It is common, in the beginning stages of dating to feel uncertain about a potential partner. Dating, in essence, is supposed to be the time for figuring out whether you and this person might be a good fit, and you might be boundaried, and reticent to over-commit. Even the healthiest, most balanced of us all, need time to work out whether we really like someone, and are “all in”, so to speak. It is challenging for most to be sharing new experiences with someone, feeling intimate, interested and attracted, while also giving it time to work out our mixed feelings.
Given this factor, mixed (or double) signals are normal, to a certain degree, because the ambivalence most of us share about who we might be trying to date, as well as the process of dating itself.
However, there are some seriously insidious mixed signals, that leave most people confused and susceptible to manipulation. If you identify the person you are dating as using one or more of these three patterns early on in the process, you might save yourself from getting drawn into an abusive relationship, and/or a relationship with a Narcissist. Additionally, avoiding people like this is a wonderful form of self-care, and will help you continue to enjoy the process of dating.
- If the person simultaneously is extremely competitive with you, but also highly idealizes you for your accomplishments. It is normal to be a competitive type of person. Competition itself, is not a bad thing, per se. However, with this mixed signal, the person might actively attempt to one-up you, or follow up what you share about your accomplishments or expertise, by claiming or implying they know more, or somehow have more skill than you. They then, at other times, might praise you highly for this very same ability, but in contexts where they stand to benefit from looking powerful, or attractive, by association. This behavior will make most receivers of it feel uncomfortable, and as though somehow your achievements are not your own, or don’t ultimately matter, up against the achievements of the other. This is a power-play by the other party. They want to feel powerful, either by claiming they are better, or by their fantasy of being associated with you.
- If the person makes it seem as though they don’t even like you, yet also expresses how strongly interested they are in you. This type of mixed signal, is very confusing. It is also one of the easiest to spot, in even as early as the first week of dating. A certain amount of ambivalence is normal. Sometimes a person may come across as hot for you, and then later, cool off. This is normal, to a certain degree. However, it is important to notice if you feel the simultaneous experience, within the same meeting, that this person doesn’t like you, while also saying how interested they are. In other words, if someone is both hot and cold at the same time, this is something to pay close attention to. Someone like this likely wants power over you, because they feel insecure. If they are to reel you in with expressing interest toward you, while also getting you in the position where you are feeling insecure and seeking approval from them, they have found the perfect person to manipulate.
- If the person actively shares about their fantasy with two being together forever and building a family, but then also claims they can’t give you anything you need or be accountable to you, because you have not passed a test, or met their standards yet. This is also a signal of ambivalence, which is normal. However, this person is also showing you they are not willing to remain accountable for their ambivalence, as well as them building an attachment with you. This is normally the type of person who wants to act like partners only when it serves them, while refusing to label the relationship, or reciprocate what you have been giving them. This is a signal of someone who has severe trust issues, and is also rather entitled. They may also be seeking to have power over you, by keeping you hooked into this future promise of a fantasy, while not delivering on what might be needed in the here and now, for the relationship to ever become this fantasy. This is a tactic often used by Narcissists for the purpose of hoovering, later on in the relationship. They will then use the fact that you are upset with them because you are getting these mixed signals, as a reason why you haven’t sufficiently passed the tests, or met their standards. They also use your anger as the reason they have trust issues, and they don’t owe it to you to become more accountable or to give you the fantasy they keep painting for you.
The key here is to determine is the person employing these mixed signals has some level of intention to control or manipulate you. Some people may give these mixed signals, without the intent to dominate, control, or manipulate, but may instead be in a growth period in life, or a very busy time, and might not be at their best.
The way to determine if these signals are strategic ways to confuse, abuse, manipulate, or mistreat you, is to try to find a a neutral or even caring way to point out what the person is doing. If they continue to deny any validity in what you are sharing, and then somehow twist it back onto you, it might be a good idea to end the relationship. Or, if when you point out what they are doing and they get very angry, hyper-analytical and dismissive towards you, defensive, or blaming, it is very likely you are uncovering that their intent is not good, and they likely won’t change their behavior.
I wish you the best in the dating world!