Is The Fade Really All That Bad?

Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): MZifading
Comment: I met this man online 3 months ago. I really liked him since the first date, I think we are very compatible meaning we want the same type of future, we share similar interests and values. We also had a good chemistry since we both had a great time that day and the following dates. He initiated our second date that happened 3 days later, and then initiated most of the following dates. We had sex on date #3 and we saw each other pretty often, 3 times a week in average except when one of us was out of town or when he family visited from abroAd for 3 weeks (we are both expatriates). After almost 3 months of dating, he told me that he was not sure he wanted to continue seeing each other and that he has been going back and forth about it. Since then, he’s been sending mixed signals. The following time we met, he said he didn’t want to let the situation the way it was because what we had was nice and special. But he didn’t touch me or kissed me. He didn’t mention seeing me again. It sounded like to nice break-up get together. Then, we both went abroad to spend time with our families and he texted me to wish me a good trip, then he emailed me a few times during my stay and said we should meet when we’re both back in town. I came back Monday night and on Wednesday he emailed me to ask if I want to do brunch with him on Sunday. I don’t know what to do. I like him a lot and I completely envision me being in a long term relationship with me. It seems to me that 3 months of regular dating is enough to know if you want to have a relationship with someone. I’m afraid that if I keep seeing him my feelings will keep growing and things will be even harder if he finally decides to end things. His profile on the dating site is still up, he wasn’t very active during the 3 months we dated, spending over 3 weeks without using it but the past few days he has been using it on a daily basis. I had deactivated my profile 2 or 3 weeks after we started dating because I wasn’t interested in seeing other people but I reactivated yesterday when I saw that he became more active online. What should I do?
Age: 31
City: New York

State: NY

It sounds like maybe he was trying to slow the relationship down a bit if not end it completely. If he’s actively using his profile, and he knows you might possibly see that he’s actively using his profile, then my guess is he’s looking to move on.  Instead of just abruptly ending things he’s telling you about his confusion about where the relationship is going. That’s all code for, “I’m out of here.” Someone who wants to keep dating you to see where things are going would never tell you about their ambivalence. They’d just keep their mouth shut and she how things progress and then make a decision. The fact that he’s expressing his concerns in and of itself is his way of ending things. He’s just not totally ready to close the door completely. You should never even consider dating someone who tells you to your face that they’re all Meh about the relationship.

He’s on the fence and is quite prepared to pull the trigger, but he’s pretty sure this isn’t what he’s looking for. He’s pulling The Slow Fade. Allow me to explain.

During one of my nightly bouts of sleep disruption last week, I ended up going back and reading many of the Dater X posts. I noticed a common theme in many of them.

The guys she dated never full faded on her. Instead, they initiated the Slow Fade.Take this post for an example.

Everything had been going well until one day last week, it all just … changed. In the beginning of the week, Scar Twin had warned me about his crazy work schedule and how he was going to be busy most nights preparing for the long weekend, so when his texts became scarce and his “just because” phone calls suddenly stopped, I tried to convince myself he was just stressed and busy.

And this one

“We agreed to take things slowly, and I feel like we’re not doing that,” he said. “All of your friends want to meet me, but I think it’s kind of premature to be going to other couples’ houses for dinner. We’ve only been seeing each other a month, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. It’s just … soon.”

The Slow Fade is when someone attempts to wean you off the relationship before they officially cut you off.  It usually starts with them backing away or slowing communication and interaction but not going completely radio silent. In the first Dater X example, the guy gives her the speech about how he’s going to be super duper busy at work and so he won’t be available to talk and text. In the other example, the guy is explaining that he wants to slow down the pace of the relationship. In both cases, each guy allegedly said they “wanted to take things slow.” I’ve said this before: the “I want to take things slow” thing is a trap. When women say it, they usually mean that they want to see just how long the guy will date them without sex. When guys say it, they’re usually being disingenuous. Or, at the very least, they don’t mean “take it slow” the way women mean “take it slow.” For  a man, “take it slow” often times means they aren’t looking for a relationship. What people hope to achieve with The Slow Fade is less drama. The goal is to get the person used to not hearing from them so that when things are officially over there won’t be as much fuss, if any. Hopefully, the person being dumped will get the hint and just move on on their own. If they don’t pick up what the Fader is throwing down, that’s when things get really uncomfortable and some kind of face to face conversation is necessary. That was something else I always found odd about Dater X’s stories. Every single one of the dudes she dated all had what sounded like pre-planned and verbose break-up speeches for her, and they all occurred at either the guy’s apartment or hers. I can’t imagine inviting someone over to my place just to dump them after dating them only six weeks. Awkward.

What I hate about the Slow Fade is that it usually involves the other person saying things they don’t really mean. Instead of just dropping out of sight, they talk of future dates and plans because they don’t want you to be mad at them and because there’s always the possibility they’ll come back around to you. So, when they eventually Fade completely, not only are you disappointed, but you’re pissed because they kept alluding to getting together again and wanting to see you again and you believed them.

I think I prefer the regular ol’ Fade better. It’s far less painful. Yes, there is an initial pang of hurt and feeling rejected. But that pain goes away much quicker than if someone dragged things out for a few weeks and then decided to harshly extract you from their life.

I know many people hate The Fade, but The Fade is now officially a thing, so get used to it. Yes, it makes you feel like you don’t matter. I understand that. But getting upset that someone wasn’t honest with you about why they won’t be seeing you again is a waste of time. Thanks to online dating and apps and social media, we are not just people anymore. We’re brands. We’re commodities. As such, people tend to take a very detached approached to dating.  Plus, let’s face it, The Fade is just easier. Is it cowardly? I suppose to some degree, yes.  Sometimes The Fade is even kinder than telling them to their face that things aren’t working.

What people often forget is that the people fading are communicating to us how they feel. They just aren’t using words.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)



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30 Responses to “Is The Fade Really All That Bad?”

  1. BTownGirl Says:

    “Instead of just dropping out of sight, they talk of future dates and plans because they don’t want you to be mad at them and because there’s always the possibility they’ll come back around to you.”

    Yup! I have to say, I think the slow fade is a total dick move. I’m also guessing it winds up causing more drama than a direct approach would, because the fade-ee would probably be all, “Why did you say you wanted to do x/y/z/ with me if you were planning on disappearing” I mean, honestly, is it really that hard to say, “I don’t think it’s working out. I wish you all the best.”?

    Re: Dater X…I have never, ever broken up with anyone in my own house. Like, what would be the etiquette? Do you have to offer them a cocktail and appetizers first? What’s the appropriate venue: den, dining room or butler’s pantry? Nope. It’s not a thing.

    • michelle Says:

      I agree, just being straightforward and letting them know you aren’t interested is quicker and less painful for them in the long run. I’ve been on the receiving end of the fade many times and even though I know it’s happening, that voice in the back of my head still goes maybe this guy really is just busy and he’ll get back to me. No, he won’t. He’s moved on. I much prefer the closure and finality of just being straight forward about it.

      • Boston Robin Says:

        I think they like the attention and drama. They get to whine about some poor sap “not getting the message.”

  2. mark Says:


    At the end of your letter you asked what to do.

    I’m guessing that you already have a pretty good idea already.

    I’m also going to guess that you were really smitten with this guy. In addition I’m also going to go out on a limb and say this guy has more than a lot going for him – and he knows it. Esp. in a town like NYC. In particular the demographic that you fall in.

    One, it could be that after the third date (and all that entails) he really didn’t feel that POW factor with you. Could be. But I doubt it.

    On the other hand, If he is the kind of guy that seems to attract the ladies, then he had other options before, during and after his time with you.

    My money is on the second.

    The end result is the same. You two have very different levels of attraction for each other. You were way more into him than he was into you. It’s pure speculation on my part but it’s very possible that he knew exactly the right buttons to push. Push them he did. Just look at the quick change in his enthusiasm for evidence. Not to mention his profile being up and him on when you checked.

    Upshot – you are trying to get emotionally invested in someone who is not invested in you. I don’t think you want to go down that road. Not really.

    Move on. But try not to get too jaded or cynical about the process. Future guys you meet will pick up on that real fast and you would do everyone a disservice. Easy to say. Hard to do. But do you must.

    Best of luck and hope things get better.

    • HammersAndNails Says:

      I don’t know why we have to always jump to sex. He had plenty of time to bail right after sex. Maybe she said something that really turned him off, maybe he got bored of her, maybe he thought she was great and that he could get used to her snorting when she laughed, but then realized he just couldn’t do it. Is it possible that he wasn’t feeling the wow in bed? Sure, but it’s no more likely than anything else given what we have to go off. They got to three months before he got squirrely. That’s far from hit it and quit it.

      It could be a million things. She’ll likely never know.

  3. Nicole Says:

    “I think I prefer the regular ol’ Fade better… Sometimes The Fade is even kinder than telling them to their face that things aren’t working.”

    The Fade is fine – even sometimes kind – in the super early stages of dating. I don’t see anything wrong with just disappearing on someone after a few dates. But a situation like the OP described, where they’ve been seeing each other regularly for three months? That seems like you’re past Fade territory and you have to say something.

    It’s hard to know what exactly to do if you’ve been spending tons of time together and yet you aren’t an official couple who needs to have the official in person break up. At that stage I’d honestly prefer to just have someone end things email or text. Just say it’s not working for you and be done with it. But when I have sent a text like that, both times after only a month or so of dating, it was “can’t we talk about it” and guilt trips and angry messages… So even though the slow fade is cowardly, I get why people do it.

    • KK Says:

      I know. How hard is a damn text? You’re right that at 3 months a fade is out of line, and calls for an actual breakup text or email. But plenty of people find fading easier, and they’ll do it to people with whom they’ve been in relationships for years.

    • Snowflake Says:

      Actually he did tell her. “After almost 3 months of dating, he told me that he was not sure he wanted to continue seeing each other and that he has been going back and forth about it.”

      She just chose to believe whatever she wanted to. Instead of listening to him she had her own delusions of what was happening/what could happen hence the dater x comparative. Its the exact same behvaiour DX demonstrated on ALL the guys she dated.

      The LW was told by the guy she was dating for 3 months, she just chose to ignore what he was saying and is now all confused. uh huh.. sure.

      • bbdawg Says:

        Got slow-faded recently. I agree with Moxie it’s worse because if you met someone you liked, you are going to “HOPE” for the best, and they sort of keep giving mixed signals and won’t say they aren’t interested. In reality, the best thing anyone could do for you is to let you off the hook ASAP. The worst thing about the fading situation is wasting anyone’s time.

        We are to blame also for not listening to obvious red flags. We women often have the terrible habit of completely twisting a situation in our minds so that it fits the narrative we have chosen for the Fantasy Relationship. Then we crash when realize there is a man involved and he is not playing the role we wrote out for him…oh right…he is not a cartoon character???

        After noticing the slow fade for several weeks, I ended up just “breaking up” (or essentially accepting it is over due to his lack of consistent contact) via text without a conversation, letting the person know I am around and interested, but without confirmation on his end, I am better off getting back to seeing other people actively.

        He ended up responding finally. And it seems so obvious now, but when you are in the thick of sadness and romantic fantasy, you see anything but the truth: if a man is not contacting you actively HE IS NOT INTERESTED. Next time I will do this pre-emptive breaking-off sooner rather than later.

        • DrivingMeNutes Says:

          I’m surprised the guy managed to defeat your impenetrable “no hookups” screening process. He must have been very clever.

          • bbdawg Says:



            Actually I fell for a guy who is just separated – not divorced as I’d initially assumed – has 3 kids who live 2 hours away, and an alcoholic soon-to-be-ex-wife (DUI included)…now, THAT was going to work out!!!

      • Eliza Says:

        Exactly – I agree with Snowflake. Women need to “Listen” – the art of listening is very important– not merely hearing words and most importantly, observing “behavior” – because as noted by Moxie–the Fade doesn’t involve words–but again, “actions speak much louder than words”. Look, listen and take in – actions and inactions. Is the “Fade” cowardly–sure, I guess. Again, perhaps the guy genuinely liked the OP–but not in a way that warranted a serious commitment…and/or wanted to avoid what he thought may turn into drama…so he pulled what he pulled. But he was being subtle…he clearly doesn’t want what the OP does. I suggest the OP avoid all communication and actually made a decision to end things – and save face. Again, we all deserve someone that is just as enthusiastic and on board about being in the type of relationship that we seek. It has to be mutual. Not someone that feels “Meh” about us. Like they can take it or leave. If that’s the case…then “leave it. Next.

  4. Yvonne Says:

    Three months or so is usually about the time that people decide if that want to move a relationship forward and get more serious. Since her guy seems to be having a lot of doubts, I think it’s time for the OP to cut things off; no hanging out or brunches now. If he needs time to think about things, let him do that on his own.

    I think fading makes sense after a few dates or if there hasn’t been sex yet. But fading after a few months of dating and sex doesn’t seem appropriate to me. After a few months of dating, write the person an email or give them a phone call, for pity’s sake.

  5. Cari Says:

    Re: inviting someone over to break up. Yes, it’s a thing, and it sucks donkey balls. Four dates with super-compatible guy led to him inviting me to stay at his place–with my dog–the weekend his ex had his kids. Texted during the day, told me what he had planned for dinner in, and then when I offered to bring wine, said yes. I texted to say when I was leaving work and with a likely ETA. That’s great, he says. I arrive with wine, dog in tow, and he uncorks the bottle. He serves the salad. It was when I was two bites into my first slice of pizza that he tells me on second bought, he really wanted someone of the same faith (having known mine since Date #1). I left the unfinished glass of wine, half-eaten piece of pizza, ducked the awkward hug and was home an hour after I left.

    I should have bought cheaper wine.

    • BostonRobin Says:

      I would have taken the bottle. Possibly the rest of the pizza too.

    • BTownGirl Says:

      I believe this scenario is known as “dodging a bullet”, you feel me? Even your dog must have been like, “The f*ck?!”

    • Julie Says:

      Sounds to me like less of a break up then his super clever way of setting up a FWB situation while avoiding guilt? “So you dont get mad, I want you to know theres no future here, but we do have the weekend so….”

    • D. Says:

      Possible analysis:

      The guy was a legendary internet troll who decided to see if he could troll in real life.

      By any chance, when you were leaving, did he say “LOL Y U MAD, THO?”

      Otherwise, I’m at a loss to even try to replicate the internal logic at work that led him to the point where he said “Yeah, that’s a good plan. I’ll do that.” Gotta be an epic, live-action troll.

  6. fuzzilla Says:

    **After almost 3 months of dating, he told me that he was not sure he wanted to continue seeing each other and that he has been going back and forth about it.**

    I’ll echo/repeat what DMN said after a similar letter – I can’t imagine saying that out loud to someone’s face and expect them to ever see me again.

    Yes, I prefer the honesty of the regular ol’ Fade to the Slow Fade. Shit or get off the pot. People who Slow Fade because they don’t want to “be mean” or “cause drama” end up causing way more drama than people who Fade or those who actually have the guts to just say, “This isn’t working.” Then they end up being the people who say, “No drama or games” on their dating profiles (um, methinks you like drama if it’s front of mind/tends to follow you around).

    • Eliza Says:

      Fuzzilla-Those people that claim they don’t want drama – or usually the ones that crave it the most or create it the most! Just my observation. And yes, I agree – “Shit or get off the damn pot”. Just state what you want or don’t want, and move on. We are not little high school kids anymore. By the way–a person with a backbone, and that is not delusional and MAKES their own decisions, and has a good sense of judgment – can’t be strung along by anyone. Why? Because again actions need to coincide with words. I love “D” advice to the OP — stop letting the other party decide which route is taken…be more proactive and decide for yourself–where things HAVE been going, and be decisive…if you are not getting your needs met, move on – you deserve to be with someone more compatible.

  7. Selena Says:

    I think the fade is always cowardly. (Guilty-I’ve done it myself) It shouldn’t be so hard to say “Sorry, I just don’t see this going anywhere.” Yet, it is such a common conflict avoidance tactic.

    The slow fade is worse because it’s stringing the other person along. They don’t really want you, but hey! having someone for sex/attention/companionship is better than having no one. And who knows how long it will be until they meet someone they *really* like? Ugh. The other person spends a lot of time wondering what’s going on, and ends up feeling used and having their time wasted.

    From the letter:
    “It seems to me that 3 months of regular dating is enough to know if you want to have a relationship with someone. ”

    It has always seemed that way to me also.

    Since this man has been honest about his wishy-washy/ lack of feelings, continuing to have contact and spend time with him is allowing yourself to be strung along.

    From the letter:

    “I’m afraid that if I keep seeing him my feelings will keep growing and things will be even harder if he finally decides to end things. ”

    Yes that very well could happen. It’s the reason to break it off yourself despite his ambivalence.

  8. D. Says:

    Ok, so most folks here have offered their opinions on fade vs. slow fade vs. proactively calling it off. Personally, I think that, at least early on, there’s nothing wrong with a fade, although calling it off may be preferable for various reasons. I’m not sure how to distinguish between a “fade” and a “slow fade” unless “slow fade” always means “stringing the other person along.” But I’m not sure that every gradual de-escalation of contact and response frequency necessarily qualifies as stringing someone along. Sometimes you’re both losing interest at pretty much the same rate, or you were both never really all that interested.

    But setting all of that stuff aside, I’m gonna offer the OP a little advice.

    Stop waiting for the other person to decide how your relationship goes, and start taking a more proactive role in determining your own level of involvement. In other words, stop seeing yourself as helpless, and start recognizing that you are — the entire time — making decisions for yourself.

    You want to keep dating this guy? Sweet. Go for it. But recognize that he has already told you that it will not get serious. Ever. No matter how much you want it. Don’t think you can handle the disappointment of that? Super. Break it off and move on.

    But the one thing you absolutely should not do is sit around, hoping, wishing, waiting, for him to decide that he wants to date you seriously, or decide that he wants to end things. All that does is leave you helpless, and at the mercy of his whims. And from all the information we have so far, he’s not going to cut it off cleanly.

    My guess (and this is just a guess) is that he’s either fully aware of how into him you are, and is just consciously taking advantage of that whenever he pleases, or — more likely — he’s “sort of” aware of it, but tells himself that he’s been up front with you, so if you take him up on any of his “Hey, wanna get together?” requests, that’s on you.

    And you know what? At least in terms of those decisions being on you….he’s right. It is on you. You’re a 31-year-old woman who is perfectly capable of making decisions for herself. You don’t need to wait for someone else to make them for you…unless you choose to wait. And if that’s what you’re doing, then fine, but recognize that it is your choice, and own that decision.

    He could be handling this better, no question, but you’re allowing the situation to continue, too. So either walk away, or stick around, but make it your decision, whichever one you do.

    • Eliza Says:

      “D” – very well stated…it’s all about “Choice” and being decisive and playing a more proactive role as an adult in any relationship.

  9. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    The most compassionate way to break up with someone is to inform them of same and then offer continuous sex, or at least one last sex, or a blowjob at the minimum. Where can I go on the Internet to have my special most-compassionate-break-up-rules enforced?

    Oh that’s right. I forgot. I have no control over how someone might choose to break up with me. And neither do any of you.

  10. Howard Says:

    Relationships are hard. Because we really don’t know the other person as much as we think. And when a new dimension appears, we have to digest it. I wish we were all so sure all of the time, but the truth is that we are often in that unsure territory, most of the time, in the first couple of years of a relationship.

    The slow fade after three months, is often a product of this mindset. Sometimes a guy thinks he wants one thing, but something triggers in him along the way, where he realizes he also wants some other things too. Unfortunately men do too much gate-keeping after the fact, unlike women who tend to do most of that gate-keeping before even getting into bed. For men, I think it’s an adaptation to the role of pursuer and dealing with rejection. The focus is so wrapped up in pursuing and dealing with rejection, that little focus is left for truly qualifying. Now throw that testosterone thing and visual appeal in there and it’s game-over for men in the qualifying department.

    I am not here to justify behavior by men. In fact I think it’s a critical mistake that also harms men. This is unfortunately the game and the way it is. Some pointers for women may help.

    A woman has to attract a man on her visual appeal, but to keep him, it will require much more than that. Don’t misinterpret this into thinking you can attract him with “the much more”; you still have to attract him and keep him attracted with the visual appeal. Let’s get into “the much more” that is going to make you a keeper. This used to be easy once upon a time, but men got complicated just like women. It used to be the qualities in his mom that he was looking for. Or at least what he imagined his mom to be, because he really didn’t know his mom like that. So this was always fantasy land for him. Most of that thinking still holds sway.

    But here comes the clincher, he wants that, and “some more”. It’s the “some more” part that is really tricky, and varies from man to man. For some men it’s a women who hangs on his words. For some it’s a woman who can engage in witty repartee with him to keep things always fun and interesting. Some men like very congenial women. Some like quietly reserved women. The sexual compatibility and sexual excitement part too also seems to be a big thing, irregardless of whether they themselves are duds or studs in bed. And every guy has his pet peeve. It could be an amazing blowjob or an amazing massage or sexy lingerie or a woman who is always ready and willing or a vocal woman in bed or a submissive woman or a dominant woman or a switch woman or a woman who is always affectionate or just about anything sexually I can imagine.

    We have all gotten so freaking complicated. That’s why there are so many single people in these great big cities with millions of people. And don’t imagine it’s only on the end of guys; women too have their modern higher standards.

    In concluding, I will say this. It’s really important for us to not take ourselves too seriously. We might actually start believing our bullshit about the world beginning and ending with us.

  11. Donnie K Says:

    I used to believe that after say- four dates, some sort of contact was needed if one party didn’t wish to see the other anymore.No more.These days, I think most can agree if after a 3-5 dates there’s a gut feeling that things aren’t progressing and sex hasn’t happened, the fade is the best route. As we know, a lot of guys will bail if sex hasn’t happened by date three.

    The OP’s situation is obviously different. Three months and steady sex requires some sort of explanation. What seems to be happening more than every is that three months is the new six months. It sounds like this guy is keeping the OP around as a fall back option. If the OP felt the same way, I wouldn’t see a problem. Since she doesn’t, what this guy is doing is not cool.

    When one partyis more invested than the other, both fades can upset the person on the losing end. The abrupt fade can lead to feelings of begin blind-sided. The slow fade can be interpreted (accurately or not) as stringing the other person along. Therein lies the problem. In the case of the slow fade, it’s up to the “fade-ee” to read the signs and do something about the situation. Either ask and be prepared for an unpleasant answer, or better yet, prepare an exit strategy, no matter how painful. Treat it like a band-aid.

    • Eliza Says:

      People will only treat you – how you allow them to treat you. The OP is part of the equation too…it takes two – just walk. Don’t get to vested without knowing the other party’s intention then. Don’t jump to conclusions. Sex doesn’t have to solidify or make something more permanent. If uncertain about the other person’s intentions…then ask! If they outright lie–hey, at least you made the effort to be direct…there are no guarantees everyone will do the right thing, and not deceive.

  12. Fyodor Says:

    I disagree that it is necessarily planned. Slow fade may reflect dissatisfaction with the relationship that eventually results in break up. But it’s not necessarily planned from the beginning of the disengagement.

  13. Letty Says:

    The Fade is a fucked up move on all levels, it’s something i could not respect guys who do that, they’ll get royally cursed out. I feel sorry for the people that are faded out. it’s sad these days.

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