When You Outgrow a Friendship: What to Do and Why You Shouldn't Feel Bad
Whether an unintentional falling out or a conscious cutting off of friends, this is an inevitable part of growing up
Does it add value to your life?
This is always a good place to start when you want to assess the friendships (for that matter, any relationship) that you have. Life unfortunately doesn’t always grant you the luxury of time to make this assessment. Instead, you leave it to the trust you first give a person as this stranger turns into friend. You put your confidence in the milestones, the storms you weathered together or the exact moment you realized: “Hey, this one is a keeper.” You even drum up impressive numbers as proof that this friendship is the real deal. (There is strength in numbers anyway, isn’t there?). “Friends since we were seven,” “kabarkadas since 2009,” “went to LaBoracay together six years in a row.”
Does being there for each other through good, bad and ugly at one point in time make a quality, lifelong friendship then?
In your youth, the formula for making friends is simple: being in close proximity plus being nice.
In grade school and high school, everything is decided for you. You are given a pre-determined set of subjects, fixed schedules, the same batch mates from kindergarten to HS, more or less. You likely also belong to a sheltered, tight-knit community (most especially if you go to private school). With no hold over your classes or your company, you make friends along the way with one other prerequisite in mind: being nice (then, of course, there’s being honest).
In college, you are granted a little more freedom. You break free from fixed academic lineups and a batch size of 200 students. This time, you are encouraged to challenge the very same norms you have spent years accepting. You are only just beginning to become your own person, forming your own ideologies with every question you are encouraged to ask. And as you meet people from different walks of life who categorically see the world through different lenses, becoming your own person becomes a shared journey—a journey where you are most susceptible to influence.
The new friends you add to your roster of buddies eventually become family. In these formative years spent prepping for adult life, you forge your independence together. You experiment. You try things you know your parents might not consent to. The sense of independence/rebellion is a common denominator that binds you. Most of all, you, hand-in-hand, try to make sense of how you can apply the values preached to you in your early years, eventually realizing it’s all easier said than done. Surprise: life looks easier on paper. As it happens, things are not clear-cut or set in black and white.
Once primed for “adulting,” you graduate into the real world where you face the multitudinous shades of gray. As friends, the chapters you have written navigating through unanswered questions together are now pages in a closed book. Your growth as a person is left up to you and you alone: There is no professor hovering over you, assigned to give you a grade at the end of the day. There is no counsellor to enlighten you as you make life-changing decisions. There is no principal to keep you in check and perhaps only your parents’ now hands-off type of guidance to refer to from time to time.
In a perfect world, becoming your own person and trailblazing on your newfound path is a cause for celebration among friends. So why do friendships fall apart and fall away instead?
Of course, friends are supposed to have each other’s best interest at heart, but the ugly reality rears its head in scenarios that are all too familiar:
You are an active member in the back-and-forth “catch up tayo soon!” conversation with a dear old friend. You persist until both your schedules finally permit a reunion. Alas, after weeks of rescheduling, your hangout does push through. On the way to dinner, you recount how excited you were days leading up to this meeting. This is the friend who was there for you, watched you grow, was an integral part of you becoming your own person. This is someone whose affirmation you once likely craved whether admittedly or not. Yet you find yourself, now an active member of this long-awaited catch-up session, thinking: “Is that all there is?”
“Is that all there is?” is a moment that comes in many forms:
When you arrive at the get-together expecting conversations about plans, goals and the bigger picture, but gossip is the only thing put on the table.
When you’re met with “Yan kasi, ‘di ka na kasi lumalabas” instead of “It’s great that you’re thriving at work; ‘di bale na yang FOMO (fear of missing out).”
When your friend still sounds off about the same problems they had many years ago.
For that matter: when, instead of a two-way dialogue, you are turned into a sounding board for their problems.
When the talk is always about people and never ideas.
When your friend appears to be passionate about speaking in negatives.
When the night ends and you feel toxic instead of thankful.
Heck, when you spend weeks reaching out to set a date and your friend cancels on you at the last minute—and it happens five times over.
When past antics are the only things holding any of your conversations together.
It’s disheartening to have to come to the conclusion that a friendship doesn’t inspire you anymore. On one hand, you can carry on rationalizing the present state of your relationships by clinging onto the past, but that is a temporary Band-Aid. You have to learn to come to terms with who you and your friend have become as individuals. You have to accept that people grow at their own pace and there is no right or wrong with how that turns out.
Work to preserve the friendship by seeing it for what it is now—respecting it wholeheartedly with no pretenses. If you don’t, you run the risk of embittering a friend by setting him or her up for failure because you have expectations that aren’t aligned with who they are.
After your thoughtful deliberation, it’s worth noting, too: You cannot navigate through life on a high horse plucking out friends and sizing them up (To constantly point outward and have external elements be accountable for what happens to your relationships may be part of larger issue).
At the end of the day, you also need to assess the role you play and ask yourself: What value do I bring to my friends’ lives?