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How to Do “The Fade” When You Want to Stay Friends

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Boy meets girl. Or girl meets boy. Those three little words are the start of something magical.


Several times in my life, the story has gone more like this: boy meets girl. Boy and girl become pretty good friends. Boy likes girl a lot. Boy pursues a relationship with girl. Then, girl suddenly realizes boy likes her way more than she knew and she doesn’t return the feeling at all.

Some people have no problem telling the other person to go away and never come back. I think there’s definitely a time when that needs to happen. However, the few times this happened to me, I actually liked the guy as a friend, and I didn’t want to lose his friendship or hurt his feelings. I just didn’t want the relationship to go any farther.

So I mastered a concept known as “the fade.” No, it’s not a hairstyle – it’s a way to safely maintain a friendship with a guy or girl while keeping a distance until he or she gets the message. It’s not foolproof, but the few times I’ve employed it, it’s worked quite well. The first person I did it to is now happily married to someone else, and the most recent is still my friend, but he’s officially given up on dating me.

The first step in the fade is to decide if it’s necessary. It would be horrible if you did this to someone who just wanted to be your friend. If he texts you almost every day for no reason at all, if one of his friends mentions that he might like you, or if he suddenly starts acting weird around you for no reason, that might be a sign that the fade needs to be executed.

Second, decide how thoroughly you want to fade. Do you care if you talk to him again? If you still want to be his friend, then conduct a slower and less drastic fade. If you couldn’t care less, then don’t be afraid to take an aggressive stance.

Third, the fade itself depends upon the nature of his pursuit of you. Does he text or call you all the time? Keep your answers short and concise. Don’t respond with a question. If it’s decently late at night, don’t answer at all. He’ll probably think you’re asleep. If he’s more intense, try to avoid him. There was once a guy who asked me every single day if I would be busy if he visited me at work. Nine times out of ten, I told him yes, I would be busy. This often meant planning ahead and finding projects to do at work so I wouldn’t be lying. This stage is crucial, because if you’re trying to maintain the friendship, you have to be careful not to be too drastic too soon. Fade out of his life in stages, so that it’s more of a natural thing and he doesn’t notice as much.

If you perform the third step well, there’s a good chance he won’t ever ask you out. However, even the best faders experience failure. I tried fading on one guy a few months ago, but unfortunately, I only had the span of a few days to realize it was needed and employ it before he asked me out. He was a really sweet guy, so I hated to crush his spirit, but I just said no flat out. Don’t offer excuses to spare his feelings. It’s much more despicable to give him false hope for the future than to just say no.

Finally, finish strong. If you were good friends before, it might be tempting to call him if you need someone to hang out with at the last minute or just to say hi. But you must resist. Some people have a hard time getting over people, and any misstep could set you back weeks in the fade process. One guy literally liked me for five years before he finally got the message. So don’t ever assume things can go back to the way they were before, because most likely, the person will like you longer than you think.

That’s the fade in four easy steps. It takes practice, but it’s worth it if you care to maintain friendships or you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Approach the fade with discretion and remember, people are weird. Every fade is different, but when performed with caution, the unreciprocated boy meets girl can end with little to no heartbreak.

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About Brittney Brown