Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Principles, Integrity and Relationships "Fading Away"

'Fading Away' Photo by Moko 2014
When I first heard about the concept of "fading away" in regards to ending a relationship, I thought it sounded pretty romantic. I imagined a silhouette of an ex-boyfriend slowly drifting away in a fog of distant memories. His voice, at first so vivid, fading into the abyss of memory, the details of his appearance slowly losing their sharpness... Anyways, it was not even close to what I imagined. "Fading away" does not apply to the process of recovering and naturally distancing oneself from an ex-partner after the breakup, but rather it is a new way of breaking up.
Or more precisely, avoiding breaking up by withdrawing slowly from someone else's life. How does it work? When you're no longer interested, you simply stop seeing the person you once dated and replace personal contact with text messages or e-mails that progressively become less and less frequent... until they completely cease. You become a void (at least in theory).

What Integrity?

I had a great discussion about this new form of ending relationships with a group of fellow therapists. After the concept of 'fading away' was explained to me, I couldn't help but ask, "But what about the values like honesty, truth, and respect?" "Where is there room for integrity?" another therapist asked. What happened to sleepless nights before we had to share the bad news with our soon-to-be-ex boyfriend/girlfriend? What values do people who end relationships by ignoring another person have? I would have to agree with my colleague that it's probably not integrity. Integrity to me is a state of congruence between one's values and one's actions. Most of us know from our own experience that  "It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them."(Alfred Adler). Of course, it is hard to always live by one's values and we all tend to deviate from them from time to time. But looking at the "fading away" phenomenon, I am wondering if people who practice this form of breaking up even have any principles? "With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide.", once said Zig Ziglar probably hoping that it will encourage people to cherish this valuable trait."With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt."- he added, assuming that all decent people experience guilt after wrongdoing. But what if you don't know what guilt is? What if you deprived yourself of values to avoid the discomfort that comes with violating them (which happens to everyone once in a while)?

What Are My Values?

Most people would like to believe that they have strong values and that they live by them. But when was the last time you actually thought about your values? What are your values? What values are you representing with your everyday actions? What values are you instilling in your child? Think about it... Do you value honesty? Loyalty? Respect? Trust? Kindness? Now, do you practice them? In My Secret Life is my favorite song about the lack of integrity. "I smile when I’m angry, I cheat and I lie. I do what I have to do to get by... But I know what is wrong, and I know what is right. And I’d die for the truth in my secret life..." I think that sometimes we all experience a significant split between who we want to be (or think we are) and who we really are. Knowing what your values are is a huge first step in the right direction, but our actions define us more than anything else. And are your actions a representation of your values?

Why talking about values and breakup in one post? Because we are social animals and relationships, in most cases, constitute the most important part of our lives. Hence, most of the values exist only in relation to our relationships. In the end can you practice trust, respect, honesty, kindness or loyalty without another person? And since most of our values relate to our relationships, I was very intrigued by the lack of any of these values in "fading away." I would also not spend the whole post on the fading slowly phenomenon if I did not think that it was a part of a much bigger trend - a trend of fading values and morals. It is a part of a trend of instant gratification and quick fixes that I will write more about in my next post. We try to avoid discomfort at any cost, even at the cost of our integrity. As a result the discomfort that comes with our values and situations where we have to stand by them, is replaced with numbness and emptiness. Is it a price worth paying to avoid discomfort and vulnerability?

Action Speaks Much Louder Than Words

When I was growing up I had a friend whose mom was getting him all sorts of pets. There was a period of time when he had a hamster, then he had a rabbit, a few months later a guinea pig and then a turtle. All the pets were disappearing after brief periods of time, and my friend later learned that his mom was getting rid of them when they became too much of a burden for her. The fox in The Little Prince said, “Men have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” Obviously his mom did not read the book. How was this woman going to teach her son about responsibility, loyalty, honesty, integrity while trashing all of these values in front of his eyes? And wasn't she concerned that the message "you can get rid of anything that's causing discomfort in your life" transfers to his relationships with people later on in his life? I think that just like the aforementioned friend, more and more people grow up without access to values being modeled for them, whether by their parents, society, media, etc. I am talking here about the real principles, not theoretical principles that don't translate to actions. I wonder how many young people (my understanding is that "fading away" is a new trend of the younger generation) who today choose to "fade away" were raised with solid moral foundation and good understanding of the importance of values? My hypothesis is not many.

The author of “Modern Dating: A Field Guide,” Chiara Atik says, “In the very early stages of dating, I really think that fade-out is fine — polite, even!... I don’t think people owe one another lengthy explanations after a date or two.” Well, what do you think? Would you like to be treated this way by someone who you liked? Or would you rather hear an honest (although probably painful, or at least uncomfortable) comment that will at least allow you to experience a closure and move on more quickly? I know I would value the latter solution much more.

I think that the simple rule "treat others as you want to be treated" is a good summary for this post. Most of us would like for others to treat us with respect, loyalty and kindness. Well, be the change - start with yourself. And don't fade away...


  1. You say, "I wonder how many young people (my understanding is that "fading away" is a new trend of the younger generation) who today choose to "fade away" were raised with solid moral foundation and good understanding of the importance of values? My hypothesis is not many."

    I wonder if that may not be the whole story as to why the tech-savvy may choose this form of breakup. It could be that technology provides an easy and efficient way for users to protect themselves from the discomfort they may feel having face-to-face closure. People have been using technology for centuries to try to make ending relationships easier - hand writing a letter and sending it in the mail, then came the telegraph, I'm sure people used that, then the telephone, then email, now texting. I do feel that breaking up with someone like that is probably not the best way to do it, and being on the receiving end of it definitely sucks. Now that technology lets people hide behind their phone or computer and brandish all sorts of "keyboard courage" it is definitely leading to people behaving poorly towards each other because often their is no accountability.

    "Technology is in danger of making us impersonal, of dampening our capacity and tendency for human connection."
    - Anthony Jack

  2. Great quote! I agree that technology is to a large degree responsible for the new trends in social relationships. However, technology is only a tool (no matter how prevalent) and it is the person behind it who really decides how to use it. And in order to use it wisely, I believe one has to have certain values. Thanks for your comment!