1. One to Two Dates
You met on Tinder and grabbed a drink because your friend canceled dinner plans. You had nothing to talk about after an initial five-minute chat about Game of Thrones.
Can you fade? Absolutely. It would almost be presumptuous to give him a super early pre-dumping speech.
2. Three Dates
You've been to drinks twice and to dinner once. Two makeouts and one sleepover after Date Three. But you're not sure how much you like him, and you just started getting really slammed at work.
Can you fade? Yes. He'll be disappointed but he'll recover quickly.
3. One Month
You've talked about exes and you know some of the names of each other's coworkers ("Did Mouth Breather Shelly steal your La Yogurt from the office fridge again today?"). You've had sleepovers. It's gotten to the point where you don't get nervous going to dinner with him, and you don't feel weird about going to movies and not being able to talk and get to know each other.
Can you fade? Technically, yes, but how would you feel if you were on the other side of it? It's appropriate, at the very least, to shoot him a soft-dump heads-up text, like: "Work is getting busy, lets reschedule." Even if that's not true.
4. Two Months
You're Facebook friends, follow each other on Twitter, and text back and forth daily without fear that someone won't text back. He knows what you look like when you're not trying. You know what he has sex like when he's lazy.
Can you fade? Not really. Even if you're not exclusive yet, right here is when it would start getting sociopathic to ghost. You've both invested a fair amount of time and energy into your burgeoning relationship. If you want to wriggle out of it before you feel obligated to start thinking of him as an actual human, just say you're not looking for anything serious.
5. Three Months
You make vague allusions to the future (e.g., "We should barbeque in the backyard this summer.") You're tagged in Instagram photos together. You've met at least one of each other's friends.
Can you fade? That would be super shitty. Dating karma is real. Take my word for it: You will walk into a bar with a new guy four months from now, and he'll be there with his friends, and you'll have to do the awkward "hello," and it'll be bad.
6. Four Months
You've met most of each other's friends and know skeletons in the closets of each other's families. One of you is definitely waiting for the other one to suggest you become exclusive and has made it clear that s/he is not seeing anyone else. You've had brunch, which is really more intimate than any sex act, including rimming.
Can you fade? No! I don't care if you're an 18th century ghost who has only struck up a relationship with this person to avenge an ancestor of theirs for giving you consumption, or something. You owe them a breakup. And not over text — in person, or, at the very least, over the phone.
7. Five Months
You spend whole weekends at each other's apartments and cook meals together. You've given up bad habits that have defined you for years (e.g., smoking) for each other. Your parents know about him. His parents know about you.
Can you fade? What is wrong with you. NO.