Dating: How to Handle Mixed Signals

Wouldn't it be awesome if you could read the mind of the person you are interested in dating? The whole guessing game could be eliminated!

Have you ever asked a similar question to those shared by Shelly and Bret?

Shelly asked: "My friend keeps saying things about how he likes me so much, and then the next day, he acts like he doesn't even see me."

And Bret shared: "There's a girl I like who flirts with me sometimes and at other times she walks right past me."
These mixed signals quickly lead to confusion.  So why do people act this way?

They Like the Mind Games

Some people send mixed signals because they like to, and they're good at it. For them, it is a power and ego trip. They'll play the game with just about anybody because they're hooked on the game. You need to avoid flirt addicts because in the end, you will get an emotional pie in the face. Let's face it, you have enough drama in your life without asking for more.

It's wise to not read too much into the signals you pick up from guys or girls. Girls, you might be thinking a particular guy really likes you, when in fact, he's just being friendly. Same with guys just because she smiles at you doesn't mean she wants to go out with you.

Fear of Rejection

That being said, many times the person may actually be interested in you but is scared to put themselves out there for fear of rejection.  So, they test the waters a little and then maybe pull back if they are having a hard time reading you.  It can be scary to risk sharing your heart but being brave enough to have clear communication could go a long way. Without it, you will continue to imagine all kinds of crazy things are going on in your friend's head.

It could also be that he or she is simply thinking about a problem they are facing. When people are hurting, it's easy for them to become preoccupied and walk right by the people who can help them the most. Here's your opportunity to reach out and see if they are O.K.

If you continue to be confused and you really want to see if there could be more to this relationship, it's probably time to have a talk and get to the bottom of it or move on. In the end, the only way you can truly clear up the confusion is to talk about it. I would go to the person who is sending you mixed signals and try to clear up the confusion. You might not like what you hear, but at least you won't be in the dark with crazy imaginations.

What to do when your GF/BF questions your feelings for them?

Stephen asked: "What are some things I can do to show my girlfriend that I really love her. She says things like, 'Sometimes I wonder if you really love me or not.' And I do!"

It can be easy to assume the person you love knows how you feel, but it's important to be intentional in expressing your love and not take anything for granted.

5 Love Languages

Many of us receive love in different ways so knowing the "Love Language" of the person you are dating is very helpful. The five love languages are:

1. Words of affirmation

2. Quality time

3. Receiving gifts

4. Acts of service

5. Physical touch

Not everyone communicates love in the same way, and likewise, people have different ways they receive love. Perhaps you feel most loved when your girlfriend grabs your hand or gives you a kiss and so you think when you show her Physical Touch, she must know how much you love her.  However, if her love language is Quality Time and you are always busy and don't make time for her, she isn't feeling loved no matter how many times you give her a hug. Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in his book 'The 5 Love Languages:' The Secret to Love That Lasts explains this further. You and your partner could take a Love Language Quiz - Here.

9 Ideas to Communicate Affection

It's also important you don't assume that you told her you loved her three months ago, so she certainly remembers that, right? We need to continually express our love. It's not a one-and-done thing.

Here are just a few simple ideas to communicate your affection for her. Pick a couple, especially those that match her love language or ask her which of these things would be meaningful to her.

1. Spend time with her.
2. Take an interest in the details of her life.
3. Smile, make eye contact.
4. Truly listen to her.
5. Buy her gifts from time to time it doesn't matter the size or price, it truly is the thought the counts.
6. Invite her to be a part of events with your other friends and family.
7. Surprise her with a special date night.
8. Help her with some of the everyday chores she faces (wash her car, etc.).
9. Be more open about how you feel. she wants to know what's going on in your head and heart.

Insecurity Breeds Doubt

It could also be that she is insecure in herself and feels you are too good for her and will soon move on to someone else. Clearly you chose her and that should be enough, but insecurities aren't always rational. She is going to have to work her insecurities out for herself, and while she does you building her up will go a long way. Communicate clearly that you aren't going anywhere and assure her she's exactly who you want.

If she's insecure, she could also be sensitive to the attention you give to other girls. So be mindful of that and show her enough respect not to flirt with anyone else.  However, if she gets jealous and controlling, when you don't deserve it, that's another issue entirely.

Relationships aren't easy, especially since we can't read minds, but they are worth it. And taking the risk of sharing your heart and communicating how you feel will be worth it in the end.  Don't keep them guessing!

Dating relationships can be confusing and frustrating. Are you having a hard time understanding why your partner's playing mind games?

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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4 comments on “Dating: How to Handle Mixed Signals”

  1. In a world where love like my parents is hard to come by....when is giving up and walking away ever the wise answer. How much does one person put up with before cashing in their chips, calling it a lost hand and moving on? Or is that the problem today, people quit too easily and lose the value of a love through thick and thin. If you aren't married, and youre living with your boyfriend or girlfriend at what point is a decision that its not going to work feasible. Or should a person just hang on, keep trying and crying and hoping things improve. How long should a person accept and try to work through issues with their mate before they resign it to being futile and a waste of time??

  2. I been talking to this girl for a few years now I use to have the best conversation with her last hours texting each other to the point where I started to have feelings for her. I was really trying not to make our friendship awkward and just keep it to myself but I ended up telling her how I feel. She tells me she just wants to be friends I understood that and kept treating her as a friend. After some time we lost contact because I moved and even though we had each other on Facebook we will never write to each other on till one day she wrote to me. now we start talking daily then it happens again we stop talking to each other but every time we stop talking most of the time she will be the one writing to me and checking up on me. The reason I don't be the one looking for her is because I'm just trying to move on but she always seems to try to keep close to me texts me she misses me sometimes saying she loves me but when I ask her out she doesn't want to be my girlfriend. Is it that she just really values our friendship ?

  3. I've been with my boyfriend for 8 years. He cheated 4 years into it so I left him for a few months we got back together and got a puppy together. It's been 8 years and I still fear he's cheating however we are always together he picks me up from work and drops me off. Takes me to eat invites me over for sleep overs. It's not even a gut feeling he's cheating it's in my head. I've adressed it to him and he tells me I need to stop accusing him and he's learned from his mistake before or he'll tell me to stop. He puts up with the fighting and everything so I don't feel like he is but I can't shake the thoughts out.

    1. Usually our guts are right. I hate to say this, but in my experience - once a cheater... always a cheater. Worst case? Ask an attractive single friend to flirt with him at a bar and appear willing. Ask your friend to flirt and make sure she asks him if he's single. If he's faithful, no harm done. If he's not? Sure he'll be butt hurt, but only because of his wrong actions. I would have no problem whatsoever if my boyfriend pulled this on me, because I know without fail he'd only learn what he already knows... that I'm faithful. If he passes your little test, let it drop and chalk it up to your own worries. If he fails, don't tell him it was your friend who flirted with him... Just find a polite way to bow out. Say something about your own insecurities being too much for you that you need a clean break. If your little ruse gets out, he'll just say he cheated because you were always accusing him anyway, and word will get around that you are somehow manipulative or whatever. I only recommend this as an ABSOLUTE last ditch. Honestly, if you don't feel like you can trust him completely, the easiest way to deal with things is to simply leave in the first place. Sounds like you two probably weren't meant to be. Sorry to sound callous, but I've got a fair bit of experience in the "cheated on" arena.

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