7 Reasons People Send Mixed Signals in Relationships

It can be frustrating and confusing when someone you're dating sends inconsistent messages. One moment, they seem very interested, and the next, they appear distant and unresponsive. They may seem committed at times but then show uncertainty when you try to discuss your relationship's future. To maintain stability, it's important to set boundaries on how much back-and-forth you will tolerate. Understanding why this happens can be helpful. Here are seven reasons why a partner may send mixed signals.

  1. They Don't Fully Trust You. Not everyone gives the benefit of the doubt to new partners. Whether they are cautious or hesitant to trust due to past experiences, you'll need to find out as you get to know them. If you haven't had enough time to prove your reliability, or if you've been inconsistent (e.g., showing up late for dates, being vague about your past or your intentions), their mixed signals might stem from not trusting you yet.
  2. They Fear Commitment. Being in an exclusive relationship doesn't appeal to everyone. Some people highly value their independence and freedom. Others have avoidant attachment styles, interpreting closeness as threatening. They might be early in their career and worry that a relationship could hinder their progress. Look for signs that they are hesitant to be tied down, such as not letting you in emotionally, being reluctant to make future plans, and not introducing you to their friends.
  3. They're Not Over Their Ex. New partners may deny it, but there are telltale signs that they're not ready to move on with you or anyone else. If someone who recently ended a relationship is fully into you one day and completely absent the next, only to contact you unexpectedly, they might be using a non-serious relationship with you to distract themselves from their ex. Be cautious to avoid emotional harm from someone still attached to a previous partner.
  4. They've Experienced Trauma. Someone who alternates between pushing you away and pulling you close may have a complicated attachment style. This ambivalent pattern often develops in childhood due to trauma. Such a person might believe they don't deserve love, associate attachment with past hurts, yet deeply crave connection. Their behavior can feel like an approach with hands up for protection, creating an unstable dynamic where you feel intensely welcomed and then suddenly blamed. Proceed carefully, as people with disordered attachment can be very unpredictable.
  5. They Don't Respect You. If someone isn't consistently responding to your calls or messages, is present for days or weeks then disappears before reappearing, they might not be treating you with the respect required for a healthy relationship. You have every right to call out their inconsistency and set clear expectations for how you want to be treated. If they disappear in response, consider it a blessing in disguise.
  6. They Want to Feel in Control. This might stem from deep-seated anxiety or trust issues, or a more problematic personality trait. The more self-centered someone is, the more they tend to crave power and control in relationships. Keeping you guessing and uncertain might be their way of feeling in control. Do yourself a favor and ask if you want to be strung along. If not, set a firm boundary on what you will and will not tolerate.
  7. They are unsure about what they want and who they are. A major contributor to inconsistent behavior is not knowing who they are or what they want. Someone whose signals are all over the place might be going through an identity crisis. Losing a job or a loved one, aging, or questioning one's faith, sexuality, or career choice are just a few examples. Pay attention to how often they express uncertainty about themselves and their future, as well as their values and goals. Understand that they may need more time to figure out who they are and what they want before they can commit to a relationship.

Regardless of the reasons someone might send mixed signals, we need to set firm boundaries on what we will and will not tolerate, and ask tough questions to get the information we need to move forward in our romantic and personal lives. People who send mixed signals will continue their behavior as long as it benefits them, they get away with it, and they are not made aware of or held accountable for its negative impact on others. Are there valid reasons someone might act inconsistently? Absolutely. Sometimes, a person sending mixed signals might need support and patience to heal from past trauma, insecurity, or hesitation at the root of their actions. You're welcome to support someone in that process, but before you do, make sure you know your limits so you can communicate them clearly and kindly. This will set both you and the person sending mixed signals up for better success in fostering the genuine connections most of us deeply desire.

Post a Comment (0)
Previous Post Next Post