Disappearing Act: Why He Pulls the Slow Fade

Things are going well and then all of a sudden—it's like he ceases to exist. We asked, they answered: Why men pull the slow fade.

Homer Simpson backing into a hedge
(Image credit: AdventureTime.com/ Coolman9000)

The slow fade. It's a dating move so common the term has become common parlance. You go out with someone for a few weeks or months. It's going well. The sex? It's awesome. You tell your mom about him. You're texting back and forth every hour and then...nothing. You wait for that text bubble to appear:

"Here's that song I told you about" you write, after a day of waiting.

"Thanks," he replies.

Nothing more. You can read the signs; either they're dead in a ditch or their interest suddenly is elsewhere. What happened? And what could you have done to prevent it?

I turned to one friend, Slash (yes I have a friend named Slash), who admitted to pulling the disappearing act about 6 or 7 times in the past year alone. He described his thought process as lying to himself. He's not alone. Most guys convince themselves that they are saving the woman they have been seeing from heartbreak by not directly saying, "It's not me; it's you." Even if they know it's not the most straight-forward move.

What happens is this: The guy knows it's time to break up but—thinking he's a gentle soul—he doesn't want to hurt anyone. So he avoids the issue. We love to avoid the issue ("we" being a good many of us, not just men I believe). Slash told me he's doing the slow fade one more time this week: "It's been four days since I contacted her - after having consistent contact during the entire 2 months…in the past four days her text messages, emails and voice mail messages are starting to add up." When I asked him why he wasn't responding he said, "It feels easier to just disappear."

So are we cowards for pulling the slow fade? Deluding ourselves that we are being kind in being indirect? Sometimes, but not always. Other times we mess up big. I talked to a friend who slept with his girlfriend's best friend and knew that if (when) she found out it would get messy so he ran off into the night. One man I talked to said that he feels like he is very clear with the women he dates but they don't always listen. "There's only so many times I can tell a woman I'm not available to date her before it gets into tricky territory," Greg said. "I mean, do I just say, 'You bore me to death?' because if so I will start doing that."

One friend thought that there is a lot of pressure from women to find out where a relationship is going and that in turn puts undue pressure on a situation, causing men to freak out and run. "Why can't anyone be patient?" he asked. "Why is there always another step that needs to be taken in the relationship?"

It's human nature to want to run. There is something primal in each of us that doesn't want to just be with a given situation. For some people that means they try to run to the next step of a relationship; for others the very idea of that makes them run from the relationship entirely.

I do want to point out that it's not just men that pull the slow fade; it is a move that transcends gender and sexual orientation. Going off the notion that we all want to run, is that the number one thing we want to run from is an uncomfortable situation: "the talk." It's awkward and uncomfortable and if we can run from that with a relatively clean conscience we will.

If you want to avoid the slow fade, just be straight-forward with the people you date and communicate how much you value honesty. And try to just enjoy the other person and their company. Not putting too many fixed expectations along the lines of "where is this going" may end up leaving less human-shaped holes in your wall.