Sometimes, Couples Just Outgrow Each Other: Here's Why You Shouldn't Ignore It
There are plenty of reasons to break up with your romantic partner (or even a friend) that are more obvious: manipulation, gaslighting, constant fights, and other overtly unhealthy dynamics.
Sometimes, however, the reason might not be so blatant or so egregious. Sometimes, you've just outgrown each other.
While that may not seem like it needs to result in ending the relationship, relationship experts say this isn't something you should ignore—no matter how much you may still love your partner.
When partners outgrow each other.
We're always growing and evolving, and sometimes, two people grow together, while others grow apart. Recognizing when this is happening in your own relationship can be difficult, especially if the relationship is otherwise "good," or comfortable.
If one person is changing while the other isn't, it can create a disconnect in the relationship, according to Margaret Paul, Ph.D., relationship psychologist and co-founder of Inner Bonding. "If the person is on an emotional and spiritual growth path, and their partner just isn't interested at all, there's not going to be much of an emotional connection," she recently told mbg. "They're not at the same place they may have been when they got together, and it may be time to move on if that connection isn't there."
As clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, also previously explained to mbg, identifying when you've outgrown a partner takes a lot of honesty, and it may even bring up feelings of guilt.
"Some people choose not to grow or choose to calcify or devolve into something else," she explains, but she adds, "And sometimes other people watching us grow don't feel happy about that."
Indeed, staying in a situation that inhibits your growth is only doing yourself a disservice in the long run. And this is especially true if your partner is going so far as to sabotage your growth. Relationships should push us to be the best versions of ourselves, not the other way around.
This applies to friendships, too.
For what it's worth, you can outgrow friendships, too—and it can be just as easy to ignore as it is in your romantic relationships. As therapist Alyssa "Lia" Mancao, LCSW, previously wrote for mbg, "When you find that you no longer have things in common and are no longer interested in the conversations at hand, this is a sign that the people in the friendship may have outgrown each other," she explains. (That applies to romantic relationships, too.)
She adds that outgrowing friends isn't uncommon, especially if you've been friends since childhood—but having a long history isn't a reason to stay in a relationship or friendship.
"As we grow and evolve, our interests, values, morals, and ethics do too. The people we were in the past are often not the people we are now, and sometimes, this means letting go of friends who support the older narrative of who we once were and not who we are now," she explains.
This is especially true if you feel particular people in your life aren't supporting you and the person you want to be.
"You might find these friends may not respect where you are in life and ask you to do things that no longer fall in line with who you are or where you are trying to go," Mancao notes, adding, "It is OK to have friends with whom your values and ethics no longer align; however, when the mismatch in values and ethics prevents you from growing and getting to where you want to go, it is OK to choose a friend circle that supports your growth and fosters the best version of you."
The bottom line is, as the stages of our lives come and go, so do the people in them—and that's OK. As Neo puts it, "If you seek growth—this is an inevitable thing that happens—we outgrow people, even those that we love."
When a relationship (romantic or otherwise) has run its course, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our own personal evolution is know when to walk away.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.