Mixed signals are one of the most seemingly complicated, yet completely uncomplicated aspects of toxic relationship territory that you will ever encounter.
Mixed signals can happen in dating, romantic relationships, friendships, professional, and family relationships. The pain that they cause, however, is only a prelude to the damage that trying to figure them out inflicts.
Relationships that are plagued with mixed signals generally result in:
- Getting ghosted.
- Romanticizing sh*tty people. Because if you don’t love yourself, you’ll interpret mixed signals as mysterious and alluring, in a “please-validate-me-while-I-throw-away-my-dignity-trying-to-solve-your-contradictory-puzzle,” kind of way.
- Delusion in the Land of Limbo. Stay in the bs long enough and you’ll no longer know what you can trust/rely on and what you can’t. With an emotional compass missing and a sense of reality in shambles, your fear of loneliness, rejection, and abandonment will begin to mute your instinct. You don’t know what to believe, which is why taking action feels impossible. And because there’s no solid foundation underneath your relational house, you’ll never want to leave the house for fear that it will all come crashing down if you take so much as one STEP toward the front door.
- Self-blame. If you solely base your value someone else’s ability to recognize it, what else is there to do?
It kills me to acknowledge the extent to which I let confusion from mixed signals (and the subsequent need to investigate/answer seek) waste my time.
Looking back, the saddest part about it is that I devalued myself far greater than anyone’s mixed signals ever did.
Here’s why mixed signals in relationships happen, how to decode them, and what you need to know…
Does any of this sound familiar?
+ as with all of my writing, this can apply to any gender or orientation.
- “He tells me one thing and then does the complete opposite.”
- “He said that he had never felt this way before… then he recoiled and disappeared.”
- “He was so connected and attentive in the beginning and now, he’s cold. I always feel like I’m bothering him.”
- “He told me that I could talk to him about anything, but whenever I talk about how I feel, it freaks him out. And he uses my need for clarification against me.”
- “We’ve been dating for months, but I don’t even know if we’re official? I don’t know how he truly feels.”
- “He says that he’s only interested in me, but his profiles on dating apps are still up.”
- “He says that he’s completely over his ex and not in communication with her, but he likes and comments on her photos.”
- “He basically screened me in the beginning and said that he’s only looking for something serious, but now, every chance that we have to move the relationship forward, he recoils. There’s always an excuse that contradicts the guy he was in the beginning.
And if you ever kindly address any of the above contradictions, you’re met with defensiveness and are made to look/feel crazy.
You’re now the reject of your own life story; sitting on the sidelines of the dance floor with no rhythm, while your emotional DJ of a partner mixes more signals for everyone else to dance to.
You are on a crumb diet – always investigating whether or not it is indeed a crumb that you were just given (and not a “smaller” loaf).
How to decode mixed signals in relationships? Recognize the denominator.
The common denominator of all mixed signals is a lack of character. Character is nothing more than matching your words with your actions (which match patterns).
I used to think that a winning personality, power, talent, fame, education, money, good looks, accomplishments, charm, chivalry, being able to throw a ball at a professional level, languages spoken, trips taken, sense of humor, bond with family, etc., were indicators of character.
While all of those are fine attributes to have, what good is the best icing in the world going to do if it’s on a cardboard cake?
Character is the CAKE. The other stuff is just icing.
And character is not something that can be learned or bought.
The biggest mixed signal out there is the lie we tell ourselves – that superficial attributes are a precursor to the most substantial attribute of all: character.
Why do mixed signals happen?
I think about the times in my life where I’ve given mixed signals and if I’m really being honest with myself, it all boils down to time, effort, and agenda.
When someone is giving you mixed signals, it’s generally because they want to buy as much time as they can where they can reap all the BENEFITS of having a mutual relationship and a monogamous, serious partner, without having to do much on their end. This propels their wishy-washy agenda (that’s always in “self-serving” mode).
Bottom line: Mixed signals are utilized to propel the agenda of buying time to reap benefits that should be EARNED – not given out because future faking words are spoken (that always end up contradicting actions).
Why do we stick around?
Because it’s less scary to be in the pits of investigatory hell than it is to be alone (again) and risk even more abandonment, heartbreak, rejection, and re-traumatization. We hang onto words because it’s all we have.
If you have low self-esteem, it’s always going to be more comfortable to hold onto false hope than it is to dive into the ice bath of acceptance.
Before you allow confusion to instigate another FBI-mode-answer-seeking quest, understand that a mixed signal is actually one of the most direct signals out there.
- It’s a direct signal of consistent inconsistency.
- It’s a direct signal of insecurity.
- It’s a direct signal of immaturity.
- It’s a direct signal of relational ineptness.
- It’s a direct signal of emotional unavailability and a need to control.
- It’s a direct signal of an inability to evolve.
- It’s a direct signal that he will be the same with the next girl and it’s a DIRECT signal of a toxic person.
Remember – there’s nothing grey about a black and white, direct, and consistent pattern of inconsistency. Tying your value to your partner’s emotional incontinence is assuming responsibility for their lack of character (which was the case before you were even in the picture).
USE the mixed signals as a DIRECT SIGNAL that you need to do the one thing your partner can’t do – speak with your actions and opt out of the bullsh*t.
You are destined for so much more than the role of “gullible detective #1,” in the story of YOUR life.
If someone is disconnected, empathetically bankrupt and delusional enough to try to convince you that the weeds are indeed a rose garden, why waste your time investigating if there’s a type of rose that resembles a weed?
Written by: Natasha Adamo