What girl can forget that infamous episode of Sex and the City when Carrie brought her new boyfriend, Jack Berger, out to dinner with her girlfriends, and he became their Ask a Guy for a night. Even though the scene-stealing line was: “He’s just not that into you,” I think the line that came a little later in the conversation is even more important, when Berger says: “There are no mixed messages,” after which the girls look at him in horror, eyes wide and jaws agape, their world literally turned upside down. “I’ve spent my life deciphering mixed messages” Miranda says, defeated. “I built a career on it!” Carrie chimes in. Well cheers to that, Carrie, because so have I. Only in mine I try to drum in the fact that there are no mixed messages. He likes you or he doesn’t. He wants to be with you or he doesn’t. Simple as that. Really. Truly. I promise.
At the same time, I understand the confusion. I used to live in that cloud of confusion. Looking at the “signs,” trying to understand what they meant, reading books and articles, asking girlfriends, asking guy friends. I would read my relationships like I was reading a horoscope, latching onto the stuff that aligned with how I wanted things to be and disregarding or dismissing the rest.
In the end, the guys who liked me were the ones who clearly liked me. The guys who had my head spinning were maybe a bit interested, maybe somewhat attracted to me, but they didn’t like me … not enough anyway.
The chords of confusion usually sound something like this: He said one thing, but then did another… he was sweet and attentive in the beginning, but then something changed … he said he’s never liked a girl so much, then he disappeared…he used to text me every day, now I hardly hear for him … we’ve been seeing each other for months, but I don’t really know how he feels about me.
What women call “mixed messages” is actually one very clear message: He doesn’t want to be with you. He may want to hang out with you, he may want to hook up with you, but that is not the same as being with you.
When a guy is sending confusing signals, it usually means he’s either ambivalent or maybe somewhat interested … but not interested enough. And in these cases, nothing you say or do will change that. You cannot convince someone to want you, and no amount of wanting him will make him want you back. If he was iffy about you from the start, then nothing you said or did caused the relationship to end … there just wasn’t enough there to begin with.
No good guy sets out to intentionally lead a woman on. I just want to clarify this point because it would be a mistake to think he’s stringing you along intentionally.
Here’s what usually happens in these “mixed message” scenarios. A guy meets a girl, he thinks she’s attractive and cool and wants to get to know her a little more. She’s fun to talk to and he enjoys hanging out with her, but he can kind of take her or leave her. He’s open to exploring and seeing where things go, but he isn’t gripped by an “I’ve gotta make her mine!” feeling. So they have some interactions, and in time he realizes he just doesn’t like her enough to pursue a relationship. This is where things can start to get murky, especially if the girl is still clinging onto hope that a relationship is in the cards. Either she will waste her time analyzing his behavior and trying to figure out how he feels, or she will beat herself up, wondering what she did wrong and why she always screws things up. Or she might settle for a friends-with-benefits type of situation, or even worse, a non-relationship where she acts like his girlfriend even though she isn’t, in the hope that he’ll come around once he sees how amazing she is.
The more she invests emotionally in him, the more her sense of self-worth will become entangled in his opinion of her. If he’s nice and affectionate, she’s worthy. If he’s cold and distant, she’s worthless. She isn’t her authentic self with him and instead tries to make herself into what she thinks he wants. She is careful with everything she says, worrying that something as slight as a single overeager text message might be enough to ruin everything. She clings to the hope that once she can get him to commit, she’ll finally feel okay.
“Guys send out mixed messages when they like attention from a particular woman, but know deep down they won’t commit to something long term. It could be because a guy knows that by keeping a girl mildly interested, but still technically within the boundaries of the “friend zone,” that they’ve not done anything ‘scumbagish.’ But at the same time, the woman who thinks the guy is genuinely interested in her will get more roped in and hopeful.” Adam, 29
This story is an exclusive chapter excerpt from 10 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Men. Buy it on Amazon. Or if you still have questions about mixed messages read: what if I do something to suddenly turn him off?