Let’s be honest: Dating is full of uncertainty. In fact, that’s what makes it exciting (albeit occasionally disappointing). It’s the waiting to see if someone will call—or fall for you, for that matter. Sometimes, though, the signals can get a little too confusing. And, that situation can be worse than a brush-off, since you’re not sure whether to hang on or cut bait. To help you through those tricky times, we asked relationship experts to decipher daters’ most contradictory moves so you know what’s really going on…and what to do.
Mixed signal #1: He says he wants to be exclusive but refuses to introduce you as his girlfriend.
It’s clichéd but true: “Actions speak louder than words,” says Patti Feinstein, a national dating coach. “If he isn’t referring to you as his girlfriend, odds are you’re not. It’s that simple.” Still, there are exceptions. He may just not like the word “girlfriend,” which can seem very junior high, especially if either of you have been married before. And if he introduces you only by name — simply saying, “This is Lisa,” with no qualifier attached — then there’s a solid chance that he’s already told people so much about you that there’s no need to attach a title. The only way to know for sure is to ask for clarification, especially if he was the one to bring up the whole “exclusive” thing in the first place. “Make it light,” she advises. “Just say, ‘I’m confused about something—you said we were exclusive. What does that mean to you?’” Pay attention to what he says, but even closer attention to how he says it: Is he comfortable saying “Of course you’re my girlfriend!” or does he react like a caged animal? Either way, his reaction will tell you plenty about where you stand.
Mixed signal #2: She says she just wants to be friends and then kisses you.
“This usually means that she wants to take it at her own pace,” says David Steele, author of Conscious Dating: Finding the Love of Your Life in Today’s World. “Guys usually push for things to move fast physically, and this is a way for a woman to slow things down by saying ‘just friends’ until she is sure that she is interested in this relationship.” The kiss lets her test the waters. Some women, however, may be looking for a “friend with benefits”—which is fine if you’re up for that, but trickier if you want to date her seriously. “Your best bet is to gauge how she acts over the next week after the kiss,” says Feinstein. “If she’s cool and distant, then it was a one-time thing. But if she’s acting warmly towards you, then it’s usually a sign that she wants you to make more moves.”
Mixed signal #3: He asks for your number but never calls.
No matter how much the hottie at the bar flirted with you last night, it’s best to assume that he won’t call. “Asking for your number is not a promise to call,” explains Steele. “People like keeping their options open, so they ask for a number now and think about whether to call later.” Don’t worry, your instincts weren’t deceiving you—chances are, he really was having a good time with you when he asked for your digits. But as time passed, he may have come to the realization that you’re not quite his type, met someone else, felt too insecure to phone you—or maybe he bumped into his ex and decided to give it another try with her. No matter the reason — which you’ll probably never know, anyway — your best bet is to move on. The worst thing you can do is hunt him down, says Steele. “If he was interested, he would have called,” he says. “It’s time to move on.”
Mixed signal #4: She always says yes when you ask her out—as long as it’s on a weeknight.
“If you’ve just started seeing her, then this isn’t that out of line,” says Steele. “You don’t want to jump into a relationship where all of a sudden it’s assumed that you’re spending the weekends together.” But as soon as things start getting more serious — or if you’re already exclusive and suddenly she’s busy every Saturday night — it’s time to ask her who she’s saving that prime date night for. “Don’t start speculating—it could be that she has to work on the weekend or maybe she’s helping a friend or relative through a rough patch,” says Steele. If it turns out that she has a different guy for every night of the week and you’re Mr. Tuesday, then you need to move on and find someone interested in being only with you.
Mixed signal #5: He’s always complimenting you and taking you on lots of “dates,” but he doesn’t even try to kiss you on the lips.
Let’s get something straight: Most guys aren’t interested in being just friends. If he’s whispering lots of sweet nothings and treating you to nice dinners or fun outings, then he’s into you—but he’s scared that you don’t feel the same. “Lots of guys are so afraid of rejection that they can’t make that first move,” says Feinstein. It’ll be up to you to get the ball rolling, she says. “You may think that your interest in him is obvious, but you’ll need to send some unambiguous clues that you want things to get physical,” she says. So try going for a kiss yourself, or, if that’s not your style, try some subtle moves: holding his hand, standing or sitting a wee bit closer to him than normal, or (here’s the clincher) letting your eyes linger on his lips while he’s talking to you. All clear signs that you’re saying, Kiss me your fool!
Amanda May is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer who’s contributed to Redbook andother publications.