Skip to content

BEYOND LOCAL: Growing up and growing apart — is it normal when a friendship ends?


The kinds of friendships you have over the years change with time.

As we age, the number of friends we have shifts and so do the roles they play in our lives, said Toronto-based relationship and sex expert Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJessPodcast.

But when deciding whether to keep someone in your life, question how you feel about yourself when you’re around this person, O’Reilly told the hosts of Global News’ The Morning Show

“Do they help to bring out the best in you? Or do you regret the way you were speaking when you were with them…or you don’t feel comfortable with yourself,” she said. “They’re not necessarily to blame, but the relationship may not be healthy.”

Outgrowing a friendship

A friendship can start to be on the rocks as individuals begin to drift apart. A common reason for this is that people’s views and interests change over time and may no longer align, Lauren Millman, a marriage and family counsellor from Thornhill, Ont., previously told Global News.

“When we outgrow someone, our values, morals or ethics become incongruent to what they once were with that other person,” said Millman. “Nothing is static. People grow, change and develop new interests.”

With age, many people often pare down the number of friends they have compared to when they were younger, said O’Reilly. 

“You tend to have more grafted relationships, and they’re not just friends out of common interests … but perhaps your kids go to school together or you work together,” she said. 

Usually, in middle age, it’s normal to have fewer friends who play less of a significant role in our lives, she added.

Life-changing events, like a marriage or a move, could impact friendships as well, and some people decide to move into their next phase of life without certain friends, said Millman.

“If you’re moving forward without this friend or that, make sure you remain respectful and courteous however you decide to cultivate your exit,” she said. “You never want to burn a bridge or make someone feel untoward.”

How many friends do you need?

If your partner has fewer friends than you or has broken off some friendships, they don’t necessarily need to find more, said O’Reilly.

A job, family or other groups could be providing the support of a friend group for someone, mitigating the need for a large group of friends, she explained. 

“We tend to take our own needs and project them onto others …what works for them may not work for me,” she said. 

The number of friends someone has doesn’t matter as much as the quality of that friendship, John Ogrodniczuk, director of the University of British Columbia’s psychotherapy program previously told Global News.

“Strength is demonstrated by actually allowing yourself to be vulnerable,” Ogrodniczuk said.

- Global News

For more information about ending a friendship, watch Jessica O’Reilly in the video above.

— With files from Global News reporter Arti Patel and Laura Hensley.