I was reading the dating advice subreddit and came across a question and came across an all too familiar question (which I’ve edited for clarity’s sake):
I asked a girl out but she called it off on the second date, and said there was no spark after calling me amazing and so on. We remained friends, like really good friends. We basically act like a couple, she always texts me in the morning, tells me things no one else knows and always looks to me for comfort. All of our friends and Co workers think we are dating.
Lately she has started to text me more flirtatious things and I’ve had enough. I can’t stand just being friends anymore, I want a real emotional and sexual relationship with this girl. I have dated a few girls and none of them have ever made me feel this way. Tonight I asked her to hang out and I’m going to just go for it. Either it ends and we are no longer friends or a relationship may form. Any suggestions?
The reason I wanted to address this question is because not only is it a common one, but also one that I think people think of in, maybe not the wrong way, but more like…they look at the symptom rather than the disease. People get so hung up on “mixed signals” when really they should be asking themselves “Why am I in a position to receive mixed signals?”.
The person asking the question, concerned about the mixed signals, is part of the problem. Signals is a great word to describe the hints that you get in dating, because it immediately brings to mind radio frequencies. I’m hoping you’re old enough to remember terrestrial radio, if not, ask the internet about radios, some old-timey person will probably talk your ear off about them. You know how radio waves are a thing that are always sort of there, but you can only hear their signal if you’re tuned to their frequency? Mixed signals in dating are like that. You can only get mixed signals if you are trying to receive a signal at all.
The reason that the situation above is one where there are mixed signals at all is because the questioner is putting themselves in a position to get mixed signals. You can’t get mixed signals if you’re not tuned in, y’know? If they had taken their rejection and decided that from then on, any contact with her would be purely platonic, they wouldn’t be received mixed signals, now would they? If she started sending flirty texts, they could have shut it down immediately by saying “stop sending me flirty texts, we aren’t dating” and that would be that. Here’s what I do if I’m dating someone, and then they reject me: I stop treating them like I’m dating them. What I would not do is engage in any behavior where “our friends and co workers think we are dating”, even if we’re still friends. In this case, and in a lot of cases, the mixed signals aren’t exactly one-sided. The fact that they were rejected, but then perpetuated a situation where the lines between friend and lover are blurred, and that they now feel like they’re at a crossroads isn’t a shocking string of events.
Here’s the deal. If you pretend to be something long enough, it will start to feel real. “Fake it til you make it” can be a great tip for trying to build confidence, but is a terrible idea for trying to turn a rejection, then an overly affectionate platonic relationship, into a romantic relationship. She isn’t sending mixed messages, so much as they’re both sending each other mixed messages, and now it’s all come to a head. They’re both “faking it” by doing everything you’d do if you were dating, and all it’s done is make the situation more complicated then it has to be. “I can’t stand just being friends anymore” sounds nice, but were you ever friends after those two dates? I don’t think you were, and that’s why you’re in the mess you’re in.
My advice is this: You both need to decide what you are, and actually behave that way. If you’re friends who are flirty to the point that your friends think you’re dating, but you both establish that it wont go anywhere beyond that, that is totally fine, just make that clear. If you’ve gotten to the point where you maybe might start dating again, that’s fine too, just pull the damn trigger already. If you want a real emotional and sexual relationship with this woman, and you can’t get it, you need to figure out if you can remain friends at all. She clearly likes to push the boundaries of the platonic relationship that she decided she wanted with you, so maybe you can’t just be friends. Unless you’re fine with potentially dealing with mixed signals the entire time you know her.
Good Luck Out There.