Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
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?
Are you done with toxic relationships and ready to attract (and be attracted to) healthy relationships? Do you want to connect with others on a deeper level than the comments below? Click here to become an Emotional Mastery Member and learn more. If you’re looking for more personalized, one-on-one help, you can work directly with Natasha Adamo here.
Love this! Muah xx ??
Thanks babe 🙂 X
Thank you, I was a fool was blind but now I SEE
Mixed signals = lack of character
Wow, never put my finger on that but it’s so succinct and true. Thanks for another fantastic piece! ?
YES! Happy it helped! 🙂 Thanks Jessica XO
Spot on, N. Thank you <3
Glad it served you. Thank YOU for the love and support sister! xo
Love it … this really made me smile ! Thanks Natasha xx
Oh Wow. It was ESP, so Thank You SOOO Very Much. Last night he said, “I’m messaging you as soon as I get off work to explain all that’s been going on here. I own you an explanation. I miss you. I’ve cried over you. I promise when I get off I’m going to tell you things that have been going on.” Okay, so I told him I’d listen. He got off work in the wee hours of the morning. Now it’s late evening. No message. No text. No Nothing. Yet on FB, he had a sweet comment for a woman!. Boy did I need this. You nail every bit of how I feel and what I think. I hope you can realize the service you do for those of us who need it so. Yes I will reread this several times.
You give hope to replace pain. Thank you So Much, Natasha.
Your comment made me tear up <3 It's my pleasure. Thank YOU Jen, for allowing me to see that I'm not (and was never) alone in my past emotions, feelings and pain. You are loved soul sis. xxxx
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I do not want to say unfortunately because I have learned something positive, … I have learned to take another path to “indifference”…
First it took disappointment
Then, as it happens, disappointment turns to frustration.
Frustration morphs into resentment.
Resentment leads to anger.
Anger explodes into rage.
Leaving indifference in it’s wake.
We have heard the voice of our Tribe explain that “Indifference” is our path to finding our peace.
Thank you Jen. Thank you Natasha.
Because you have a tribe that welcomes wanderers of “why”, I can see the indifference just on my horizon.
This article was dead on what occured in my last relationship. Glad to know it wasn’t me tripping out on his words of broken promises and lack of action and consistency. I blamed myself for our breakup and now realize that it wasn’t my fault.
Happy it helped! Thanks Fatiya! xo
This article is absolutely perfect. Post Male Syndrome has helped me through one of the most challenging break-ups ever, and most articles strike true and hard with my latest experience. Thank goodness for this website. My healing process (and evaluation of myself) would have taken MUCH longer without this website. Much love to all and hang in there! <3
Yes Linz.. I would not be able to get over the most challenging breaks up I have ever had without this website. Stay on your white horse, we are running to sunset. Good Luck
Love it! XO
Hi Linz! Thank YOU so much for the the love, support & for being a part of this tribe <3 You are a gem. Sending my love to you sister. XOXO
Natasha I just love and adore you and everything you write. No sooner do I think that I’ve read my favorite article, you write another one that I love just as much. I cannot even explain how much your blog is helping me to get over an emotionally unavailable guy. It is also inspiring me to get excited and hopeful about my life again. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are making a difference in this world . I wish you so much love and happiness always xx
Hi Beautiful! Likewise – you are loved, appreciated and adored. Thanks for the support 🙂 So happy that the post was helpful! I believe in you – this is your year. Love to you soul sis. XO
I have two one-to-one coaching sessions with Natasha around 2 months ago. I can’t even tell how much Natasha has helped me to build up my self-esteem, something I lacked of, caused me to attract emotional unavailable men one after another,put my love life into too much pain. I really encourage everyone who enjoys reading her amazing blog, if you have a chance, take a one to one coaching session with her You will not only learn from her wise advices but also talk to a beautifully kind soul.
Much love to you from Switzerland
Annie!! Hi my beautiful sister 🙂 It takes one to know one – you are gem. I miss and love you very much. So incredibly proud of you and honored to have helped. Can’t wait to meet you when I’m in Switzerland (hopefully very soon!). xxxxx
‘a microscopic loaf’ haha! I love you Natasha <3 this made me laugh. thank you, this post comes at the right time. much love, xxx
HA! I forgot that I wrote that lol! Sometimes I make myself laugh out loud as I’m writing. So happy it helped! Thanks Medina! 🙂 x
Thank you for your blog, sharing your experiences and growth. My greatest wish is all women link up to stop the madness, because if there’s even one gal that accepts this crapola, it’s simply one too many – and there’s SO many women lacking self-respect and dignity. That being said, could you write your thoughs on a woman just being unable to get out of her own way? As in, she KNOWS the guy is a f*cktard, watches herself go back again and again, but just can’t seem to break the chains? I think it will be a great topic.
Thank you and yes! I’ll try to write about that soon 🙂 XO
You are so right on this! It took me 9 months to realize it, but his mixed signals were more about him not being able to commit to me, than about me not being a “trusting girlfriend”. I finally stepped out of the relationship I gave my heart and soul to after realizing that his actions were louder than his words, and that I was right about his shadiness with a female friend, and that it wasn’t worth crying every night.
May I add, you helped me grow a backbone 🙂
I’m still working on self-esteem. It hurts to stop loving him, and to know that my intution was right. But I trust you, and I’m staying on the white horse and not reacting. Just doing what’s needed to protect myself.
Can you write a post on this: What happens when he starts dating the girl he told you not to worry about.
P.S: The girl he told me not to worry about was my friend for 5 years, before she became his “bestfriend” about 9 months back. It sucks.
I’m glad it helped! 🙂 Thanks Matti! Yes, I will try to write about that soon! X
I am struggling. I reconnected with someone from work who is very newly divorced. The night we connected, he explained he did not know who he was or what we wanted. We clicked anyhow and went on 5 dates (which did include sex). He seemed to be leading and connecting, as I wanted to give him that space to come to me. He went on vacation and contacted me several times and then my elation became sadness as he waited 5 days to contact me and then to tell me about how he has a month of travel (not new, but reminder). So basically he has set up 7 weeks of unavailability and we are not exclusive. I do not understand why he stays connected, and because he is newly divorced, so I think that of him as temporarily unavailable. Thoughts?
I wish that I could answer your question, but I have too much to say to type it all out not enough hands to type or hours in the day. I would also need more details. This is why I cannot give specific advice/answers in the comments.
Thanks for your love, for reading and for your understanding. Keep coming back here to the blog. I do offer one-on-one coaching if you’re interested.
All my love to you soul sister.
You’re not alone XOXO
Remarkably on point and beautifully written, contributing to clarity that couldn’t come at a better time as I come to terms with a romantic relationship with an NPD as well as a long term friendship that I have had great confusion around for the past few years. The bells were just going off as I read this article and recognized so many things that have been troubling about both relationships but that I was having a hard time identifying as abuse or at best, as you put it, inconsistencies that reflect a lack of character. I feel a sense of relief and personal power I haven’t to quite this degree possibly ever that I feel will allow me to proceed newly equipped to do what’s best and most loving for myself and to move on and heal. Thank you so much! ???
Leslie, I’m honored to have helped in your healing and realizations. Thank you so much for sharing and for being a part of this tribe. You are believed in, empathized with, appreciated, understood and never alone. You’ve got this sister! 🙂 xx
PS – this has most recently happened to me with a friend as well.
So happy that it helped facilitate the clarity that you needed 🙂 XO
thanks for reading.
at the start he was super good to me then now.. he dumped me. …we are only attached for less than 2months and most of the time he used me as a hookup only i feel….although we are are couple but seems like he only interested in sleeping that’s all. not much dating…. I confronted him few days back because he is starting to act super cold when we text… at the start he avoided my question and then.. he say yuppp he just want to be friends for now as he don’t get the chemistry between us…and it’s not the relationship that he yearn… 2 weeks before I confronted him I tried having 2-3 days no contact to test if he cares… so I just did not reply his last text. turn out… he did not show concern or call me at all. end up I’m the one who called and text him first. although it’s just a short less than 2months together but I really like him.. I decided to start no contact for a month . my birthday is on the 7th day of NC secretly I want to celebrate with him…if so happens if on my birthday 7th day NC he wish me happy birthday… should I reply? thank you or whatt should I do? in case. please help.. because I don’t want to ruin it and I don’t want to show him I am so needy and depressed… let’s say HE WISH ME a happy birthday on 7th day No contact what should I do??? I know if I ignore him, he will never ever send another text to me again. he is the type where if you ignore his text, he will just takes zero actions…. he won’t care. so far now in NC after his last text to me, I did not reply… but he doesn’t care tooo.. he did not send me extra text or show concern or anything… I’m afraid if he do text me again for my birthday and I ignore him he will be gone forever . I really need help. should I reply if he do text me happy birthday
I wish that I could advise and answer your questions, but I have too much to say to type it all out not enough hands to type or hours in the day. I would also need more details. This is why I cannot give specific advice/answers in the comments.
Thanks for your love, for reading and for your understanding. Keep coming back here to the blog.
I do offer one-on-one coaching if you’re interested and would be happy to help further ?
All my love to you soul sister.
You’re not alone xo
Oh wow, you have no idea how much I’d have loved to get here just a year ago… It is true, I’m still suffering and raw, but I’m free now (after unstable long 8 years) and on the right track… You’re seriously saving my life.
On a completely different note, all your outfits kick ass. <3
Hi Laura! I’m so happy to have helped 🙂 Thanks beautiful! <3 XOXO
You are right on the money with this one. It was almost a confirmation to me right through the internet. Need me say any more on here but to completely distance myself from him. I truly believe in Karma and what you do to people comes back to you.
So happy it helped! Thank Chozeh 🙂 xx
My ex-boyfriend of 5 years (we’d also been living together) went on a “break” with me in August 2017. He said he needed time to heal wounds and that if I gave him space I wouldn’t lose him, and that space and time was the only way of us ending up together.
A couple of months passed and we had kept in limited contact and it wasn’t until he pathetically changed his Fb profile picture from one of us to one of him by himself (a 4 year old photo might I add!) that I connected the dots and deduced that the “break” was in fact a “break up”. Since then we have reconnected on a number of occasions, done weekend trips away, played mini golf, slept together etc.
Each time he has said that he “doesn’t know what the right call is”, that “he doesn’t want to have any regrets”, that” he would like to fall IN LOVE with me again”, that a big part of him hopes we end up together, and would like to work through this but has personal issues that he needs to resolve. At one point I’ve even suggested that we go on a holiday to South Africa (his motherland) together to reconnect, and he said that that could be a good idea and even asked when my holidays/annual leave was…
He has been so hot and cold, and the relationship has been so crippling that I suggested we go to couples counselling which we did. The counsellor suggested taking a couple of months apart to work on ourselves whilst engaging in limited contact, not with the expectation of getting back together but simply evolving and enhancing ourselves as individuals. The counsellor identified that I have anxiety and that had manifested in the relationship as me putting unreasonable demands on my boyfriend, and I was incredibly suffocating often stopping him from socialising with friends and family. His betrayal of trust which lasted 2 years of the relationship- he lied about attending college but was actually barely attending and/or failing the one or 2 subjects he was enrolled in, and actually spending his days gaming on computer games with his younger brother…-also contributed to this and my anxiety I think led to me lacking trust in him and translated to me being quite controlling- a behaviour which I now regret enormously!
In spite of everything I still want to work things out. Look forward to receiving your feedback! Kat xx
I wish that I could give my input/advise but I have too much to say to type it all out and not enough hands to type or hours in the day. This is why I cannot give direct advice in the comments section.
Thank you for your love, for reading, and for your understanding. Other readers are here to support you and I do offer one-on-one coaching if you are interested. Link to it is on the home page.
All my love to you sister.
You are not alone xx
Natasha- your insights are awesome. Life changing for me. Thanks so much. xo Trish
That was exactly the wake up call I needed… and written so poetically!! Thank you x
Happy it helped! Thanks Samantha 🙂 xx
I’m a guy and I can relate to this. I have been tortured for this past year by my ex-GIRLfriend who did this. I just wish I’d left sooner. I really connected with the ‘He tells me one thing then does the opposite’. This post helped me take the blame off of myself, so thank you.
I’m happy that the post helped! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Although the blog is aesthetically geared toward women, the material does not discriminate. There are so many male readers here and you aren’t alone in this (or ever). xx
I love this but a question. When we are faced with mixed signals and we should 100% run, how do we keep our integrity intact so we aren’t hurting another or doing exactly what we don’t want done to us? I think this is the emphatic part of me asking, that’s why I probably end up in these places often.
There is nothing wrong (when the situation calls for it) with clearly and respectfully communicating that you can no longer stay in an ambiguous dynamic. Wish I had the time to write more (thank you for your love and understanding). Hope that helps 🙂 xo
Hi Natasha, you have been my source of light and strength in all I have endured these last several months due to an emotionally unavailable, selfish man who steered me into marriage/ family territory and then went classic cold. I have been devasteted and so has my family- and even his.
Every article I read on here has helped heal me slowly, and I am living to love myself better each day.
I do have a lingering question however: I accused my ex of all of these things, and yes he called me crazy, denied it and then came back with this answer: He said ” How do you know I wasnt like this with you only”….I guess one could say people dont change, but is there any validity to the question he posed? Thank you very much!
I am so happy and honored to have helped in ANY way. You are not alone and your love/support means everything to me. That sounds like a very unecessary, impulsive, and manipulative question (I would, however, need to know more context/details of course – which is why it’s difficult for me to advise in the comments. Thank you for understanding). Being an incredible, emotionally available, empathetic, and relationally selfless person who has the ability to deviate from their own moral code with specific people is a major red flag. Wish that I had the time to write more. Hope this helps. xox