Experts Say This Viral Dating Trend Could Be More Painful Than Ghosting

No one enjoys breaking up. Whether you're initiating the split or on the receiving end of one, it never feels good. But at the very least, a breakup gives everyone involved closure and the opportunity to move on, which is unfortunately not the case when it comes to the dating term called "fizzling."

"Instead of being forced to move on, this trickle of attention keeps you hanging on."

Fizzling is what happens when someone wants to end the relationship without doing it in a clear and direct way. Instead, it looks like one person slowly withdrawing their attention and affection over time until the other person gets the hint and the relationship quite literally fizzles out.

The concept of fizzling isn't exactly new. You may have seen it previously referred to as a slow fade. But ever since dating apps have become mainstream, fizzling — or whatever term you want to use to describe it — has become an easy way for daters to move on from a situation they're no longer interested in without having to face any immediate consequences.

No matter how casual or serious the relationship or situationship is, however, fizzling is a harmful way to end things with someone. In fact, experts say fizzling could actually hurt a lot more than experiencing a formal breakup. Below, experts explain why.

What Is Fizzling?

Just as the name suggests, fizzling is what happens when your relationship begins to fizzle out. "It's a term used to describe the situation where one becomes uninterested in a person they're dating, but instead of breaking up with the person, they gradually reduce communication and interest, causing the other person to feel confused and hurt," celebrity matchmaker Rachel London tells POPSUGAR.

There's no timeline for when fizzling in a relationship can happen. For some people, it can be after a few weeks of casually dating. For others, it can happen after a year of being monogamous.

In a lot of ways, though, fizzling is comparable to ghosting. But according to dating and relationship expert Amber Soletti, fizzling may be a lot harder to process. "With ghosting, you don't really get closure, but you at least know that this person is out of your life. Fizzling is more frustrating because they're still contacting you, responding to you, maybe even seeing you or f*cking you, but it's becoming less and less frequent, and the duration of time between contact and meeting continues to grow. And instead of being forced to move on, this trickle of attention keeps you hanging on."

It's important to note that while fizzling may suck, it's not always done with malicious intentions. In some cases, people may not even realize they're doing it. It's possible the person fizzling could have an avoidant attachment style, which leaves them struggling to build intimacy and connection. They could also not know how to process or voice their emotions, or even know what exactly they want from the relationship. Of course, this doesn't make fizzling OK, but understanding that it's not really about you is important.

That said, whether fizzling is done purposefully or not, many experts still believe fizzling is the most painful way to end things with someone since it leads to a lack of closure and confusion.

Signs Your Relationship Is Fizzling

Some people may find it pretty obvious when someone is trying to fizzle things with them because their partner is either no longer communicating as much or they're not showing a huge interest in spending time together. But for other people, it may not be so obvious. If you're looking for some concrete examples and signs you're dating someone who's attempting to fizzle the relationship, here's what Soletti says could be fizzling:

  • They take longer to respond to texts. In some cases, "it may be days before you hear back," Soletti says.
  • Your conversations aren't as long. "Your text and phone conversations that used to be lengthy are now much shorter."
  • Your conversations are less interesting. You may find yourself not knowing what to respond — or not having anything to respond to in the first place.
  • They don't make an effort to make plans. And when you initiate plans, they wait until the last minute to tell you they're unavailable.
  • They start planting seeds about being less available. Maybe they have a big work trip coming up or they're getting more involved in volunteer work this summer.
  • They seem disengaged and distant — especially when you're together in person.
  • They cut plans short.
  • They spend a lot of time on their phone when you're with them. They may even seem distracted by their phone or other things going on around them.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Relationship Is Fizzling

If you suspect your relationship is fizzling, it's best to communicate your feelings openly and honestly, London says. You can directly check in with your partner by saying something like, "Hey, I've noticed that our conversations seem to be a little different, and I haven't seen you in a while. How are you feeling about things? Is there anything you want to talk about?"

This will open up the conversation in a non-intimidating way that lets the other person know you know something is up and you'd like to have a conversation about it.

If the conversation doesn't help you get to a place of understanding, then you may have to accept the fizzling for what it is: a really disrespectful breakup. Trust that if your partner is choosing to end things with you by fizzling the relationship, they're likely not someone you want to keep around in your life in the first place.

Plus, it may not be worth your effort to fight for the relationship if you suspect fizzling is happening anyway. Especially since Soletti says there's no real way to prevent it from happening. Instead, the best thing you can do is stick to your boundaries, and if this person isn't giving you as much time and communication as you need in a relationship, then it may be in your best interest to just break things off first, Soletti says.

On the flip side, if you realize you're the person doing the fizzling, it's best to be transparent about your feelings. Though it might become an uncomfortable conversation, communicating how you feel is the best way to provide closure to someone you're no longer interested in pursuing. "If you know you don't see a future with the person, explain why and don't leave it up to interpretation," London says.

Though the experts here recommend doing this in person, you can also send a text. Just make sure you're direct, concise, and clear about no longer being interested in this person romantically so nothing is left for interpretation.