When you're first starting to date someone, you are still in the process of getting to know them as a person, even if it feels at times like you've known them forever. This part of dating can be totally exciting, but the uncertainty and newness of it all often leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and possibly mixed signals.
Recently, I received a question from a reader about dating someone who is often "hot and cold," totally present and seemingly committed to her in some instances, and emotionally unavailable in others. I hope you can use Lindsey's question, and my answer, as a helpful tool for navigating the roller-coaster ride of dating someone who sends mixed signals.
Here's what Lindsey asked:
I met someone who is not ready to date me. In fact, he's not even divorced yet. But he still acts like we're in a relationship, even though he consistently says "Let's just be friends," and reiterates how much he doesn't want a relationship.The roller coaster ride is hard.
What is the best way to handle it? When he gets closer should I slow it down so he doesn't get scared away? I seem to sabotage relationships and I'm trying to figure out why.
My answer to Lindsey is this:
Let's take a look at Lindsey's case: the man she is dating simply doesn't want to feel alone. He is probably being honest when he tells her he just wants to be friends, and seeking to imply that he doesn't want a relationship.
And yet he keeps engaging with Lindsey. Why? Because she is there, and willing to continue being there for him.
I know this because I once found myself in a related situation. When my now-husband and I were still dating, we briefly broke up at one point. During that time, I remember reconnecting with a past love. I did so to distract myself: it felt good to spend time with another body, and it diverted my attention from missing Hemal so much. I call these relationships "time fillers".
Now, I will say I took a lot of time off from even thinking about men or dating during Hemal and my break. But once I started to feel like myself again, it was nice to have a romantic interest around, at least so I didn't feel so alone.
In these "relationships," I knew things weren't really going anywhere. But it was comfortable and comforting to spend time with someone else. While I didn't consciously tell myself, "Well I just want someone to hang out with," that is exactly what I was doing. I know I am not the only one that has done this before, nor is the man Lindsey was getting mixed signals from.
So if you have found yourself in a situation like Lindsey, then I have another question for you: what keeps you from trusting what the other person is communicating to you?
Let me explain: usually, at some point, the person who is sending mixed signals expresses what they are looking for, or not looking for. In Lindsey's case, the guy was pretty clear about his desire not to be in a relationship, even if his behaviors defied that.
If a person expresses their unavailability and you find yourself feeling like you want to and can change their mind, I want you to rethink your logic. I want you to operate from the place that this isn't going to happen.
And then if you choose to still be with them, you are walking into the situation with your eyes wide open, knowing they doesn't want anything further.
If that doesn't feel good because you want more, then it is important to then let the situation and the person go.
The truth is that I don't care what you decide here. But it is about you walking in consciously choosing instead of feeling like you are a victim, or being taken advantage of. Because then you are empowered, and you empowered yourself.
From this place of empowerment, you can change your mind at any time and make a new choice that serves your needs.
So what do you think? Have you ever been in a situation like Lindsey? What was keeping you from making a decision around it or what have you done in the past if you have experienced a situation like this? Let me know in the comments below!
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