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Why Men "Fade Out"

April 9, 2013
Women sometimes complain about men "fading out" - that is, slowing and then ceasing contact after dating for a little while, or else just stopping it abruptly. The alternative, of course, is for the guy to call the girl and tell her directly (in these words or others) "I am not interested in seeing you again. I had fun with you but I can tell it won't work out so I don't want to continue dating."

No guy wants to make that call, so instead, many men simply stop communicating with the girl altogether. I understand that there are a lot of bad feelings mixed up in the experience of slowly realizing that the guy isn't interested, so I want to explain why men do this, try to excuse it slightly, and offer a way of handling it.*

The reasons men "fade out" are simple:
  1. It is easier than being direct with you (for him). He doesn't have to fumble through a difficult conversation in which he tries to balance the harsh truth about his feelings for you with an explanation that doesn't hurt your feelings too much. Not only is striking this balance difficult, but there are also implications if he fails to do so - damage to your ego if he is too blunt and ambiguity if he isn't sufficiently forthcoming.
  2. It is easier than being direct with you (for you). You don't want to hear the harsh truth any more than he wants to deliver it. True, you might want closure more than you want to avoid the pain of knowing he doesn't want to see you again; but the hit to the ego you receive when a guy fades out slowly is less severe than if he calls you up and says abruptly: "I don't think you are good enough for me" (which is what being dumped amounts to).
  3. It would be presumptuous to assume that you wanted to continue the relationship. This is the reason that I think women understand least. Sometimes a man feels like he doesn't have the right to announce his decision to stop seeing you, because he doesn't feel justified in making the implied assumption that you wanted to see him again. Sure, in some instances he might suspect that you do; but he never knows for sure. If there is enough ambiguity about your interest in him, it can very easily prevent him from being direct with you about his decision to stop seeing you.
  4. It still conveys the message. While in the short term you might be confused by his lack of contact, he knows that after a few months of silence there won't be any ambiguity about his lack of interest. In the long term, he isn't sacrificing clarity by forgoing the direct phone call.
Girls that have been faced with the need to dump a guy know exactly what I am talking about. In fact, this isn't a singularly male phenomenon, except in the sense that men - due to their promiscuity - tend to be the ones breaking things off more frequently than women.

So how do you handle the situation if a man starts to "fade out" on you? Well, I suggest you start by recognizing that your chief annoyance is the temporary ambiguity - with the emphasis on temporary (see #4 above). From there you have two options:
  1. Let the ambiguity dissipate by his continued lack of contact. This is usually difficult in proportion to how disappointed you are that he stopped wanting to see you; but a confident and vulnerable woman does not get very invested in the early stages of a relationship, and anyway is not interested perpetuating things with men who aren't interested (enough) in her.
  2. Remove the ambiguity by calling him. Whether you do it because you are impatient or because you are annoyed that he isn't being direct with you, you can always call him to ask for closure. While technically speaking this is initiating contact, it isn't problematic because you aren't trying to preserve the relationship anymore. I suggest saying something along the lines of "Hey, [name], I know things didn't work out between us, and I can live with that; but I just wanted to actually hear it from you and know what changed in your mind." You will be putting him on the spot here, so don't expect much in terms of an explanation, but at least you will get confirmation that he is no longer interested.

* Note that I am only talking here about "fading out" after early dating. If this happens after a long time together, or in an exclusive relationship, the reasons and obligations on the man's part are different entirely.

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