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When you begin to date someone, you enter uncharted territory. You’re probably either looking for ‘something casual’ or a ‘relationship,’ even if nothing has been defined. However, in our society, it’s seen as taboo to ask what someone is looking for too early for fear of them running for the hills.
The ridiculous part is that about 20% of people tend to overthink (aka anxious attachment style) during the initial stages of dating someone, and yet no one talks about it. Normalizing this conversation will not only ease your mind, but also stop you from getting too invested before your feelings get hurt.
The problem is, when we meet someone we really like, we immediately think that they feel the same way. That they are also constantly thinking about us, want to spend every waking moment with us, and are going to reach out to make plans. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Even if they are texting you everyday, actions always speak louder than words. Maybe you’re getting mixed signals.
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What are the mixed signals?
If you find yourself constantly on edge, wondering how to act, or perhaps you have constant butterflies, that may be an indication that you don’t feel fully sure about the person you’re dating. When you’re together, you may feel happy and secure. When you mention a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, they may say, “we should go there next week.” However, when next week comes and goes, you wonder why they weren’t true to their word.
These are called mixed signals. It’s when someone’s word doesn’t match up to their actions. Even if you aren’t looking for a serious relationship with this person, it can be hurtful when they present contradictory information.
Figure out what you want
Although you may feel frustrated with this person, figure out what YOU are looking for first. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they want, only that you are staying true to your intentions. If you are looking for a casual relationship, great! Serious relationship? Great! Don’t know yet? That’s okay too! Once you’re clear, you can prepare for the conversation.
Write down your top three points
Once you know what you want in your romantic life, take out a piece of paper and bullet out all the mixed signals you’re receiving from this person. Afterwards, circle the top three that are the most important to you. This allows you to prepare for the conversation and have ready-to-go talking points. Difficult or uncomfortable conversations can be nerve wracking, but having three things to remember is easy.
Phone call or in-person is best
Steer clear of texting these types of conversations as it may further misconstrue the point you’re trying to get across. Either pick up the phone or bring this up the next time you meet in person.
Start the conversation with, “I’m getting mixed signals, what’s going on?” as it will allow the other person to open up first rather than pointing fingers and blaming. After all, perhaps they are on the same page as you and they are just shy or stressed at work or have family drama. Never assume that this person is avoiding you on purpose. Instead, remember to hold compassion because you never know what someone is going through. Once it’s your turn to speak, lead with what you’re looking for and bring up your three points.
Be willing to compromise
With any difficult conversation, there is always space for compromise. Be willing and open to see the other person’s perspective and meet in the middle. For example, if the other person is not a planner, offer to make the plan for your dates, but ask that they choose a night they are free first. Most importantly, you should never compromise on the type of dating experience you are looking for. You can never change someone or convince someone to be casual or in a relationship if they don’t want to.
It’s important to note that mixed signals can happen at any point in a relationship, and even happen in friendships or familial relationships. You can use these tips for all relationships in your life to help you take a pause, reflect and come to the conversation with a clear head, compassion for the other person, and a willingness to meet in the middle.
Liana Pavane is an event and podcast host, born and raised in New York City. She has previously written for Thrive Global, Elephant Journal, and Darling Magazine. Liana has been featured in Forbes, Thrillist, Time Out, and NY1 for her tech-free pop-up events in NYC, which are set to return this year!
Instagram: @lianacolada, @ghosts_ofdatespast, @ttylnyc