Dear Dr. Shubs,
I keep being attracted to men who send me mixed messages. On the one hand, they’ll imply that they like me, but then they rarely want to get together. What should I do?
“Am I Coming or Going?”
Dear Coming or Going,
No wonder you’re confused. Being told two contradictory things at the same time can make you nuts.
If this is something that keeps happening, let’s take a look at the pattern. A moth keeps getting attracted to the flame, because there’s something about the flame that draws the moth in. If this pattern keeps happening, the common denominator in the picture is that the one person who shows up in each of the situations with the mixed messages is you. So, what is your part? Are you misreading their messages? Are you so hoping that this guy will like you that you only see those signs that say he does? Are you not seeing or discounting those signs that say he is only marginally interested?
Let’s also take a look at what happens between contacts. If he’s interested while you exchange e-mail but then doesn’t want to get together once you talk on the phone, maybe something has happened in the phone conversation that turned him off but that you weren’t aware of.
Remember, most of what we respond to between people is the non-verbal communication. There are lots of different ways to say the same words. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you! I love you? I love you? I love you!
Also, the words may stay the same, but the magic is in the fit of style of interaction. Sometimes, it feels like two people hitting the ball back and forth across the net. Sometimes you may feel like you’re doing all the work and nothing is coming back. Or, you may be having a great time telling stories and being entertaining, but he may experience you as being “on” and not allowing him to have a chance with his jokes and stories. Or, if you’re being “on” a lot, he may be wanting more of a balance and feel that there isn’t room for other kinds of interactions, maybe one that’s more serious, more personal, or more romantic. Or, there may be something else about your style of interaction that isn’t meshing.
The tough part with all of this, is that much of what I’ve said here is about things you may not be aware of, like differences between what you are doing and what you think you are doing. That’s hard to decipher.
I know it’s frustrating when you can’t see what’s going on. It’s like being in a funhouse of mirrors. Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes. Maybe you can get some help from a real friend, who has the courage to tell you the truth even if you might not like it. It’s also hard because your friend may have a good fit with your style and not be aware of any way that it might be a problem with someone else, especially if they’ve never met or talked with your date or seen the two of you together.
The other thing that you can do, is take a real hard look at yourself and try to see what you may be bringing to the interaction that may be influencing things in ways you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe some of the things I’ve mentioned can be a guide as you do some soul searching and some self-reflecting.
When All Your Best Efforts Haven’t Worked
Maybe It’s Time to Talk to a Professional