How to cope with a relationship fading away

Before I met my husband, dating was somewhat of a mystery to me. Being a serial monogamist since the age of fifteen, there was never much space between my relationships to test the waters. Not only did I have very little time to figure out who I was, what I wanted out of life, which career path to follow, or what type of friends I’d have the best repertoire with, I also never really knew how to navigate my way through fading relationships. You know, the ones where you used to be close, but now, you don’t see each other much. Then suddenly, a year has gone by and you realize you haven’t been in touch.

At times, I didn’t know it was even happening until it was far too late. Sometimes I was the one doing the slow fade because things didn’t feel as I thought they should. Other times, my partner or friend stopped communicating or relating to me in all the ways that made us once tick so in turn, we’d just die out like a plant without water. And sometimes, even close friends became too busy within their own lives, or we simply grew apart, and the bond we once shared evaporated into nothing.

Regardless, when feelings begin to fade in any relationship, it can hurt, or be confusing, if you can’t pinpoint an exact moment things went awry. I’m by no means an expert on love or friendship, but seeing as I’ve been through the gamut, here are some tried and true ways to deal with the inevitable end of your most treasured bonds. And know that if something fades and you grow apart, that’s OK—sometimes it happens.

Talk to each other about it

First things first. If you feel the slow fade in action, talk about it. Maybe your partner or friend doesn’t realize they’ve been distant or they’re taking FOREVER to respond to a text (if at all), or maybe they’re cancelling plans too often. I’m sure I’m guilty of this and don’t always realize when I’m hurting someone because of it.

These days, we’re so enveloped in our phones, tablets, and computers, we’ve forgotten the lost art of actually talking to one another. That, mixed with the vague tone a text can convey and you have a recipe for miscommunication or hurt feelings. Pick up a phone (which is weird for me to say because I loathe talking on the phone) or make plans to meet in person to hash things out. Forget social media right now. If this relationship is important enough to have you, or the other person, feeling hurt, make the time to talk about it face-to-face. Even if the end is in sight, you might be able to salvage some part of it and at least walk away on good terms.

If it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up.

Let’s say you’ve tried to talk things out but that didn’t help or maybe even made things worse. Maybe it’s something that you don’t feel you can or should fix. That’s OK. Sometimes it makes the most sense to make it a hard break-up instead of a soft fadeaway. And sometimes, in order to heal, that means de-friending this person on all social media fronts, avoiding the places you might run into them, or ridding yourself (in a shoebox under the best) of any physical memories you’re holding on to (a shirt, a CD, a picture).

Sometimes friendships grow back where they once withered. Sometimes they don’t. Do what you need to do to move on and be emotionally happy and healthy.

Reach out to (other) friends

If you’re going through a never-ending, silent break-up, good friends can rescue you from seeing the bottom of an ice cream carton alone (or bring you some when you need it!). Friends not only find the humor in situations but they make good shoulders to cry on, too, so even if it’s hard or not in your character to reach out when you’re in need, ask for help, compassion – whatever it is you need. That’s what friends are for, right?

Reach out to new people, too!

On the flip side, if it’s a close friendship you’re losing, reach out to some people you might’ve kept in your acquaintance circle. I know this sounds daunting but sometimes the only way to move on is to gather whatever support you can. Your next new BFF might be at that work meeting you never went to or that party you didn’t go to. Take some chances and put yourself out there for new experiences. You might be surprised at all the things you have in common with your hairdresser, mailman, or barista! After going through similar circumstances, I’ve made new friends by opening up, even when it goes against my normal comfort level. The only alternative is to wallow alone and that’s certainly no way to go through life.

Give yourself space

Losing love or a friendship that meant something to you is taxing. Give yourself permission to do nothing. No, really! Spend this time on you—what you love to do; discover who you are. Another person cannot fill you up. You have to do that on your own. Use this time to do that, unapologetically, and you’ll come out of it stronger than before. Promise.

Coping with a slow fade out is tough. By trying to face it head on and practicing ways to deal such as these, you’ll be able to move through the grieving process faster and your next relationship or friendship will be that much better for it. In the meantime, give yourself a break. Love and friendship aren’t always fluid. They break and they mend or they re-form into other entities completely. In the end, trust your gut and treat each experience as another life lesson to grow from. If that fails, I hear googling Ryan Gosling memes eases the pain.

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