Friendly but no-nonsense relationship and dating advice for women in their 20s and 30s, from the guy perspective. Come back for biweekly posts and "tips of the week." Skip to the advice...
My previous post about guys sending mixed signals remains one of the most read on this blog, and it's the topic I receive the most questions about. But while that post used some great examples from readers (along with the advice I gave them), I've always felt like there's more to say. So picking up where I left off, I've put together a practical, step-by-step guide, from the guy perspective, explaining what to do when guys send mixed signals.
As I mentioned at the end of the first Mixed Signals post, if a guy is sending mixed signals, "a good place to start is just to step back and try to put yourself in [his] shoes. . . If you were sending those signals, why would you be doing it? Because you were put off by the other person's anxiety? Because you were unsure of yourself and depressed? Because you genuinely didn't know what you wanted and didn't feel right about hurting someone while you tried to figure it out?" For those who are not yet in a serious relationship, I would add: because you don't know if you really want to commit?
Step 1: Admit Something is Wrong
These are all reasons you might send mixed signals if the script was flipped, and they're some of the same reasons us guys send mixed signals. But while these questions are a good place to start when a guy is sending mixed signals, each of them leads to an obvious conclusion: something is not right. If a guy is acting different ways on different days of the week, you need to start by admitting to yourself that there's a problem with the attraction, connection or relationship. If you're really into the guy, you might want to keep inventing excuses for his behavior, but the sooner you can move past that and acknowledge that the mixed signals are a sign of his mixed feelings, the better off you'll be.
Does this mean that as soon as he shows mixed signals, it's not meant to be? Not necessarily. There's no such thing as a relationship without some early questions, occasional problems or ups and downs. But mixed signals from a guy are a sign that right now, he is not completely clear in his mind that he wants to be with you.
Step 2: Get Some Space
So what do you do once you've acknowledged that this is a problem? Or maybe more importantly, what don't you do? You could spend endless, frustrating hours trying to decipher what this guy wants, but there's a good chance that will make things worse, and almost no chance it'll make them better. Instead, once you've acknowledged that his behavior is telling you he doesn't completely, unreservedly want you, step back and get clear of the mixed signals. Take the opportunity to get free of the wondering and second-guessing and stressing and sleeplessness. Stop calling or texting him for a change; make plans with your girlfriends; take a weekend away. Give yourself space to hit the reset button and, instead of focusing on him, focus on yourself.
Now that you have some breathing room, ask yourself: what do you want? Do you want to chase a guy whose actions don't clearly express his interest for you? Probably not. Like most of us, guys and girls, you most likely want a partner who is consistent, caring and supportive. A guy who sends mixed signals is none of those things.
Step 3: Make a Plan, and Follow it with Confidence
Once you've acknowledged the problem represented by his mixed signals and taken a step back, the next steps get a little more individual to your situation. Below are a few examples. If none of them are quite a fit, they should still help point you in the right direction for how to take charge and either send him a wakeup call or move on.
If this has been going on forever, pushing you near the breaking point, then it's most likely time for you to end it. You've already acknowledged the problem and taken a little space, steps that should make the final break easier. Now it's time to start looking for the kind of relationship that will make you happy, instead of trying to do the endless detective work in the one you're in.
On the other hand, if this is a relatively new thing, or a recent change in behavior on the guy's part, you can address it with him. When his signals are truly mixed (not just that he's moving slowly or not saying exactly what you want to hear yet), the rules I described in What Are We, Exactly? don't apply. You can make a thoughtful but direct request for an explanation of his behavior. He may come up with a legitimate reason, something you can talk about and work through. On the other hand, he may say he doesn't know, is confused, or give an evasive answer, i.e. "work is just crazy right now." In this case, skip to the next paragraph.
For a guy who has already expressed his confusion or doubt without giving a satisfactory explanation, you have a decision to make. Do you really want to be with someone who isn't confident in his own feelings for you -- who doesn't just know that he wants to spend time with you, that he likes you, or loves you? Why would you want to be in that situation? Guys can recognize when you are sacrificing your own happiness because you want something to work, and it doesn't make us like you more. In fact, it's a negative cycle: we get wishy-washy, you start worrying about it and stop prioritizing your own happiness, and we see this and get even more wishy-washy. Guys like women who want to be happy, the kind of women who are willing to move on to get what they want. So if we can't give you a straight answer, kick us to the curb. In the long run, everyone will be happier for it.
That's it. All the confusion, the second-guessing, the stress, the wondering, can be overcome in 3 simple steps. None of them are necessarily easy, but taking them one at a time will help you rise above the mixed signals and get you where you need to go.