Getting Mixed Signals? How To Interpret A Love Interest's Weird Behavior (2023)



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March 11, 2021

mbg Nutrition & Health Writer

By Abby Moore

(Video) 10 Mixed Signals Guys Send And What They Really Mean

mbg Nutrition & Health Writer

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.

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Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, CST

Clinical Sexologist & Psychotherapist

Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, CST, is a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist with 12 years of clinical experience. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a certified sex therapist, certified addiction professional, and president of the Therapy Department, a private practice in Orange County that provides counseling services throughout the United States.

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March 11, 2021

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Communication is one of the most important elements of a healthy relationship, but it can sometimes be difficult to decipher what your partner is trying to say—especially if they're sending you mixed signals. In the context of relationships, mixed signals are when a person is expressing interest in someone while also simultaneously expressing a lack of interest or a desire to keep their distance, causing confusion for the other person. Here's how mixed signals can show up in a new romantic relationship or with an ex, according to sex and relationship therapists.


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(Video) Don't Analyze His Mixed Signals! Here's Why He Sends Them

Mixed signals in a new relationship.

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The early stages of a new relationship can be filled with passion and curiosity, but they can also be filled with mixed signals. Before you understand the ins and outs of your partner's behavior and communication patterns, you may not be able to intuit what they're thinking.Below are six mixed signals a partner may give early on in the relationship, according to experts:


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They message you often but don't make plans to hang out.

Say you meet someone at a party, and the two of you really hit it off. You exchange numbers and start texting back and forth (sometimes even flirtatiously), but they never ask you on a date or deflect when you mention spending time together in person.

"If he tells you he had a good time and really likes you but takes a week to contact you, it would make sense if you were confused," says Chamin Ajjan, M.S., LCSW, A-CBT, sex therapist and author ofSeeking Soulmate: Ditch the Dating Game and Find Real Connection.

This type of pattern might also play out on dating apps, where it's even more difficult to know where the person stands since you've never actually met them.


(Video) Why Women Give Mixed Signals & EXACTLY What To Do Next! | Apollonia Ponti

They're inconsistent and unavailable.

Sometimes you do spend in-person time together but otherwise never hear from the person when you're not physically together, which is another example of receiving mixed signals, according to licensed marriage and family therapist Weena Cullins, LCMFT. The only reassurance you may get in this scenario is the rare time you spend together in person. Aside from that, "They fail to initiate meetups, call, or text with any level of consistency," she explains, "which can leave a person feeling uncertain about what the other person really wants."


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They say they want an emotional connection but don't go deeper.

Some people will send mixed signals about how deep they want the relationship to get. They might verbally promise or indicate a desire to go beneath the surface, Cullins explains, but then they don't follow through with actually engaging in those deeper conversations as a couple.

"When it's time to answer questions that may require vulnerability or exposure, they opt out of participating," she explains. "This can cause the other person confusion about where the relationship is going."


They're only present when it's convenient for them.

If a new partner talks about wanting to be in a relationship but only shows up when it's convenient for them, they're sending mixed signals. For example, they tell you they're always available to listen when you need them but avoid you when times are tough. "They may also limit their face time to situations when they need a hand or want some company," Cullins adds. "This can leave the other person feeling manipulated and unsupported."


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They're all-in for a period of time, then drastically change their behavior.

This mixed signal is essentially an accumulation of the various mixed signals mentioned above, and it can also be a form of breadcrumbing. It occurs when someone texts you often, talks about a future together, shares personal information, and asks you to do the same, couples' therapist Alicia Muñoz, LPC, tells mbg. "And then, for no particular reason, [they] change their behavior, ghost you, avoid you for a period of time, change their tone, or act guarded," she says.


They flirt with someone else.

If someone who shows interest in you is flirty with other people, that can send mixed signals. This might not be true for everybody, as different people have different tolerance levels for sociosexuality, but the typical monogamous dater will likely be confused observing this behavior in a potential partner. "If you are on a date with your new person of interest and she flirts with the waitperson, you may not be clear about where you stand," Ajjan explains as an example.


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(Video) How Dismissive Avoidant People Experience Romantic Feelings | Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

Mixed signals with an ex.

Ending a relationship can be complicated, possibly even more so if it ends on good terms. If you choose to stay friends or maintain contact with your ex, mixed signals can become incredibly prevalent and confusing. Here are a few common mixed signals you may receive from an ex-partner:


Reaching out frequently with no intention to get back together.

If you or your ex are texting, calling, DMing, or spending time with each other frequently but say you don't see a future together, that can sometimes send mixed signals. Not only can this be confusing, but it can also make it difficult to truly move on from the relationship, Cullins says.(This is why some experts recommend the no-contact rule after a breakup.)


Acting like they're OK with moving on, then interfering with new relationships.

Sometimes an ex says they're OK with you moving on, but then they make comments, show up on your dates, or do anything to interfere with your new life or relationship. They're saying one thing (they don't want to be with you), but their actions are saying another thing (they don't want you to be with someone else)."This can be damaging to any connection they may still have with their ex, as well as to their ex's new relationship," Cullins says.


Continuing to have sex after the breakup.

Sometimes an ex will give up the emotional aspect of the relationship, but they may try to hang on to the physical aspects under the guise of "friends with benefits," Muñoz says. While there are healthy ways to go about a FWB relationship, it can be confusing in the aftermath of a breakup—and especially unfair if one partner is still holding out hope for a long-term commitment.


Connecting on social media but nowhere else.

It can be confusing if an ex regularly interacts with you on social media, whether it's liking an old photo, commenting on a new one, or DMing you funny memes. These gestures can make it seem like they're interested in staying connected, yet they don't call, text, or make plans to talk in person.

How to interpret mixed signals.

By their very nature, mixed signals are difficult to interpret. "What we can interpret from mixed signals is that the other person hasn't officially chosen to be consistent or committed to you," Cullins says. "If you decide that consistency or commitment is what you need, then it will be easier to determine how to move forward in the relationship."

Staying in relationships like this can lead to emotional stress. "If their behavior negatively affects your mental, emotional, or physical stability, or overall sense of peace and self-worth, then it's time to assess the value of remaining in the situation," Cullins says.

Why do people send mixed signals?

If a person is acting this way, Muñoz says it's usually a sign they're dealing with their own internal conflict. "They may want opposed or contradictory things, such as absolute freedom and safety and security." Seeing these mixed signals as a sign of inner conflict can help you become more compassionate toward them rather than taking it personally, she says.

Overall, mixed signals are not signs that you need to change, but rather the person sending the signals has some inner work to do. Mixed signals can also be the result of an avoidant attachment style, Ajjan adds. Meaning they tend to pull away when a relationship becomes intimate because those feelings of closeness make them nervous.

(Video) "Bad Texter" or Just Not That Into You? | Matthew Hussey

The bottom line.

Communication is essential in relationships. If you're struggling to understand someone, being open about the problem can help you both get on the same page, and, hopefully, prevent miscommunication in the future. If you're direct about these issues and your partner doesn't change behaviors, it may be a sign you're not ready for the same type of relationship or you need to set boundaries.


How do you interpret mixed signals? ›

Interpreting mixed signals

Mixed signals are usually a sign that someone is struggling with an inner conflict. They're being pulled in different directions and they're trying to figure out how to resolve their dilemma. They may want opposed or contradictory things, such as absolute freedom and also security.

How do you respond to someone giving mixed signals? ›

15 Ways to Deal with Mixed Signals
  1. Don't jump to conclusions or assume anything. ...
  2. Take off your blinders. ...
  3. Don't take it personally. ...
  4. Back off. ...
  5. Believe what you're told (until convinced you shouldn't). ...
  6. Realize the other person may have issues going on. ...
  7. Don't be demanding. ...
  8. Recognize the emotional tug-of-war that can happen.
Oct 24, 2014

Do mixed signals mean they like you? ›

Mixed signals can definitely mean that the other person isn't going all in on you, but that's not the only answer at play. Often, those who give off mixed signals have avoidant attachment styles, a learned coping strategy where the person shies away from closeness and intimacy because it makes them uncomfortable.

Is mixed signals a red flag? ›

A mixed signal is a warning sign. It's a red flag.

What to do when you are confused about your feelings for someone? ›

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Confused
  • Reach Out for Support.
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise.
  • Journal.
  • Engage In Compassionate Self Talk.
  • Give Yourself a Pep Talk.
Mar 9, 2021

Should I confront someone who is gives mixed signals? ›

Whether you're in a relationship or not, you may find that the other person is giving you mixed signals. You can always handle the problem by starting a conversation about it, but you can also use more indirect ways to see if the person is actually interested in you.

What kind of mixed signals do guys send? ›

Men tend to give you mixed signals when they are either not interested and planning to keep you as backup, are confused about what they want or even playing around. This behaviour can be very frustrating and it gets difficult to deal with that hot and cold attitude.

How do you break the hot and cold cycle? ›

How to break the hot and cold cycle. If you find yourself in a relationship like this, one of the best things to do is to talk to someone, such as a trusted friend or family member. But, if you feel unable to open up to loved ones, then a therapist is a good neutral alternative as they are completely impartial.

Are mixed signals emotional abuse? ›

We're all familiar of the concept of mixed signals, but – taken to the extreme – this behaviour can actually constitute emotional abuse.

What are examples of mixed signals? ›

Here are some of the common types of mixed signals.
  • They can get jealous quickly but don't want to commit. ...
  • They want you to open up but refuse to do it.
  • Asks you on a date, doesn't call you back. ...
  • They show eagerness to go out and then cancel last minute. ...
  • Acts like you're a couple but don't want a label.
May 16, 2022

What defines a situationship? ›

Clinical psychologist Vijayeta Sinh says a situationship is simply a relationship that hasn't been defined. This could be due to a lack of willingness from both people to define the relationship or a lack of commitment towards one another.

What sends mixed signals? ›

Mixed signals are when someone acts inconsistently or says one thing but does another. People don't always send mixed signals intentionally and mixed signals are often a result of miscommunication or poor communication skills.

How to tell if someone likes you? ›

Signs Someone Likes You
  1. Proximity. ...
  2. They remember the small details. ...
  3. They make an effort to find conversation topics. ...
  4. You will see the “Duchenne Smile” ...
  5. They are nervous around you. ...
  6. They are curious about you, more than you expected. ...
  7. They always find the time to see you.
Apr 3, 2023

Is hot and cold behavior a red flag? ›

Inconsistency in relationships is unhealthy and destabilising. Blowing hot and cold is never a good sign and it is in fact a code red alert because you can never trust in this person enough to know what to expect from them. Your relationship will not be able to have balance.

What are the three classes of signals? ›

Signals are classified into the following categories: Continuous Time and Discrete Time Signals. Deterministic and Non-deterministic Signals. Even and Odd Signals.

What are the two 2 types of signals? ›

There are two main types of signals used in electronics: analog and digital signals.

How to know if someone is confused about their feelings for you? ›

When a man is confused about his feelings, his behavior might be erratic. He might make you feel desired and give you all his attention during the 'hot' phase. Then he may pull away just like that and act cold when he feels like he's catching feelings for you.

What to say when he is confused about his feelings? ›

Tell him how you feel about him, and then ask how he feels about you. It's really that simple. He's probably just as confused about how you feel about him as you are about how he feels about you. So if you don't know what he's thinking, it may be because he's playing it cool with you the same way you are with him.

What to do if someone has feelings for you but you don t? ›

How to deal when a friend has an unrequited crush on you
  1. Don't lead them on. It's nice when someone has a crush on you. ...
  2. Be kind, but clear. It's necessary to let your pal know you don't have feelings for them, but it's just as important to be sensitive about how you do it. ...
  3. Don't make it a big deal. ...
  4. Give them space.
Mar 16, 2016

Do narcissists send mixed signals? ›

The irony is that narcissists are consistently inconsistent. If you are in love with someone who sends you constant mixed messages, it can be emotionally damaging to you personally, even causing you to lose your sense of self.

Why do I have mixed feelings about him? ›

Mixed feelings for your partner are normal.

According to Dutch psychologist Ruddy Faure and colleagues, it's normal for people in intimate relationships to hold both positive and negative attitudes about their partner at the same time—“I really love my partner, but….” Sometimes these ambivalent attitudes are explicit.

Why do people send mixed signals in love? ›

The person who gives you mixed signals is trying their best to believe in love again because they fell in and out of love so many times and they've tired of being the one who loved the most. Most of all, they give you mixed signals because they are not ready to have a relationship with you.

Why is he giving me the silent treatment? ›

Sometimes, a person may give someone the silent treatment because they are too angry, hurt, or overwhelmed to speak. They may be afraid of saying something that makes the situation worse. In these cases, it can be helpful for each person to take some time to cool off before getting together to discuss the issue calmly.

Why is he acting hot and cold? ›

When a guy runs hot and cold on you, it's highly likely that he's insecure. He is blowing hot when he's feeling strong emotions about you. After the first few months of dating, he begins to panic. He gets anxious that you don't like him as much as he does.

Why is he cold towards me? ›

One of the obvious reasons why a guy may ignore or act disinterested in you is because he feels you are too good for him. He lacks the confidence to approach you or share his feelings with you, fearing you might reject him. He feels that sharing his true feelings might ruin your friendship with him.

How do you stop an on and off relationship? ›

If you want to break the cycle
  1. Go no-contact. Nothing says you can't have a good friendship in the future, but it's wise to spend time apart for now. ...
  2. Take a short break from dating. ...
  3. Work with a therapist.
Jan 11, 2021

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

Let's get into a few signs of emotional abuse so that you know exactly what they are and how to recognize them.
  • Love Bombing. ...
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Constant Criticism. ...
  • Insults, Swearing and Physical Aggression. ...
  • Possessive and Controlling.
Aug 16, 2022

What are the 7 signs of emotional abuse? ›

Here are seven signs of emotional abuse and how you can get help.
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Isolating you from loved ones. ...
  • Using insulting language. ...
  • Yelling. ...
  • Shifting the blame. ...
  • Acting extremely jealous. ...
  • Outbursts of unpredictable anger.
May 2, 2022

What are 6 behaviors that indicate emotional abuse? ›

Examples include intimidation, coercion, ridiculing, harassment, treating an adult like a child, isolating an adult from family, friends, or regular activity, use of silence to control behavior, and yelling or swearing which results in mental distress. Signs of emotional abuse.

How does brain handle mixed signals? ›

Mixed Signals challenges your brain to home in on certain information, while ignoring competing information. It does so by requiring you to listen to a number, letter, color, or other piece of information while looking at a set of numbers, symbols, letters, words, or other information.

How long is too long for a situationship? ›

How long is a situationship supposed to last? Situationships can last for a few days, weeks, months, or even years. Just like in other relationships, there's no expiration date unless one or both of you choose to end the situationship and move on.

What is it called when you re talking to someone but not dating? ›

Less than a relationship, but more than a casual encounter or booty call, a situationship refers to a romantic relationship that is, and remains, undefined. "A situationship is that space between a committed relationship and something that is more than a friendship," explains psychotherapist and author Jonathan Alpert.

What are the 4 types of relationships? ›

There are many different types of relationships. This section focuses on four types of relationships: Family relationships, Friendships, Acquaintanceships and Romantic relationships.

How do you test someone if he likes you? ›

How To Tell if a Guy Likes You
  1. He is touching you. iStock. ...
  2. He remembers small details about you. ...
  3. You two are social media friends. ...
  4. He gives you eye contact. ...
  5. He makes an effort in the conversations you have. ...
  6. He's using “alpha” body language. ...
  7. He asks if you have a boyfriend. ...
  8. He gets jealous when you talk to other guys.
Dec 29, 2022

How do you tell if a man is attracted to you but hiding it? ›

Here are 10 common signs that someone likes you but is hiding it.
  • They may act a bit awkward around you. ...
  • They compliment you often. ...
  • They get a little jealous. ...
  • They ask questions. ...
  • They remember the details. ...
  • They want to spend time with you. ...
  • They listen. ...
  • They lean in when you talk.
Mar 24, 2023

How to tell if a guy is interested in you or just being friendly? ›

A guy who likes you will always be nice and polite in his approach towards you and he will always look for avenues to spend more time alone with you and get to know more about you- either by going on a date, through constant phone calls or chats- the subtle signs are always there if you pay close attention.

What are the red flags of manipulators? ›

Some of the most common include: Using intense emotional connection to control another person's behavior. For example, an abusive person may try to manipulate a person by moving very quickly in a romantic relationship. They may overwhelm their victim with loving gestures to lower their guard or make them feel indebted.

What red flags not to ignore? ›

Major red flags are infidelity, gaslighting, controlling behavior, angry outbursts, and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

What are green flags in a guy? ›

“A green flag is when a potential partner is considerate and aware of your boundaries, asks for clarification on them when they are unclear, and does not push them,” she says. Let's say you ask to meet at a bar or the park on the first date and have expressed that you're more comfortable meeting in public places.

Do mixed signals always mean no? ›

Mixed signals are a clear signal: the person doesn't want to be with you. Whether it's because they see you as a friend or someone they don't want to commit to, mixed signals are a clear indicator of someone's lack of serious interest.

What does giving mixed signals mean? ›

: a showing of thoughts or feelings that are very different from each other. I don't know if he likes me; he keeps giving me mixed messages. She's sending mixed signals about her feelings.

How to deal with a girl who sends mixed signals? ›

How to deal with mixed signals from a girl
  1. Play her game and let her have a taste of her own medicine. Girls are not the only ones who can give mixed signals! ...
  2. Escalate your game and be more aggressive. ...
  3. Ask her upfront and call her out. ...
  4. Forget about her.

Do guys send mixed signals on purpose? ›

Men tend to give you mixed signals when they are either not interested and planning to keep you as backup, are confused about what they want or even playing around. This behaviour can be very frustrating and it gets difficult to deal with that hot and cold attitude. So, to deal with such annoying mixed signals.

Why do Avoidants give mixed messages? ›

A person with an avoidant attachment style tends to be emotionally unavailable because they are fearful of opening up to others. This can result in mixed signals, because while the person may claim to want a relationship, they can be quite distant, and they may reject your attempts to connect with them.

What is an example of giving mixed signals? ›

If a new partner talks about wanting to be in a relationship but only shows up when it's convenient for them, they're sending mixed signals. For example, they tell you they're always available to listen when you need them but avoid you when times are tough.

What to do when a guy gives you mixed signals? ›

Approach the subject head-on. If you're getting mixed signals from your partner or even someone you just may like but haven't approached, the best way to deal with it is to bring it up with them. The person may not even realize they're giving off mixed signals. Consider how far along you are in the relationship.

Why do I keep getting mixed signals? ›

People don't always send mixed signals intentionally and mixed signals are often a result of miscommunication or poor communication skills. But other times, people intentionally send mixed signals if they are not that invested in the relationship or are trying to keep their options open and play the field.

How do you know when to stop dating someone? ›

If there is a huge red flag for you, it's probably not worth going forward.
  1. If they never want children and you're 100% interested in having kids one day, that's a perfectly reasonable reason to not continue dating.
  2. You two might be sexually incompatible. ...
  3. Illegal behavior, violence, and abuse are all major red flags.

Why am I so confused about my feelings for him? ›

Confusion about love is incredibly common, whether you're heartsick over a potential partner or just unsure about how to express your feelings. If you're experiencing uncertainty when it comes to love and romance, one of the most effective solutions is to try to reflect on your own feelings, wants, and desires.


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