Dating is supposed to be fun, easy, exciting.
But all too often, it leaves you with a muddled head rather than butterflies in your stomach.
While we might have figured out our feelings (just about), we’re now faced with working out what another person thinks of us.
When they’re delivering mixed signals, things get even more baffling – and it’s easy to fall into a trap of overanalysing, reading meaning into every little thing they do (or don’t do).
They didn’t text you back for hours.
They were super keen to meet up, then bailed at the last minute.
Everything was going brilliantly, but there was no kiss at the end of the date.
What does it all mean?
‘When a date is just giving you conflicting signals it can be frustrating and unnerving,’ relationship expert Neil Wilkie tells Metro.co.uk.
‘There are lots of reasons why someone might be doing this and it’s important not to jump straight to the conclusion that they don’t like you.’
Neil lists some potential reasons for someone giving mixed signals – perhaps consider these before catastrophising:
- They were badly hurt in a previous relationship and are afraid of the same happening again
- They are in a fading relationship and want to test the water before making a leap
- They lack confidence and need to feel safe before opening up and being vulnerable
- They’re not sure whether they really like you and are keeping their options open
Knowing the causes behind mixed messages can help a little, but to really clear out heads, we need to learn how to decode our dates.
Ahead, Neil shares some essential indicators that someone is really into you. Look out for these the next time you’re on a date.
‘The eyes give away most of all on a date,’ says Neil. ‘Positive signs are if they gaze at you, hold eye contact and you sense a spark in their eyes.
‘If they are less confident, they may feel embarrassed to hold eye contact and will quickly turn away but look at you again when they think you are unaware.’
People don’t only express themselves through their words. If someone’s feeling you, they’re likely to get physically closer to you, lean in, or even make an excuse to touch you.
Neil says: ‘Are you feeling in tune with them, are they showing deep interest in what you are saying, even if is mundane? Are they laughing or giggling more than normal? All these are signs of the barriers coming down and them being more open to you.
‘The pace of communication may also be very different, either faster because they want to say a lot and fill embarrassing gaps. Alternatively, there may be pauses as they go inside themselves, thinking deeply. Let the pauses continue and don’t rush to fill them.’
You’ll know flirting when you see it, and if it’s happening, that’s a good sign.
Neil notes: ‘When you show that you find them attractive, what comes back? Is it a smile, a longer look, an open question, a subtle touch. If they respond, they are interested.’
What they’re actually saying
Take your head out of the panicked, over-analysing space and tune into what your date is actually saying.
‘Truly listen,’ says Neil. ‘Note, not just the words but the tonality, pace and pauses. Pay exquisite attention to them and ask how they are feeling. As they are being truly listened to the barriers will start to come down and if they find you attractive, they will go even deeper and give more clues.’
How to deal with mixed signals
Okay, so you’re looking at all these factors and are still no clearer. What can you do now?
Neil says the best approach is to stop the endless deciphering and just straight up ask your date how they’re feeling.
‘Cut through the uncertainty and just ask in a way that will avoid embarrassment and get their true feelings out,’ he says. ‘A great question to ask at the end of your a date, for instance, is (pay attention and use this exact wording) “and what would you like to have happen next?” and then pause until they respond.’
If they won’t offer clarity and your date regularly makes your head feel like a mess, it might be time to cut your losses and move on.
Someone who seems to take enjoyment in playing games and never letting you know how they really feel isn’t exactly someone ideally suited to be in a relationship with.
Keeping someone on their toes is one thing – never allowing them to feel comfortable is quite another. Give a mixed-signal-giver an opportunity to get honest and cut the bullsh*t, but if they don’t take it, ditch ’em and find someone who will.
‘It’s essential to remember that trust is the foundation of a relationship so if, instinctively, you do not trust someone as a result of the mixed signals they’re giving you, that will be hard to recover from,’ says Neil.
‘If their behaviour is making you question that trust you can either let them go or, if they otherwise seem a good match, ask them about the aspects of their behaviour that are troubling you and see if their reply comforts you or not.’
Neil Wilkie is a relationship expert, psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm.
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