Mixed Signals: 9 Surefire Examples and What They Really Mean

Woman hugging a man she's dating but looking worried and anxious after receiving mixed signals.

We’ve likely all experienced mixed signals at some point. Trying to navigate that gray area between a first date and entering an exclusive relationship can be challenging at times. It’s unchartered territory. Especially if you’re receiving mixed messages while simultaneously trying to figure out the other person’s communication and behavior patterns.

Good communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship. But, as human beings, we’re not always perfect when it comes to expressing how we feel or what we need. If the person you’re dating seems to be expressing interest and disinterest at the same time, there’s a good chance you’re being sent mixed signals.

Experiencing mixed signals when dating someone new can be frustrating. But, it’s also pretty common. To help make the process a bit easier, we’ve put together an extensive guide on mixed signals, including a definition of the concept, common examples to look out for, and much more!


What Are Mixed Signals?

Mirriam-Webster’s definition of mixed signals describes the concept as “a showing of thoughts or feelings that are very different from each other.” When it comes to dating and relationships, the mixed signals meaning commonly refers to expressing romantic interest in someone while also showing a lack of interest.

It’s important to recognize when you’re receiving mixed signals. This will help you to understand the situation and figure out why the person you’re dating is sending you them.


9 Common Mixed Signal Examples to Look Out For

When dating someone new, it takes time to learn how to agree, disagree, express your emotions, and support one another. But, although experiencing mixed signals in a new relationship is common, letting them go unaddressed can lead to problems down the road.

Being able to spot mixed signals from a guy or woman early on is key. Addressing them quickly and smoothly gives you the best chance to foster a lasting, meaningful relationship. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common examples of mixed signals to look out for.


1. They Didn’t Make a Move, Even After a Great First Date

When you go on a fantastic first date — filled with meaningful first date conversation — and the night ends with an awkward hug (or worse, an awkward handshake), it’s normal to leave feeling like you’re being sent mixed signals. After all, it’s reasonable to expect the person you’re dating to be invested in you, especially if you’re looking for a meaningful, lasting relationship.


2. Their Text Messaging Is Inconsistent

One day, they’re sending you a constant stream of flirty texts and funny memes. The next, you hear nothing but radio silence. What gives? Is it a bad sign? This is a common mixed signal and can certainly be interpreted as showing a lack of interest.

But don’t automatically assume they’ve lost interest in you. They could be having a busy day at work, feeling down about something, or just not in the mood to chat. We all forget to respond to texts sometimes. If it’s an ongoing problem and you have trouble getting a hold of them when you need them, bring it up and calmly talk it out.


3. They Say They Want a Deep Connection but Never Open Up

Oftentimes, getting mixed signals from a crush might involve them saying how deep a connection they want to have with you. But, while fostering strong emotional attraction is great, if they don’t follow this up by engaging in deeper conversation topics, it can be an indication they’re sending you mixed messages.


4. They Always Expect You to Open Up

Similarly, if their reluctance to engage in deeper conversations is combined with an expectation that you should open up all the time, it’s a surefire sign of mixed signals. Meaningful relationships are built on two-way communication and both sides should be willing to engage in genuine conversation.


5. They Don’t Text You Back but Engage on Social Media

If dating wasn’t already complicated enough, social media adds an extra layer of complexity. It creates even more opportunities for you to second-guess your interactions with someone. You can drive yourself mad: Why did he like my post, but not respond to my text?

Instead of spinning out, take a deep breath and set down your phone. Try not to overthink, and if you’re concerned that this is a sign they’re sending you mixed signals, bring it up with them and clear the air.


6. They Flirt With Other People

Noticing that the person you’re dating is openly flirting with other people can be a confusing experience. Does he really like me? Is she just hanging around with me around to keep her options open? Openly flirting with others in front of you is a surefire mixed signal. If they’re truly into you, they should recognize which behaviors make you feel uneasy and tone these down.


7. They Show Tons of Affection in Private but Never Engage in PDA

When it comes to mixed signals from a guy or girl, this one can be tricky. If the person you’re dating shows plenty of affection when you’re alone together but then doesn’t even want to engage in small actions like handholding when you’re in a public setting, there’s a good chance they’re engaging in mixed signals.

Approach this with caution, though. Remember that not everyone feels comfortable with public displays of affection and show their reluctance to engage might be a result of this, rather than an intention to send you mixed messages.


8. They Always Express How Much They Want to See You Again but Never Make Plans

This has got to be one of the most frustrating mixed signals. If you’re dating someone who always says how much they want to see you but then claims they’re always “too busy” to make plans, it’s a potential red flag.

If someone genuinely wants to spend time with you, they should be able to make it happen. If the person you’re dating isn’t making this effort, despite claiming how desperate they are to see you, it might be a sign they’re not ready for a committed relationship.


9. They Seem Reluctant to Have the “Where Are We” Conversation

Moving from dating to an exclusive relationship can be quite a journey. Just when you feel like things are moving forward, a partner who sends mixed signals might avoid any conversation about commitment or, even worse, disappear without any explanation.

When you ask to see them again or suggest sitting down to have a conversation about where your relationship is at, watch out for any vague responses that come across as them avoiding the question. If you find yourself being the only one making the effort, you may be more invested in the relationship than they are.


Why Do People Send Mixed Signals?

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why is he sending me mixed signals?”, you’re not alone. We’ve all experienced this frustration at one point or another in our love lives, and there are many different reasons a person could start sending mixed messages.

Oftentimes, mixed signals are sent unintentionally. They can arise from an internal conflict, often involving genuine uncertainty about how we’re feeling, or from poor — or a lack of — communication. But remember, even if a person doesn’t know what they want, they can still be ready for a relationship. Ultimately, most people go through life with elements of self-doubt or uncertainty as to how their future will pan out.

On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for mixed signals to be sent intentionally. This can be done for a variety of reasons, but commonly they’re used if someone is looking to keep their options open, often if they’re dating multiple people at the same time.


Mixed Signals: The Bottom Line

The next time you feel like you’re getting mixed signals, try not to over-analyze it. It happens to everyone! Instead, address it, clarify it, and move forward. It’ll help you strengthen communication, minimize confusion, and set you on the path toward a meaningful, lasting relationship!

About the author: Elizabeth Entenman

See more articles written by Elizabeth Entenman