Common Mixed Signals and How You Can Figure Them Out

Relationship Rules
20 Jul 2023
7 min read
Top 6 Mixed Signals in Relationships

One of the leading causes of strife between two people is mixed signals. If your romantic relationship seems to be plagued with frustrating arguments, the culprit might be mixed messages. That can be a severe problem because poor communication destroys a relationship.

Sending mixed signals is problematic because it creates confusion, erodes trust, and makes it difficult to understand where the other person is coming from. That’s why avoiding mixed signals is so important when communicating. So let’s learn to recognize when you are receiving mixed signals and why that is happening.

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What Are Mixed Signals?

A mixed signal is any type of communication that may be interpreted in more than one way, People send mixed signals through their speaking, messaging, and behaviors.

Mixed signals may be delivered on purpose or be the product of misunderstanding and poor communication. Ultimately, the result is the same. The person who receives these messages is often less confused and hurt. They don’t know where they stand and often feel vulnerable within their relationship. It’s difficult for them to know how to respond. This leads to conflict and a lack of trust.

Why Might a Person Send Mixed Signals?

People send mixed signals for many reasons. Some are fairly innocent, but others are quite deliberate.

Here are the possible reasons behind sending mixed signals:

  • A person is a genuinely bad communicator that hasn’t taken the time to build this important skill.
  • Broadcasting mixed signals come out of a struggle to communicate in a way that clicks for you.
  • That is a decidedly malicious way to maintain power or control and keep you off balance.
  • Mixed signals appear because people avoid saying what they mean – they don’t know what they want or why they are afraid to tell you the truth. In this case, unclarity gives plausible deniability.

Messages During a Relationship

People can send mixed signals at every relationship stage – before you have officially started dating or after breaking the relationship off. Usually, insecure attachment is the main cause of it. When you witness mixed messages throughout a relationship, they usually signify that the person you like has different feelings.

Let’s look at the most popular mixed signals that happen in any old or new relationship and what they mean.

Not setting another date is one of mixed signals

1. Not Making a Move After an Amazing Date

In the early stages of a new relationship, two people should make an effort to make the thing between them successful. And when you see no move, you assume the person does not like you. However, this can be one of the most common mixed signals we send early in a likely successful relationship in the near future.

A refusal to make a move comes from their insecure attachment style rather than an emotional connection with you. Such insecure people may have difficulties entering a new relationship and coping with their own feelings. They may also struggle with being their true self around a new person.

In this case, the best way to deal with your partner’s behavior is to encourage them to express true feelings. If you’re sure you had a great date, try to ensure their refusal is not one of the mixed signals. If you’re on the same page for real, you may find yourself investing more time and effort in the beginning with this person. But if you’re patient, it should work out.

2. Texting with No Consistency

Private messaging has been a common way to express our feelings, while social media demonstrate the details of our love life and new relationships online. However, we may sometimes notice significant inconsistencies in this communication form – another major mixed signal in relationships.

At times, a potential partner messages you with a consistent well-tuned machine of flirtation. However, the strings of texts are interrupted by radio silence, making you wonder what is happening. After all, this lack of consistency is often regarded as a red flag. However, the person comes back, and everything is good. And you realize that this is likely one of the signals that the person just struggles with communication.

Start by paying attention to your conversation with them and see if common topics cause this person to suddenly abandon the conversation. If the issue happens consistently, don’t hesitate to speak with them about it.

Related reading: Double Texting in New Relationships – When It’s Not Cool

3. Refusal to Open Up

One of the common mixed signals is striving for emotional closeness in relationships but refusing to actually be open about emotions. It doesn’t take a clinical psychologist to notice this mixed signal, but it may take one to help figure out the feelings behind this behavior.

This is common for a person with avoidant and insecure attachment styles. They know they want a relationship and know how to get it. However, people of the avoidant type tend to avoid it rather than actually go through with it.

If that’s your case, the best way to deal with it is to talk with relationship experts, a relationship therapist, or a couples therapist. By speaking with someone of expertise, you and your partner can better understand why they refuse to be more open.

4. Flirting with Other People

Whether you just started your relationship or have a licensed marriage, random flirting is among the most upsetting mixed signals for anyone. Seeing your partner flirting on social media or in public can harm mental health.

But why would people send mixed signals by flirting with others, especially if they are already in a set relationship? There are a few reasons for sending mixed signals:

  • An attempt to make a partner jealous.
  • The mismatched sex drives of the people in the relationship.
  • Solving the fear of not being liked by others by flirting with others.

If you’re dealing with this mixed signal, there are ways to deal with it before officially calling the relationship off. You can discuss the behavior issues with your partner and a few friends to understand what is happening. Also, you can refer to someone with expertise, such as a family therapist, for professional advice in your particular situation.

Related reading: Coloring the Grey Zone – Is Flirting Cheating?

5. Showing Affection in Private Only

Whether you are out on a date or just walking around together, it seems the only place they’ll show interest is a private area. If you see their love at home or in a hotel room only, this can be one of the mixed signals.

Regardless of all the speculation around this situation, it’s not always about hiding you from others. It can also be fear of dealing with conflict and many other reasons people project mixed signals.

There are many ways to deal with this, especially if you take notice of this signal early on in the relationship. You may discover that the issue may not necessarily be a matter of cheating – or find a strong reason to break the relationship altogether.

6. Not Making an Effort to Set Up Another Date

This lack of commitment may not be as upsetting early on in a relationship. But as time passes, these mixed signals hold their weight, much like the words of empty promises. While a slow start is not necessarily bad at the beginning of a relationship, dealing with someone who never seems to want to set up a date makes it a point that they are not interested in you. Or, at least, they lead you to that assumption.

There is no exact way to respond to these mixed signals. You can try talking about it or even take the dating aspect under your control.

Ex may send ambiguous signals try to communicate with you again

Ex Sending Mixed Signals: What to Do?

Sometimes, mixed signals happen after you officially end the relationship. After months of being ignored, or even them showing a severe lack of interest in you while the two of you are dating, may have led you to believe that breaking up was for the best.

However, after breaking up, you may notice that they may be more open with you. They may try and use sweet words to lead you back to them or even start talking about how much they loved and missed you. These mixed signals can be very hard to deal with, especially when the breakup is still fresh. The best way to deal with it, to avoid the pattern of mixed signals, is to block it out simply. It may be hard to do that. However, it will be a great method to keep you from that mentally exhausting pattern.

Related reading: To Text or Not To Text – Your Ex That Is

Strategies for Clear Communication

Dealing with mixed signals is hard, especially when you want to expect the best in everybody. Here are a few strategies to help you avoid the confusion of the situation:

  1. Set clear boundaries
  2. Start talking about a problem as soon as you notice it
  3. Don’t give them more than one chance
  4. Intervene as early as possible

These are only a few ways to assure yourself the mixed signals issues won’t derail your romance.

Don’t Let a Mixed Signal Derail Your Peace

Mixed signals are one of the most confusing and difficult aspects everyone deals with at least once in their relationship. However, with proper communication skills, and a low tolerance for mind games, you can overcome the power of mixed signals and enjoy a happy healthy romantic lifestyle.

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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