How to Read Mixed Signals in Relationships

You may need to move on if mixed signals aren't resolved.
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No matter how long your relationship has lasted, mixed signals are both confusing and frustrating. One day your partner declares her lasting love, while the next day she is distant and hard to reach. In the earliest stages of dating, some ambivalence is normal as both people figure out what they want from the relationship. As time moves on, however, mixed signals can spell disaster for any relationship.

1 Conflicting Values

In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist Linda Young notes that people waffle about their relationships for different reasons. Some people set out to manipulate prospective partners, playing mind games for the fun of it. However, a more common reason for mixed signals is that the person is truly confused. Young points out that many people struggle with finding a balance between such conflicts as independence versus connection or excitement versus peace. Talk to your partner about his emotions and fears before writing him off altogether.

2 Trust-Eroding White Lies

When people are ambivalent about a relationship, they are sometimes highly guarded about what they reveal, notes If your partner is not forthcoming about her likes and dislikes, her feelings toward her ex or her thoughts about the relationship, you might feel distrustful. If you sense a problem, but she refuses to discuss it, you might feel pushed away or unimportant. Although these white lies and lies of omission do not necessarily involve deep or meaningful topics, too many of them will destroy a relationship’s base.

3 Setting Boundaries

If your partner sends mixed signals, your first move is deciding how long you will put up with ambivalence, suggests Waiting a few weeks for a new partner to warm up is reasonable, while holding out for months or years is unhealthy. Decide what you need -- such as more honest communication or a projected timeline for becoming more serious -- and clearly spell it out. Be direct but gentle, and then back off. Nagging and begging further damage the relationship and do nothing to get what you want. Give your partner time and distance to make a decision.

4 Moving On

If your partner continues to send mixed signals despite your direct requests, it might be time to move on. Think through your decision carefully rather than reacting in anger to a particular argument. Weigh the pros and cons of remaining with your current partner and check in with your instincts. Gracefully leaving an ambivalent relationship frees both of you to find new partners who are more compatible.

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.