By Emma McElhaney
Becca Campbell says she’s been the victim of the fade on more than one occasion.
“I’ve mostly had it happen when things were going more quickly than they were ready for. I think that’s kind of the trigger, and it’s just time for them to go,” she says.
It can happen after the first date. It can happen after you’ve taken the next physical step. It can happen before you even meet.
The fade – that kiss of death in any budding relationship – is what goes down when one person isn’t interested in another and slowly backs out without being direct about his or her feelings or intentions.
“It’s a very sly and inconsiderate way of tapping out of a potential, or real, relationship,” says Campbell, a recent University of Kansas graduate.
There’s a speed and simplicity to fading, says Suzanna Mathews, a dating coach and matchmaker in Wichita. Ending something via text is much easier than sitting down and having a heavy conversation.
“I find that a lot of people in their 20s are fairly fluid about dating. They hang out, they text, they maybe hook up, but they aren’t necessarily aiming towards a relationship,” Mathews says. “They don’t seem to need to pin down what it is. And that also kind of keeps it freer and more loose for when it’s time to drift away or do the fade.”
Dragging out something that’s going nowhere is a waste of time for both parties, Campbell says. If she’s not feeling it, she just tells the guy. “No one is really used to that kind of honesty, but I’ve wasted weeks and months on dudes who, if they had just said, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling it,’ we both could have walked away and saved face.”
People fade for a variety of reasons, including, obviously, just not being interested. Campbell suggests people may fade when things progress too quickly. Mathews says perhaps some people think the timing is off but would consider revisiting a relationship further down the road.
If you’ve been dating for months or years, Mathews says the fade isn’t an acceptable way to end a more serious relationship. You owe someone an explicit, clean break. “If you’ve only gone out a couple times or you’ve only made out at some parties, you don’t really owe them that same sense of completion.”
Mathews and Campbell agree that it’s not too hard to determine the difference between getting faded on and just playing hard-to-get.
“If someone’s really into me, they’re going to text me back within an hour,” Mathews says. “Anything over 24 hours’ lag time on responding to a text, you pretty much know they’re just not that into me.”
KU junior Will Putzier says he’s pulled a fade before.
“Initially I thought it had the potential to go somewhere, and then I changed my mind,” Putzier says. “I feel bad, because it had happened to me where someone just straight up told me ‘no’ and I thought that was a bad way to do it. I thought that being nice and not ever doing anything was better, which it probably wasn’t.”
Someone could flake out on you once for any reason, Campbell says. “I’ve learned that any person – girl or guy – when they want something, they will get it. So if they’re doing anything to keep it from happening, then they just don’t want it.”
Most people eventually realize they’re being faded on. They may want to avoid conflict and not ever bring it up.
“I think it became obvious pretty quickly, but it still took a couple of awkward conversations,” Putzier says. “It’s kind of like finding the balance between crushing them and being nice.”
Fading takes a lot of the pressure off the person who isn’t interested, but leaves the jilted party hanging. Campbell says that fading is too easy of an out, and she wishes people would just be more direct about where a relationship is heading.
“I don’t want people to just be able to walk away without addressing it. So I always bring it up, and I would recommend that to other people too, just for the sake of your sanity.”
Edited by Hannah Swank
Photo illustration by Emma McElhaney