How to know if you've outgrown a partner – and what to do about it
8th November 2022

No matter how old you are, there’s always room for growth. 

What we do and who we speak to will impact how we see the world and, importantly, ourselves. 

Unfortunately, this means we can sometimes grow in the opposite direction of the people we love most. 

‘We are never the same people we were years ago because we experience different things through life and we respond to them in different ways,’ Rebecca Lockwood, a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) positive psychology and hypnotherapy specialist, tells 

‘This can shape who we are as a person and we all have different perceptions of things and situations, meaning that we respond differently to them.

‘We all have different personalities and act in different ways, sometimes this can mean that we can outgrow relationships with friends, with loved ones and with the person we once thought we were.’

How can you tell when you’ve outgrown a partner

This is rarely more apparent than when you outgrow a best friend or romantic partner, which can be desperately painful.

If you’ve worked on yourself, through therapy or general self-enquiry, to become more self-aware, grounded and accountable, but your partner hasn’t, it can feel like you’re coming at things from two completely separate places. 

‘When one person is growing in healthy ways – for instance, from a people pleaser to self-protective, or from passive to assertive – there can be resistance from the other partner because it requires the whole relationship dynamic to shift,’ explains clinical psychologist Gemma Harris.

She tells that this can also occur when one partner realises the relationship dynamic is no longer serving them.

‘Sometimes we realise that we’ve co-created a relationship dynamic that isn’t working for us anymore,’ she says. 

‘For example, we no longer want to be the emotional container for our partner, or we realise we need something different that they can’t provide, likely safety or spontaneity.’

There could also be a loss of support within the relationship, a lack of trust or emotional intimacy or you may realise that your attachment styles just don’t correlate. 

How to know when it’s time to leave

Outgrowing your partner doesn’t always have to mean leaving them, especially if you’re willing to wait for them to do their own growing – after all, everyone works at their own pace.

In fact, realising and admitting that you’ve outgrown a partner can be good for your relationship, as long as they’re receptive: ‘It can bring you to a point where you collectively decide you need to do something to change the relationship and to ignite the spark back into what you have,’ says Rebecca. 

However, it feels like you’ve tried and things are still the same, it might be time to move on. 

‘If you feel there isn’t room for your own healthy growth or room for the relationship to develop,’ says Gemma, it’s time to leave. 

Rebecca adds that, in these scenarios, it’s not necessarily the case that your partner needs to grow, it’s that you need to reassess how you feel about the relationship.

‘Ask yourself what your definition of growth is and why you feel you need your partner to move with you,’ she says.

‘This will help to communicate this to yourself and understand what you want from a relationship and from your partner.’

How to work through it

If you’re not ready to leave your partner, or it doesn’t feel like the right step, that’s fine. 

‘It is just important to acknowledge that perhaps the way you had been communicating before now needs to change and adapt to the newer version of you both,’ says Rebecca.

But how do you go about this in a compassionate way? As always, communication is key.

‘The biggest mistake people make in relationships is not communicating properly and letting your negative thoughts fester until they blow up into an argument,’ says Rebecca.

It’s important to ‘be open with each other and have hard conversations,’ when things come up, so that this doesn’t end up happening, she adds. 

Indeed, it’s quite normal to feel as though you may be outgrowing one another, but it’s important to ask why.

‘You have to explore the reasons and things you can do to help before coming to the conclusion that it needs to end,’ she says. 

‘Sometimes the changes that need to be made are very simple, and sometimes you need to hold each other accountable to sticking with them. 

‘Be kind to each other and remember you are both human.’

Relationships, as Rebecca says, are never easy – but that’s the beauty of them. 

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