Mixed Messages

If you’re confused, you need to decide if you want to be an active participant in the relationship or just a passenger.

By TAMAR CASPI
January 28, 2010 14:42
4 minute read.

 
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Dating is nothing if not confusing. I get tons of e-mails asking for my help with mixed messages. Singles are dealing with conundrums regarding receiving regular phone calls but not being asked out; J*daters are having hour-long online conversations while never exchanging personal e-mails, not to mention phone numbers; some confused daters are being asked out night after night with the same guy – who still hasn’t made the next move; others are wondering what a post-date text means, especially when they haven’t received a subsequent phone call; and yet more baffling, those who want to know if they’re exclusive after having dated for a while.

If you find yourself resorting to pulling petals off a perfectly nice flower while chanting “he loves me, he loves me not,” take a step back and try to translate the mixed messages your crush is sending you into plain English.

A majority of the blame belongs to the current forms of communication: e-mail, instant messages and texts. Not knowing the tone, the sarcasm or the intent can be cause for confusion. Those and other mixed signals can be easily deciphered by simply asking for an explanation, because odds are the explanation is just that: Simple. It’s the asking that’s the hard part.

Being scared of coming across too aggressive might keep you from being upfront about what’s going through your mind, but if you let fear inhibit you from asking questions, then you’ll end up even more confused and ruining the relationship anyways. To top it off, the only way to clarify is to pick up the phone and call, except no one wants to be the first one to succumb to using the phone. It’s playing games and it’s unproductive.

MARA MET this guy on J*Date and he kept sending her messages through the site. I told her to send him her phone number and be done with it, but I think she was bored, so she played. She would receive a notification in her e-mail inbox and then have to wait until she got home at night to sign on and read the message and respond. That meant a simple conversation transaction took an entire day.

After nearly two weeks of this, I advised her that she needed to stop replying or move it off J*Date if she was really serious about this guy. She finally told him to call her and sent him her phone number. He responded by texting her and she made the mistake of taking the bait and replying to his text. After a few days of texting – and even discussing plans via text – I told Mara she needed to finally tell him to call her to confirm the plans. He did call, but after all the games I wasn’t surprised when he said that he wasn’t really ready for a relationship.

A waste of time that could have been avoided by reading the signs from the get-go: If a guy is on J*Date and he isn’t calling you, then he’s just playing games.

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My friend Julie is in a puzzling situation right now. I set her up with my failed blind date and it took him weeks to call her. I told her not to hold it against him since she doesn’t know him, and since then they’ve gone out sporadically over the course of a few months.

She says they both seem to enjoy themselves: Conversation flows, there’s chemistry (although he has yet to make a move) and they have a lot in common. He keeps asking her out but has a rule about going out during the week, so they’ve been together a lot lately on the weekends.

There’s no rhythm or continuity. Julie hasn’t really let down her guard because of his inconsistency and has no idea if he’s interested, indifferent or clueless. Obviously if a guy likes a girl he’ll do whatever it takes to spend time with her, but maybe this guy is one of the clueless ones and Julie needs to take the bull by the horns and ask him out. Some people are of the belief that if the relationship is meant to be, these types of confusing situations wouldn’t occur to begin with, and Julie has decided to just let sleeping dogs lie.

A few years ago, my friend Sarah found herself in a predicament. She was seeing a guy two or three times a week, but after a month the guy still hadn’t kissed her. She was certain the chemistry was mutual, but was running out of patience. Right before she got up the nerve to ask, he ‘fessed up to something’ he should have told her from the beginning: He was fresh out of a long-term relationship and wasn’t ready to rush into anything. Luckily that didn’t hinder her and they decided to take it slow. Sarah and David have now been together three years, been married for two years and are the parents of a beautiful baby girl.

In their case, they were able to clear a hurdle without harm. As for Julie, this relationship may have run its course before it even began. And Mara will never get those few weeks of her life back. If you’re confused, you need to decide if you want to be an active participant in the relationship or just a passenger.

The only way to a successful relationship is through open communication. You won’t know the answer to something unless you ask the question.

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