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Mixed Signals
January 17, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I've been spending all my time with this awesome girl but she's sending extremely mixed signals and I'm not quite sure what to do about it.

So we met about a month ago and we spent an hour talking at a party, and there seemed to be some eye-contact chemistry. I sent her a "let's grab a drink" message and she sorta punted, but then popped back up a couple weeks later wanting to hang out. We met up with a group at a bar but then quickly bailed and just walked and talked until 4AM. Couple days later she invited me out to dance, and we spent the whole night dancing and talking. She went on vacation for a couple weeks and we kept in regular contact. A week ago she came back and we start seeing each other practically every day since, sleeping over in each other's beds a couple times, doing lots of romantic things together, just the two of us. I've also been fairly affectionate with massages and touching, ranging from relatively platonic to extremely sexual (if she was in a relationship there's no way this would be ok). I can also just read her body language/smell on her breath at times that she's very turned on, and she's said as much too.

However, she's also said a couple times she just wants to be friends. She said this the first time after our first sleepover, and I sort of said, we are friends, I don't want to do anything you're not comfortable with, but is what we've been doing making you uncomfortable? And she said no she just didn't want to lead me on. And so things have continued and become more romantic since then, but it seems like even though she enjoys all the romance and affection she's strongly committed to a narrative that we're really just friends.

Potentially relevant background: she's going through a bad breakup (or sort of a couple), and I'm leaving the country in a couple weeks so it's not at all clear when we'd see each other again. My sense is these are the two main factors making her not want to really start anything, but she's not really been able to explain.

I basically feel pretty serious about her and would just like to figure out the right combination of words/actions to try to defuse whatever tensions are in her mind and let us just enjoy the next couple weeks at whatever level of romance/sexuality she's comfortable with, and ideally be ok reaffirming to each other that we have romantic feelings but maybe this isn't the right time, but I'm not quite sure how to do this. When I tried to sort of say to her before that she's sending really mixed signals, she gets very defensive and backed off into actually-friends territory immediately. Then we basically both said sorry, this situation is really confusing, let's just not talk about it, and went back to being romantic.

I'd especially appreciate insight if anyone's been on the other side of something like this before.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Honestly, I don't think she's sending mixed signals. Her signals and her words seem (to me) to be saying that she wants pseudo-romance, not any kind of a relationship. Which is fine. I think you're in a "take it or leave it" situation, not a "how do I fix this" situation. Good luck!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:36 PM on January 17 [17 favorites]


...she's going through a bad breakup (or sort of a couple), and I'm leaving the country in a couple weeks so it's not at all clear...

"It" being pretty much everything. You can be sure that it is the first factor that's the main issue here from her perspective. People going through breakups need TIME. So maybe it's a blessing in disguise that you're going elsewhere and won't be able to get all impatient and stuff. The circumstance that she is not really able to explain should tell you everything you need to know about the mental turmoil she likely is in at this point.

Exercise empathy. If you haven't got it already, learn it now. Don't make it about how confusing the "situation" is for you. I would bet money that the situation is a ton more confusing for her.

And don't you lead her on either. People in breakups, or shortly after breakups, are vulnerable. Don't allow her to end up in a situation that she might regret later.
posted by Namlit at 2:37 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


She's trying to feel alive in the middle of a shitty situation and you are helping her feel that way.

But there is a truth that is stated on here a lot: Believe what people tell you about themselves. She doesn't want anything more than this, and honestly, if you're about to leave the country, you shouldn't either. You have no idea who you are about to meet!
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:38 PM on January 17 [14 favorites]


I have! And quite recently, too. The thing is, when she tells you what she needs, you have to believe her. Even if she gets turned on, even if she seems more into it than she's saying. She wants to be just friends, and that's what she has to offer you.

Now, if you do *not* want to be just friends, and you actually want to be dating or sleeping together, you get to decide that, too. You can tell her that you're more serious about it than she is and if y'all aren't on the same page you're going to have to back way off to recalibrate. But there's no magic wand for making her feel differently, and even if she's responding to you on one level, she's made it quite clear she's not interested in or ready for actual romance.

Yeah, it sucks to feel like you're getting mixed signals, but you have to prioritize the signals, and what she says she wants, out loud, with words, gets the highest priority. You can decide what you need to do for yourself based on that, but trying to act instead on unspoken/contradictory signals will just lead to pain.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:39 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


You're leaving the country in a couple of weeks?

Sounds like you're under pressure - from your libido. And, the departure clock is ticking. Don't rush to satiate yourself at her expense.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:39 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


Potentially relevant background: she's going through a bad breakup (or sort of a couple), and I'm leaving the country in a couple weeks so it's not at all clear when we'd see each other again.

Sort of a couple? I'm not even going to go there. But yes, I have been in a situation like this. A couple of times actually. I eventually found somebody who was crazy about me, whose affections I didn't question. Someone who was like "Hell yeah, let's have a relationship!" That person is out there for you, but not this time. She's telling you that straight up. Listen to her.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:40 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


What part is confusing to you? She explicitly said that she likes hanging out "as friends" but doesn't want anything beyond what you've been doing already, and has acted accordingly. I don't see any mixed signals at all. She is definitely not interested in a relationship/fling, and doesn't seem to be interested in sex either, from the vibe I'm getting. That or she's afraid to sleep with you because she thinks you're falling for her.

I don't really get what your goal is here. Are you just trying to figure out if she'll sleep with you? We can't tell you that, but she can. It sounds like she's pretty good at telling you what she wants, so...listen to her.

And yes, I have been in a similar situation as the girl in your scenario, and I'm still irritated years later that he believed what he wanted to and accused me of "mixed signals" after I explicitly told him (up front) what my intentions were, exactly like this girl has. Seriously, she told you exactly what she's thinking, straight up. Listen to her.
posted by randomnity at 2:40 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I agree with those who say that she's not sending mixed signals. Her signals are very clear. If anything, you're sending mixed signals by saying you're okay with this not developing into a romantic relationship, when you obviously want it to.

This is not a game where you can play your hand right and win her over. Be honest with your feelings, to her and to yourself. In two weeks, the pieces all go back in the box anyway.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 2:45 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Like randomnity, I also don't see the mixed signals, and I also once hung out with a guy who wouldn't take "just friends" at face value, and then accused me of being crazy and manipulative. I cut off all contact after that. "Just friends" is pretty clear-cut. Don't expect anything more, and if you can't do that, extract yourself from the situation.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:47 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


She's not sending mixed signals. It sounds like she's explicitly stated what she wants from you, and she does not want more than what's going on. You're trying to interpret the mystic augurs behind her body language and the hints she may be dropping, when the answer is staring you in the face, in the form of very clear wording from her.

The only mixed signals here can be found the dissonance between what she's telling you and what you want to hear.

You say the touching is very sexual, but then you also say that you have to guess from her body language and the smell of her breath (???) that she's turned on; if it were all that sexual, you wouldn't have to be guessing.

I basically feel pretty serious about her and would just like to figure out the right combination of words/actions to try to defuse whatever tensions are in her mind and let us just enjoy the next couple weeks at whatever level of romance/sexuality she's comfortable with, and ideally be ok reaffirming to each other that we have romantic feelings but maybe this isn't the right time, but I'm not quite sure how to do this.


You have already been at whatever level of romance/sexuality she's comfortable with. You're the one pushing for more.

Here is my advice to you: Enjoy the time you spend with her. Stop pushing for more. If you find that you cannot spend time around her without being pained by longing for more than what you have, be honest and tell her that and give yourself some space (when you tell her, you should not be telling her in order to get her to change her mind; you should be telling her in order to explain why you're going to be kind of scarce). She does not want to have a relationship with you, at least not the kind of relationship you want. You will not find the magic words that will make her want that.

If the level of physical intimacy between you seems beyond what would be appropriate for even very close friends, I don't blame you for wondering what's up with that, but you already know what's up with that. She enjoys the affection but does not want more. Govern yourself accordingly.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:53 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


You can't change the situation for the better (in your mind). If it's going to change at all, it's going to be from her end. If you're impatient (which is how "I'm okay with whatever! Honest!" reads to me), you're only going to push her away.

If I were you, I'd back away just a little bit. It'll be better for your mental health, and it will give her reason to believe you when you say that you're ok with your relationship as it stands now. Because to me, needing to say that would seem like the actual sentiment is the exact opposite.
posted by supercres at 2:57 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


She doesn't want to sleep with you and she has been 100% crystal clear about this.

Enjoy (chaste) heavy flirting with her until you leave and stop trying to get into her pants -OR- stop hanging out with her altogether.

Those are your choices. Good luck
posted by jbenben at 3:05 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


even though she enjoys all the romance and affection she's strongly committed to a narrative that we're really just friends.

Yeah, this is like the opposite of mixed messages. You are really just friends. With (certain) benefits. I think you've probably heard that phrase. Enjoy it while you can, or let her know in a friendly way that you're unable to keep going just as friends but you wish her well. Easy peasy. Just don't feel like you're a bad person if you don't feel comfortable staying the course; it's totally okay to walk because you want more but your partner does not. And she's made it clear she doesn't, physical arousal or not.
posted by davejay at 3:09 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I actually sort of disagree with PP that there aren't mixed signals. The massages and physical affection seem less than platonic to me. But I do agree that she's been very clear that she's not interested in being your girlfriend, and that's really the main thing you need to focus on.
posted by Asparagus at 3:21 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


So, here's the thing about mixed signals:

They almost never exist. What most people think are mixed signals are actually "You want X, I want X+Y, and I am misinterpreting parts of your behaviour so they agree with what I want."

In this case, she has told you pretty clearly what she does and does not want. The reason you think it's 'mixed signals' is because what you want is not the same thing that she wants, and so you're interpreting her behaviour through that lens.

Enjoy it for what it is. Leave the country in two weeks. Willing to bet that you two gradually drop contact with each other.

The massages and physical affection seem less than platonic to me.

I disagree. I have an occasional bed partner with whom I am extremely affectionate physically (and he with me). We have no romantic feelings for each other, but we like to cuddle a lot and such.

Also, OP, you might want to read this thread, because it's pretty much exactly the same question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:26 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


And yet so many noes turn into yeses. Lots of people jump from one relationship to the next with the right motivation. If she's saying no, why don't you find out what kind of guy she's into? My guess is that the last guy was overbearing and you're at the other end of the spectrum: too afraid to make a move without an invitation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:08 PM on January 17


too afraid to make a move without an invitation.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say being "too afraid" to make a move when you've been specifically told it's not welcome is actually a positive trait, even if it means you don't get to bang this particular girl.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:10 PM on January 17 [18 favorites]


I don't get the sense that OP is afraid of making moves. I actually think he would be better served by backing off and letting her lead for the time being. If she initiates something, then you can feel confident that she really wants it and isn't just going along because saying 'no' is uncomfortable.
posted by Asparagus at 4:13 PM on January 17


ranging from relatively platonic to extremely sexual

Extremely sexual means not platonic or just two friends showing "affection" (naive). You and she, she and you - you're in a sexual friendship. However, you want more options, and she does not.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:25 PM on January 17


these signals are only mixed if you assume that consent to sexual touching, or to flirty talk, or to cuddling is logically and necessarily consent to full on intercourse and Boyfriendity Forever.

It is not.

Her signals are loud and clear: You ain't gonna get to fuck this girl. She. Ain't. Your. Girlfriend. Full stop. You will get to do all the dancing and cuddling and massaging in the world, but she don't wanna fuck you. Move the hell along if that's not something you can deal with.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:37 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


And yet so many noes turn into yeses.

Ugh no never this.

When someone tells you "I do not want X type of relationship with you," trying to change their mind is tacky at best, creepy-obsessive at worst.

No means no. That doesn't just apply to sex.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:39 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


I think she's not interested in being your girlfriend, because she's flat out told you and no means no, regardless of what her breath smells like. (Is this a thing, am I missing something or can someone explain what this breath thing means?)
posted by Jubey at 4:44 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I think it was a weird figure of speech.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:46 PM on January 17


No, it's apparently a kooky thing that at least some subset of people believe.

Previously.
posted by MsMolly at 6:07 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


this:
let us just enjoy the next couple weeks at whatever level of romance/sexuality she's comfortable with, and ideally be ok reaffirming to each other that we have romantic feelings but maybe this isn't the right time

is largely this:

we basically both said sorry, this situation is really confusing, let's just not talk about it, and went back to being romantic.

Methinks you may be sending mixed messages to yourself.
posted by sm1tten at 6:10 PM on January 17


I'm not sure how to politely say "masturbate here and fuck someone in another country instead."
posted by oceanjesse at 7:40 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


She's sending mixed signals because she's in a confusing place right now. I suspect there also might be someone else, someone she misses terribly and wishes she didn't.

Just my $0.02.
posted by discopolo at 12:03 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


When I tried to sort of say to her before that she's sending really mixed signals, she gets very defensive and backed off into actually-friends territory immediately

Thats not her getting defensive, thats her backing off because you're not listening to what shes saying. Her signals arent mixed. From what you've written, her signals are "I want to be friends, I want to be friends, I want to be friends", and when you conflate what shes very blatantly telling you, with what you want/what you think she wants, she's backing off to rein you in.

here it is, again: she does not want a relationship with you. Romance /= relationship & commitment. She's going through a breakup, you're leaving. Stop trying to get more than she wants to give you.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:40 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]


I wonder what her definition of 'friend' is. Does that definition potentially include sex? If it does, then that might explain why she's engaging in so much sexualized behavior with you, but still insisting that she just wants to be friends. It's quite possible that she just doesn't see these activities as inherently romantic. At the very least, it sounds like the two of you have different definitions of what sort of behavior is appropriate for friends to engage in.

Personally, I wouldn't accept erotic massages from friends, nor talk about how turned on I am with them, so if I were in your situation I would feel like I was getting mixed messages too. Even if I understood that my friend just had a different way of viewing friendship than I did and I tried to behave in ways that took that into account, I would feel frustrated that he wasn't giving that same understanding back to me, and wasn't avoiding doing and saying things that he knew I would interpret as romantic.

But I guess it's hard for your friend to be understanding towards you, because it doesn't sound like you're being totally honest with her. You're pretending to be okay with just being friends, while secretly trying to get her to admit that she has romantic feelings for you. You're doing this because you don't like her reaction when you're honest about how you're feeling (she backs off and gets more strict with her behavior towards you). Like others have pointed out, you're sending mixed signals.

I guess if you can prove to her that you're over the idea of having something more serious with her then you'll probably get to enjoy all the sensual flirting type stuff that you've been enjoying up until now, and maybe enjoy going farther than that too. I don't think that would be good for you though, because you're not looking for some meaningless FWB situation, but something more. When you inevitably get hurt by the fact that you're not getting what you needed from the situation, you won't be able to legitimately complain about it because she told you right from the beginning that she just wanted to be friends....
posted by sam_harms at 3:44 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


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