All You Need to Know About Hot and Cold Behavior

Relationship Rules
22 Dec 2023
10 min read
Hot and Cold Behavior: 5 Ways to Handle and 6 Reasons Why

Dealing with hot and cold behavior can be exhausting – one day, they get your hopes up; the next day, they crush them. As they send mixed signals, it’s hard to decide what to do. How to treat them right? How to deal with someone who will become hot one minute but be completely cold the next?

Let’s power through these mixed signals and take a look at what a hot and cold behaviour pattern looks like, why they might be acting that way, and see the best way to handle it.

5 Strategies to Handle a Person’s Hot and Cold Behavior

Before we go over what to look for when you think a person is being hot and cold and the reasons they may be acting this way, let’s take a look at how you handle someone who is behaving in that way.

1. Communicate Openly

Open communication is one of the cornerstones of any healthy relationship. By communicating openly with your partner, there is no place for misconceptions or lack of respect. Words can be one of your most powerful tools, and when you are dealing with uncertainty, sometimes a positive conversation in a safe space can get you or your partner to explain their feelings and reasoning.

Don’t sugarcoat the reality – tell them exactly what you feel. Even if you’re wrong, it’s better to clarify things and communicate openly than close yourself and raise doubts.

Related reading: Setting Relationship Rules For a Healthy Partnership

2. Make Time for Yourself

“I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.”

Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer

Sometimes, being around someone you’re interested in can make a person anxious, which can result in feeling the need to partake in hot and cold behavior patterns. If you see this happening, it’s better to give yourself space for a day or two and do things for yourself.

3. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sometimes, their hot and cold behavior can cause doubt yourself. You may wonder what the real issue is and start asking if they are actually interested in you. But you should keep in mind that their misbehavior is their problem, not yours.

Some people may act close to you one day and very distant the next because they feel overwhelmed by the interaction or conversations that you have sometimes. They do it not with you but with everybody and make it emotionally challenging for anyone to get through. Sometimes, they may not even be able to explain the way they act – and in those moments, it’s best not to take it personally, especially when it seems like they act that way with everyone.

4. Make Sure Your Boundaries Are Clear

When it comes to any interaction, such as conversations, hand-holding, and sex, you must set clear and concise boundaries for them. Let them know that you won’t tolerate certain behaviors and that you have certain expectations in the relationship. This way, it will be easier for you to defend yourself when they start demonstrating hot and cold behaviour patterns.

Related reading: Boundaries in Relationships – Keeping Them Healthy

5. Seek Advice and Help from a Professional

Sometimes, the best way to handle hot and cold behavior is to seek professional outside help. This way, another person can get them to open up about their reasons or to admit when something is wrong with the way they are doing things:

  • They may want you to have more interest in them because they think you are so attractive.
  • They may want you to feel like spending time with them is more of a treat rather than an expectation

Whatever the reason may be, talking with a professional can be a good way to help you get it out of them.

What causes people to demonstrate hot and cold behaviour patterns

6 Reasons Why People Follow the Hot and Cold Behaviour Pattern

They may be genuinely interested in dating you, but their hot and cold behavior pattern has some deeper psychological reasons, including

  • Low self-esteem that is caused by their own insecurities,
  • A lack of a healthy relationship or emotional connection in the past,
  • The need for some sort of ego boost

Here are just some of the reasons why they may be hot one minute and cold the next (that have nothing to do with you personally!).

1. A Severe Lack of Confidence

They are more than likely very interested in you and want to show you lots of affection. However, they often get stuck in a frustrating cycle of feeling the need to push you away as they find themselves thinking that you don’t like them the same way. They may even get the idea that you are planning to hurt them, and to avoid that, they choose to hurt you first. If so, this is their lack of confidence talking to you.

Lacking confidence, rooted in low self-esteem, is one of the most common reasons for hot and cold behaviour. They may feel as if they don’t deserve to be with a person like you and will try to make you feel the same way as well.

Related reading: 13 Valuable Traits of a High-Value Woman

2. Intentional Abuse or Manipulation

A person who is hot and cold may not be someone who has complicated issues with their mental health or doesn’t want to fully invest in a relationship. Sometimes, they are simply jerks who are intentionally trying to abuse or manipulate their victims into submission.

To make the relationship last the way they want to, they count on acting as confusing as possible. By doing this, they can potentially break down their partner and make it seem as if they don’t understand their feelings. This can result in their partners starting to feel bad even when they haven’t done anything wrong.

This push-and-pull method of manipulation can lead to emotional insecurity for their victims who stay with the hopes of fixing their relationship. This pattern is also called intermittent reinforcement. Sadly, people often respond more positively when rewards are inconsistent, even when they are bookended by abusive behaviors.

Related reading: 11 Warning Signs of a Controlling Boyfriend and Why They Are Not OK

3. They Are Not Ready For a Serious Relationship

One of the potential reasons for hot and cold behaviour is not being ready to handle a serious relationship:

  • They may have had the person who was the love of their life suddenly dump them, and they are in an unhealthy rebound period.
  • They may be unsure of how to handle their feelings in a relationship.

Instead of remaining single and having time to focus on their own feelings and emotions, these people try to gain control of their problems by finding attractive people and filling the void with their attention. Other reasons for such attention-seeking behavior include not getting a lot of attention in their life or feeling like any previous relationship they had was lacking in affection. It’s your choice whether to participate in this unhealthy pattern or not.

A guy who pushes you away and pulls you back in may just be begging for you to pay just a little more attention to them in the relationship.

Related reading: A Guide to Growing an Exclusive Relationship

4. Desire to Establish Power Dynamic

“The problem, she’s starting to understand, is that a man will never let you fall completely into hell. He will scoop you up right before you drop the final inch so that you cannot blame him for sending you there. He keeps you in a dinerlike purgatory instead, waiting and hoping and taking orders.”

Lisa Taddeo, American author and journalist

Guys may focus on a push-and-pull method of behavior because they want to feel as if they are in control of the relationship. This type of pattern has a lot to do with the expectations that many guys have placed upon them and the idea that, in the future, they will need to be the ones who are in control of everything.

If they feel as if you are challenging their authority, guys who are hot and cold may respond by pushing you away the moment you show any sign of ‘insubordination’ in their eyes. But will reward you when they see a sign of compliance from you.

5. Unresolved Issues From Past Relationships

If you are handling a partner who is pushing and pulling at you, it may be a sign that they have some unresolved relationship issues. And instead of trying to figure them out, they ignore those issues and are constantly trying to date other people.

The issue with their ex remains, but they hold on to the hope that if they date people and move on. But in the end, you are just continuing the cycle because they haven’t really changed and learned their lessons.

6. Has Met Someone Else

Sometimes, a person may start to be hot and cold because they have someone else they are pursuing. However, they don’t want to feel as if the end of the relationship is their fault. Or they may simply enjoy the idea of dating two women but may not be able to handle it. Either way, you should leave them for the sake of your own emotional well-being and self-esteem, at least.

Related reading: Psychology Behind Cheating and Lying
How to say if you are dealing with a hot and cold guy

3 Characteristics of Hot and Cold Behavior Patterns

When the behavior is only happening on occasion, you can assume that it’s just them needing to blow hot air due to a certain circumstance. However, when their behaviour follows a consistent pattern, you may realize it’s more than just blowing hot air. You need to look more carefully at how they are acting. Here is how you can tell if it is hot and cold behaviour.

1. Inconsistency in Behaviour

Although it may seem weird, a hot and cold guy will have the consistency of showing inconsistent behavior.

He may shower you with attention for a few days at a time, and then completely ignore you for another few days. Or he may look to be very happy to be with you one minute, but he may become cold and distant to you the very next.

This cognitive dissonance is often very confusing as you may be unable to pinpoint exactly if they are actually hot or cold or if they are just not having a good time. It’s safe to say that if they keep asking you out and they keep showcasing this inconsistent behavior, you are likely dealing with a hot and cold guy.

Related reading: Soulmate or Twin Flame? The Difference Clarified

2. Last-Minute Cancellations

Last-minute cancellations are one of the most telling signs that you are contesting with a person’s hot and cold behaviour. They get your hopes up high and then crash them down at the last possible minute. They may not look like a cold guy or girl, but their actions give you that exact feeling something is not right.

It’s a great way to play mind games with you, and it can make a person more likely to accept their next invitation.

3. A Strange Mixture of Criticism and Compliments

This trait is evident when you are in the dating game. You may notice that one minute, a hot and cold guy is pouring attention and compliments all over you, and the very next, he is acting as if he is disgusted by your presence and may even insult you for the very thing that he had complimented you on before. This cognitive dissonance often leads a person to become very confused and uncertain about how to handle things.

There are some more signs of a hot and cold guy who blows hot air in response to their own emotions. But these are the most telling ways that can help you determine if they are blowing hot air or playing mind games with you.

Final Thought: Consider Ending the Relationship

Whether you think their interest in you is starting to waver, or you have made all attempts to mend the relationship with no success. When a person starts to act hot and cold to you it could be a good indicator that it is time to finish the relationship with that guy and let it end on your own terms.

As we gather our final thoughts we can understand that handling a person with this sort of behavior pattern can be exhausting. Look for the signs, and try to make the best decision for yourself in the end. It can be hard, especially if you liked him. However, your own mental and emotional health should not have to suffer just because of a guy who does not know how to handle his own feelings.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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