How to Deal With Annoying Mixed Signals (2023)

Whether you’re still in the giddy infatuation stage or so comfortable in your relationship that you leave the bathroom door open, it’s not always easy to read a partner. And given that so much of our lives play out over text (scheduling dates, managing family logistics, you know the drill), it can be even harder to decipher how someone’s feeling, and whether or not things are becoming a bit one-sided.

Everyone comes into a relationship with different ways of communicating. Sometimes, wires get crossed, triggering vulnerabilities and insecurities that can throw you for a loop, but this advice from relationship pros can help you move forward from these common mixed signals.

You're overlooked.

In a romantic relationship, you’re choosing to share your life with someone. It goes without saying, then, that to maintain intimacy, you need to put in facetime. “If your partner prioritizes you one week, then is MIA the next, and that becomes a pattern, anyone will start to question their own importance,” says Brittany Bouffard, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist based in Denver, CO.

If you’re feeling connected one minute and neglected the next, "communication is key here. Be true to your needs,” says Bouffard. “Let it be known you want more consistent time together, and beware of rationales like work constantly being the barrier. Look for concerted efforts and teamwork to bring about real change.”

Suddenly, they want to branch out.

You both deserve your own friends, of course, but it can be alarming if your partner suddenly wants to expand their social circle, says Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., author of Red Flags. Are they just looking to meet new people, or are they bored with your social life? Are they tired of you?

“Take note of what type of company they seek,” says Patrick. “Networking, spending more time with family, meeting like-minded individuals who share newfound values—those types of social expansions are not necessarily threatening to a relationship, unless there’s no effort made to take one's partner along on the journey.” But increased effort or an expressed interest in reconnecting with old friends or making new ones without any real reason may stem from dissatisfaction—and the desire to explore alternatives, she says

(Video) 4 Confusing Mixed Signals That Girls Send To Guys (Don't Be Fooled)

They say one thing and do another.

If someone you’re dating says they want to see you and then doesn’t follow through with plans, that’s annoying. If your partner says they’re going to help with the laundry and then leaves it piled on the floor, that’s frustrating. “People whose words do not match their actions may be afraid of confrontation, or may be acting acting their feelings instead of discussing them,” says Paulette Sherman, a psychologist and the author of Dating from the Inside Out.

This is the kind of selfish behavior you have to bring to their attention and see if they’re willing to work on it—and then decide how much it damages the trust in your relationship and if it’s worth staying together. “You can’t change the other person,” says Sherman. “You can create awareness of this pattern, model clear communication around it, express how it makes you feel, request what you’d like to happen instead with your partner and monitor whether it improves.”

Romantic gestures come out of nowhere.

If your typically self-absorbed partner (no shade, we’re all busy) comes home with roses out of the blue or whips up a gourmet dinner for no reason, it can sweet and romantic—or the unexpected randomness of it can be jarring. “This type of unpredictable behavior can arise from a partner wanting attention for ‘doing good’ or ‘being good,’” says Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist in Santa Rosa, CA. “It can also stem from a place of feeling guilty for not being attentive.”

Assuming you prefer these gestures to the alternative, reinforce the positive actions when they occur in order to encourage your partner to contribute more to the relationship in the future. “For example, you might say, ‘I’m so touched that you made dinner tonight. What an unexpected surprise. Thank you!’” says Manly. “In time, these things might become a more consistent."

They seem to have misplaced their sex drive.

Few things can ding confidence quite like a partner who suddenly doesn’t want to have sex with the same frequency as in the past. “Before you automatically suspect infidelity, think insecurity,” says Patrick. “Emotional mood swings may produce feelings of unworthiness, and unattractiveness, and health-related physical issues may cause some partners to shy away from engaging in the usual amount of physical affection within their relationship.”

Before you freak out, pay attention to your partner’s other “love languages,” says Patrick. Someone who still engages in the same amount of loving conversation, texting, or affectionate gestures may have legitimate reasons for (temporarily) shying away from physical contact that have nothing to do with losing interest in the relationship or you, she says.

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

And now for some common mixed signals from your ex...

They initiated a post-breakup hookup.

“This tends to happen when the person who broke up the relationship is lonely or needs and ego fix, so they turn to their ex,” says Caroline Madden, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Burbank, CA. “That ex is vulnerable and may take this renewed interest as a sign that maybe their former partner has had enough space and is finally coming back to their senses and wants to reunite.”

We're certainly not saying that never happens, but the reality is, post-breakup hookups are a minefield of emotions. “They are likely looking for comfort or a confidence boost," says Madden. Of course there are exceptions, but if you’re willing to engage instead of move on, remember that this might not be a means to rekindling.

That ex also tells you they miss you.

Just because your ex says they miss you doesn’t mean they want to get back together. “It could simply be an expression of missing the time that you had together,” says Joree Rose, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Danville, CA. “You can miss lots of things about the person—their laugh, their smell, the sex, the connection when it was good, the chemistry you had together, the vacations you took—while at the same time not missing actually being in the relationship.”

So, acknowledge the sentiment but don’t get caught up wondering what it means. “Sometimes, it just is what it is—missing someone is natural,” says Rose. You don’t need to respond, but if you choose to, stay neutral—“don’t label it as good or bad, or view it as a positive or a negative,” she says. “A neutral response will keep the mind from wandering into rumination of the past, and into the anxieties of the future unknown, both of which are places in which we can get stuck.” For example, you can say something as simple as, “thank you for letting me know.”

They keep checking in on you.

In theory, how sweet! In actuality, it’s just dragging out your recovery process. “The person doing this usually feels a little guilty for breaking someone’s heart, so in an effort to not feel like the ‘bad guy,' they start reaching out to their ex to see how they’re doing,” says Madden. “For the ex, though, that’s taken as a bid for connection and sparks the hope that maybe the relationship isn’t over.”

(Video) DO THIS When Men Send You MIXED SIGNALS...

Basically, it’s keeping you in limbo, unable to process the loss and move on because you’re still hoping to rekindle the relationship. “I know it can feel cold to go no contact, but it might be for the best if you're trying to heal,” says Madden. Block ‘em on Facebook, Instagram, whatever, and delete any texts—and stick to your decision to go cold turkey if you're sure you want to cut ties.

And call you whenever they need something.

Ah, this is someone who wants the benefits of a relationship without any of the responsibility. So they told you they didn’t want to be tied down, they just didn’t feel ‘that way’ about you anymore, or that they weren’t looking for something serious. But “sometimes you can continue to fulfill your ex’s emotional needs without having a commitment or getting anything in return,” says Sherman.

If you find your ex is still calling to talk on their drive home from work, or wants to grab a glass of wine on a random Tuesday when they don’t have anything better to do, or they’re fishing for compliments via aware. “You need to set boundaries, and explain that you want space and time to focus on yourself,” says Sherman.

Once you move on, they act jealous.

You broke up, you moved on, and now your ex is sending sad or snarky comments your way about how happy you look on social media or the fact that they heard you were dating again. Even if they broke up with you, “jealousy can be normal because emotions aren’t logical,” says Rose. That jealousy may not mean they want to get back together with you; it may simply imply that seeing someone they cared about move on is hurting them.

But, hey, that doesn't have to be your problem. “There’s no need to apologize to them or to nurture them,” says Rose. “That is no longer your role.” Instead, consider drawing healthy boundaries so you can create your own safe place for moving on. That could mean disconnecting from your ex on social media or asking your friends to not share the details of your new life out of respect for you, she says. But be compassionate—“breakups are hard, and it can take time for the emotions to settle into the new normal,” says Rose.

(Video) How to Deal With a Guy's Mixed Signals

For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter!

How to Deal With Annoying Mixed Signals (1)

Ashley Mateo

Ashley Mateo is a writer, editor, and UESCA- and RRCA-certified running coach who has contributed to Runner’s World, Bicycling, Women's Health, Health, Shape, Self, and more. She’ll go anywhere in the world once—even if it’s just for a good story. Also into: good pizza, good beer, and good photos.

(Video) Hot and Cold? This is How To Reply to His Mixed Signals!


How do you respond to 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

What to do if a guy keeps giving mixed signals? ›

What to do when he sends you mixed signals
  1. 01/6How to deal with his mixed signals. ...
  2. 02/6Stop overthinking. ...
  3. 03/6It's okay to date more than one person until commitment. ...
  4. 04/6Do not act needy. ...
  5. 05/6Be vague when he asks you out. ...
  6. 06/6Let him be.
Oct 21, 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.

Why am I getting so many 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.

Are mixed signals a red flag? ›

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

How do you deal with hot and cold behavior? ›

Tips to bear in mind when dating a hot and cold guy
  1. Don't come across as desperate. Resist the temptation to chase him, act unaffected when he acts cold. ...
  2. Give space – It's sometimes the best way to communicate. ...
  3. Flip the game of the hot and cold guy. ...
  4. Understand that you are not the problem. ...
  5. Confront, back off, and move on.
Jul 28, 2021

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.

When a guy is hot and cold? ›

Guys sometimes blow hot and cold when they are overwhelmed by their emotions. This can actually be a result of them liking you a lot. It's possible that he is feeling scared by his own emotions and doesn't know how to handle them.

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.

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.

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 is the psychology of 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.

Why do Avoidants give mixed signals? ›

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 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.

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.

Why does a narcissist give mixed signals? ›

One of the things the mixed signal shines a glaring light on is their complete lack of insight to how their behaviors affect others. Another reason for the Narcissist's mixed signals could simply be that they just aren't sure about you.

How do you respond when someone says they need space? ›

What to Do When Someone Says I Need Space
  1. Listen carefully and understand why. When those four words come up, the most important thing you can do is listen to what your partner is saying. ...
  2. Be aware and assess accordingly. ...
  3. Thank them for being honest. ...
  4. Respect their wishes. ...
  5. Get some space of your own.
Nov 23, 2017

How do you identify mixed signals? ›

5 signs you're experiencing mixed signals
  1. You're confused. This is one of the biggest signs that you're fielding mixed signals, Doares says. ...
  2. A person's actions don't match their words. ...
  3. You're not sure how to interact with them. ...
  4. You're left playing detective. ...
  5. Something feels off.
Sep 7, 2021

What are the two 2 types of signals? ›

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

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.

How do you give a man space to chase you? ›

The biggest tip for how to give a guy space is to be genuine about it. Instead of viewing it as a game, go out and live your life. Connect with friends, be independent, show him that you love spending time with him, but you're just as happy to be on your own if he isn't interested.

What is push pull behavior? ›

In the push-pull cycle, one person craves intimacy and another actively avoids it. It might start with the avoider starting to cool off the passion and enthusiasm they had originally shown for their partner, wanting to spend more time alone or planning an increased amount of activities independently.

Why do guys chase you and then back off? ›

He may have detected that you're interested in more than just hooking up, and he's trying to back away slowly. His sudden lack of interest could signal he wants to end things, or that he wants to keep you at a distance. Either way, if he's not interested in more than sex, and you are, it's probably not a good match.

Does silence make a man miss you? ›

The simple answer to the above questions is yes. When you walk away and make him miss you, it's typical for a man to come back to you. The power of silence after a breakup is highly effective in making your partner come back. To start with, going silent after a breakup is a sign of confidence and self-esteem.

Is silent treatment a red flag? ›

If someone displays unmanageable emotions and easily flies off the handle, this is a serious red flag. Responding with uncontrollable rage or the "silent treatment" could point to abusive (physical or emotional) behavior in the future, says Trombetti.

Should I just ignore silent treatment? ›

Ignore it until it blows over

The silent treatment isn't always meant to inflict wounds. Sometimes, it's an isolated incident that gets out of hand. You can let it slide until they come around and move on.

Why does a guy suddenly acts cold? ›

1. He feels you are out of his league. 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.

What is the male intimacy cycle when falling in love? ›

Called the “rubber band” or the male intimacy cycle, it's when a man vacillates between being close to his partner and pulling away. Men do this for many reasons. The most important reason is to connect with their more masculine side and to focus on the activities that make them a good provider and partner.

Why do guys distance themselves from a girl they like? ›

Guys mainly act distant when they are uncertain of their feelings or yours. Please don't give up when you notice a sudden change in his demeanor. Instead, make him trust you more by assuring him of your love. Let him know you value the relationship and hope you build it together.

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 the 4 cycles of emotional abuse? ›

The cycle of abuse is made up of four stages. These stages include the building of tension, the abuse incident, the reconciliation, and a period of calm.

Who attracts narcissists? ›

In fact, narcissists prefer to target someone who is strong-willed, and who has talents or characteristics they admire, because they believe it makes them shine too. "Narcissists are drawn to those who can boost their own self-esteem and validate their sense of importance," Wasser told Insider.

How do you respond to a narcissist baiting? ›

Don't take whatever the narcissist does or says personally. Try to leave them to it. Recognise bait as bait and then more importantly, notice how that leaves you feeling. Notice the immediate urge within you as to how you may want or feel the need to react.

How do narcissists lure you in? ›

Narcissists and psychopaths are well-known for a tactic known as “baiting.” They deliberately provoke you so that you emotionally react and swallow their blameshifting hook, line, and sinker.

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.

What is hot and cold behavior in a relationship? ›

In the 'hot' phase, you feel attention and attraction and it can feel intense. Then comes the 'cold' phase when they pull away, making you crave their attention and yearn for them,” Zeising explains. As a result, it leaves you feeling rejected, confused, frustrated – or even powerless.

What do mixed signals look like from a guy? ›

If he acts hot and cold with you, if he flirts with you and then disappears, or if he flirts with you while he has a girlfriend, he's giving you mixed signals. Other examples include when he flirts with you but flirts with others around you as well, or when he never makes any plans to meet you.

Who do Avoidants attract? ›

Love Avoidants recognize and are attracted to the Love Addict's strong fear of being left because Love Avoidants know that all they have to do to trigger their partner's fear is threaten to leave.

What are avoidant deactivating strategies? ›

Avoidant people often long for relationships when they are alone although they use “deactivating strategies” to cope. “Deactivating strategies” are those mental processes by which the Avoidant person convinces themselves that being alone is just as good or better than being in relationship.

What attachment style sends mixed signals? ›

Avoidant partners maintain distance by sending mixed signals, sometimes drawing you in with bids for closeness, other times pushing you away. They may say one thing but do another, such as telling you they want to spend more time together but then cramming their schedule with other commitments.

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 makes a situationship toxic? ›

If both people are on the same page regarding the situationship, then it is fine. If the situationship leaves you confused, anxious, and changes you as a person, you might be in a toxic situationship.

What does it mean when someone says you re sending me mixed signals? ›

: 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 do you know if someone likes you mixed signals? ›

Check out the five signs below.
  1. You're confused. This is one of the biggest signs that you're fielding mixed signals, Doares says. ...
  2. A person's actions don't match their words. ...
  3. You're not sure how to interact with them. ...
  4. You're left playing detective. ...
  5. Something feels off.
Sep 7, 2021

How do you respond to someone who blows hot and cold? ›

When a person blows hot and cold, they often want you to react and give them the attention they crave. When this happens, you should stand your ground – ignore them, be yourself, be independent and show them you are not affected by their behaviour.

Do mixed signals mean no? ›

As a rule, mixed signals are usually just soft nos. Some women, especially, might try to let men down easy for fear that you guys might go apeshit on us for not wanting to date you—which happens enough to feel like a justified fear.

What do mixed signals from a guy look like? ›

If he acts hot and cold with you, if he flirts with you and then disappears, or if he flirts with you while he has a girlfriend, he's giving you mixed signals. Other examples include when he flirts with you but flirts with others around you as well, or when he never makes any plans to meet you.

What is it called when someone gives you mixed signals? ›

What are mixed signals? “Mixed signals are when someone's being inconsistent in the messages they're giving people,” Pathak explains. Mixed signals can simply be miscommunication—your partner tries to express one set of feelings, and it comes out wrong.

Why do guys flirt then back off? ›

1. Why do guys act interested then pull away? The biggest reason for men to pull away is the fear of their own emotions. The thought of a relationship is appealing to them but the effort scares them.

What to do when someone is cold towards you? ›

We turned to psychotherapist Nicole McCance to find out what to do when a friend is acting distant for what feels like no reason.
  1. Take time to reflect. ...
  2. Ask your friend about what happened. ...
  3. Don't take it personally. ...
  4. Don't gossip about your friend. ...
  5. Let it go. ...
  6. Do something fun together.

What do you say to an inconsistent guy? ›

Talk to him openly and honestly about your feelings, being sure to let him know that you are also open to hearing how he is feeling. Showing your open and honest feelings and openness to understanding his feelings will help encourage him to feel comfortable and safe enough to open up about his feelings for you.

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.


1. The Paradox of Love: Understanding Mixed Signals from Girls #dreams #arguments
(Top of Mind)
2. Why Your Ex Gives You The 'Hot & Cold' Treatment (Mixed Messages Explained!)
(Brad Browning)
3. How to Make Them Call and Text You Every Day
(Matthew Hussey)
4. Girl Talk : Mixed Signals ??🙄| How Do You Know If He’s Really Into You!!| ((Must Watch))
(Love Your Natural)
5. The Two Prime Fears Of The Male Mind - Mixed Signals Explained
(Mark Rosenfeld)
6. "Bad Texter" or Just Not That Into You? | Matthew Hussey
(Matthew Hussey)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Last Updated: 09/29/2023

Views: 6195

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lakeisha Bayer VM

Birthday: 1997-10-17

Address: Suite 835 34136 Adrian Mountains, Floydton, UT 81036

Phone: +3571527672278

Job: Manufacturing Agent

Hobby: Skimboarding, Photography, Roller skating, Knife making, Paintball, Embroidery, Gunsmithing

Introduction: My name is Lakeisha Bayer VM, I am a brainy, kind, enchanting, healthy, lovely, clean, witty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.