can be especially hard to outgrow old friends when you don’t have a new community to lean on—yet often, we outgrow friends at times when we’re transplanted into new areas or begin new stages of our lives. Regardless of what’s going on in your life, outgrowing friends can be a sign that it’s time to reinvent yourself.

Once you recognize this sign, you can take the opportunity to figure out what kind of community you would like to be a part of. Do you crave to surround yourself with artistic people who are passionate about their work? Or are you looking for a group of adventurous friends who travel together and enjoy new experiences? By understanding what kind of people make you happy, you can seek out communities that excite you, and make new friends within those communities.

Learn how to keep the past in your life in a meaningful way.

When we enter a new phase of our life, it can be tempting to pretend that the past never happened. Lots of us do this when we end a relationship or move to a new city—and most of us regret it later on in our lives! In the moment, we’re tempted to hide any painful traces of the past from ourselves and leave our old relationships behind. But in the long run, it’s often wiser to figure out how to keep a hold on our pasts.

You may have outgrown a close friendship, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have any relationship with your friend. If you live in different cities, you could schedule a monthly phone call. Or you could keep in touch via occasional email rather than text: It sounds archaic, but it means that instead of feeling pressured to constantly respond to messages, you’ll be able to get all the important information across in one go, and then have some peace. If you still live in the same area as your friend, you could meet up for coffee once in a while, or have some other routine to help you keep in touch.

But staying in touch might not be right for you—and if it isn’t, that’s ok too! Even if you don’t want to be in each other’s lives directly, you can still remember your friend with a scrapbook or meaningful keepsake.