Reading Mixed Signals: What To Do If You’re Confused By A Woman

reading mixed signals from a woman

Girls confuse guys, and guys confuse girls. Both sexes think the other gender is insane. Which probably has some truth to it—which is why deconstructing what a lady means by her actions can sometimes be nearly impossible. But who wants to be left in the dark while reading mixed signals?

The following is an overly simple guide for confused guys getting mixed signals. It’s written to the man who’s pursuing a lady or is dating her. If you’re pretty serious about someone and have been with them a long time, well, this may or may not be for you.

Here’s the top three things guys do if they’re confused by a girl:

1. Nothing

2. Something. Something stupid.

3. Ask what’s up.

Sure, that pretty much encompasses nearly everything I do in general, and maybe you too. If you’re confused by a girl and are getting and reading mixed signals, is there anything you CAN do?

Yes, the first thing is living in an understanding way.

I’ve heard women say, “Men will never understand women.” I’ve heard other women say, “Don’t try to understand us, we don’t understand ourselves!” I don’t care to dissect that, but I do care to encourage you that you CAN begin to understand someone you love. And it doesn’t start with understanding them, but living towards them in an understanding way.

What is this weird talk you ask?

That means responding with patience when you’re frustrated or confused. That means listening when things don’t make sense.

We’ll get back to understanding what to do when you’re confused by your girl in a moment.

Let’s address why you might be getting mixed signals:

Generic and Oversimplified Reasons Why Women Give Mixed Signals
1. They don’t know what they want.

The woman you’re thinking about may want a relationship with you. But is uncertain about the future. Do they want to get serious? Are they ready to be serious? Do I really want to open up and invest in this right now? What will _______ think? Is he what I’m actually looking for? Is she emotionally ready right now for something more?

One big killer of relationships that is often not acknowledged is OPTIONS. People have so many options. They can look on Facebook and dream about all the people they might have a slight chance with. They can compare you to all the good characteristics (and leave out the bad) when they think of other guys they know.

Having too many options can create higher standards for sure—but can also lead to confusion. If you’re not the smooth operator that has the perfect pompador hair, guitar skills, style and money to boot, she might feel uncertain if she’s not focusing on the right things.

2. They do know what they want. And they just don’t have the balls to tell you.

I’ve seen the following scenario too many times. A guy wants to go out with a girl. Fearing rejecting him and feeling guilty, she tells him she’s not dating right now. Which in a really ambiguous way is actually asking someone to stay on the hook because they might have a shot later down the road.

If a girl is confusing you by telling you you’re great and likable  but not really acting consistent about her feeling towards you, you probably either pissed her off or she might be trying to back out.

Read what I wrote about How To Break-Up for some of the patterns that are portrayed here that guys do, that women do as well.

3. She’s interested because you are awesome, but maybe more like a bro than a lover.

Yeah, that sucks. It’s also known as the Friend-Zone. You can be cute, bright, and warm. A good ‘ol chap. But is she actually attracted to you? You have all the things she knows she needs—when she’s serious about marriage. But she may not need them at this moment, so she keeps giving her energy and attention to the edgy bad boy.

What to do

1. Ask her to be honest/open/forward with you.

Some women love the psychological breath of fresh air when they are invited to share, in safe circumstances, what they’re actually feeling and thinking.

Not that this hasn’t backfired on me in the past. But I have experienced this making a girl feel like she’s put on the spot (she is). And under pressure, because they may not have the correct relationship tools to resolve a conflict, they tell you want you want to hear to end the pressure (they’d probably describe it as “awkwardness”).

Most mature ladies love a man who wants to communicate, and is bold and confident enough to open up the lines of communication. It’s often your best bet to be that man.

2. Leave it alone.

This is seriously your two options. If you’re reading mixed signals, be a man and keep it simple. Don’t be a wimp and drag your feet. Do something about it. Not douchbaggery stuff. Just go talk to her.

If not you’re going to do that and you won’t kick yourself about it later, then move on.

If you’ve recognized someone as too immature for you and you don’t find the effort worth it, ask your buddies for their opinion. If they’re in a agreement, drop it and move on. There’s other fish in the sea.

Unless you live in North Dakota. You should try harder. I heard there’s not many fish in that sea.

What Not To Do

1. Put her on blast.

The worst thing you can do is talk to a bunch of people about it.

The next worst thing you can do is profess your love to her and make her feel pressured and embarrassed to reject you.

Also terrible is criticizing her. Just talk to her one-on-one or let it be.

2. Talk to her friends about it.

You’re not in junior high anymore. Tell a girl yourself you like her. If she acts weird and sends confusing signals, talk to her about it.

Sure, asking one friend for a tip of advice isn’t necessarily harmful. But getting into a deep conversation about how you feel, and trying to get clues about what she is thinking won’t help you. You’re not trying to build a relationship with her friend, right? Then have the convo with the person who’s confusing you. Listen to the source.

Just know that if you talk to a couple of her friends about it, you have invited a larger group of women’s involvement. And they will talk about it. Have you ever been upset about stuff you said getting misread? I promise you that whatever you said will not get accurately relayed to the woman you’re confused by. That’s why you should talk to her yourself.

3. Ache forever about it.

Stop being confused and overly reading into things. Reading mixed signals too much will drive you insane. If talking about it isn’t resolving things, she probably doesn’t like you bro. Sorry boss. But there’s someone out there who will.

If you don’t have what they want right now, it’s unusual for them to think you’ll have it in a few years.

Reading Mixed Signals: Break the Confusion

Don’t ache about getting mixed signals forever. Don’t read into it too much. Grow a pair and talk to them about it. If she doesn’t want to talk about it, or it doesn’t go well, it’s good that you went for it instead of sitting around feeling dazed and confused.

Most women respect men who are direct and want to communicate.

Do it in a gentle way and I’m willing to bet you’ll do a good job at clearing the air. If a woman doesn’t know what she wants yet, but she is interested, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Give her time to figure it out and keep the communication open while not letting things grow cold by becoming distant or passive.

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  1. After being married for nearly 12 years, my wife still confuses me at times. That said, I’ve found that clear communication works best. If I ask her what she’s feeling/wanting that almost always resolves what’s going on fairly quickly. Of course, that also means that I be clear as well. 😉

    • Still confused after 12 years? 🙂 I’m sure at the least it’s gotten somewhat clearer and better! Great thought on what you like to ask your wife to bring you closer to resolution.

  2. Great article Todd!

    This was my favorite part:

    1. Nothing

    2. Something. Something stupid.

    3. Ask what’s up

    I’ve done stupid, then done nothing so I wouldn’t do something stupid. Listening, patience and communicating has definitely helped me. Not that I always remember to do this first. It usually comes after stupid.

  3. Hey, got any tips for when a roommate breaks up with your wife’s friend? Oy, what a mess that was!

    • Haha-wait–you’re married right? Is this roommate renting from you and your wife? And he broke up with your friend?? Ouch…that could make for a tense household… Maybe raise the rent on him so you’re wife feels a little vindicated?? Then you could use the money and console him with beer and cigars.

      Yeesh. I so far from being a professional I don’t even want to try to give advice on that one!!

  4. So true about communication… Great post, Todd.

  5. As always, a great post Tod.

    You know what I hate and it catches me every time – it’s when my wife says don’t worry to do something (pick anything you like as an example) and I take her at her word. Then when I don’t do it, it’s a problem.

    As I say, it just seems to catch me out 🙂 You’d think I’d learn.
    Thanks again.

  6. I dont have a problem with my partner being honest with me probably sometime I hold back a bit too much and then that becomes the problem. But do I hold back for the fear of honesty mmmm just thinking out loud

  7. “Both sexes think the other gender is insane. Which probably has some truth to it,” meaning that both sexes are insane, meaning that neither sex is insane…

  8. Thanks Tod! I am having trouble sorting out my feelings with my wife. She is my best friend, love of my life, super beautiful, supportive, kind, loving and generous. The problem is that I don’t feel she feels the same about me. We have been having a rough patch where our perceived misunderstandings just lead to arguments about validation and lack thereof. We are so close that our arguments are actually identical, each of us demanding the same thing. It would be comical if it weren’t so heartbreaking. I want the best for her and if I am not right for her, as devastated as I would be, I wish she could find the person who would make her happy. The problem seems to be that she may not be happy with herself, thereby making it nearly impossible for me to give her what she “needs”. It is like I’m trying to fill a bottomless hole, I’m just not able to be everything she is asking. It seems that every time I do what she says she needs, I am suddenly lacking in whatever the opposite is (if that makes any sense). It is frustrating and I and a real blow to my self esteem to be constantly trying to make up for something she perceives is lacking in the way I am supporting her or the kids. I just want her to be happy but I can’t give her something she is unwilling to find on her own. It is within her, she just won’t look. Any thoughts?

    • Hie Gary. I think as a man your duty is to provide and protect. The greatest challenge to this mandate is when your wife is confused. She expects you to “protect and provide” her with what she herself is lacking. This goes contrary to the way men operate. We are efficient at eliminating confusion and if we use that approach when we are dealing with women the results are disastrous. You need empathy at that point start seeing things her way, patiently help her to get out of the situation. Its like she is in hospital sick you wouldn’t add to her pain would you by force, unkind words e.t.c. Later on when she snaps out of it she knows she can count on you and because of this she will be able to cooperate with and address your grievances

  9. I do read this, and as a woman I do tend to agree.. but need to add something and I can only speak for myself because I have confused men in the past, however what a man may want to consider is the reason why a woman is confusing is because she has been put in a confusing situation that she has yet to fully sort out…. The real truth is women want their emotional needs met… based on their sense of self worth will dictate how they go about that and if they are put in a confusing situation that tore at their self worth they will have to fight tooth and nail to achieve balance… It is a dark subject so if you are not really interested in what may make a woman tick – turn back now because believe it or not being altered as a child is a very very common thing, actually more common than not. Sorting out a situation with an A***hole is confusing while trying to live your life. I have not fully achieved my state of self acceptance and resolve but when I do I will be on the market for a partnership with a man that sees me as equally valuable and would support me as a best friend… with obvious benefits LOL.

  10. You suggest to avoid opening up your feelings (“profess love”->”not to do”) because it would make her feel pressured and embarassed. And also you suggest to ask her to open up and be honest but it seems almost the same or even worse: by “asking” you are actually implying you have feelings (without stating it explicitly), and you are also pressuring her to actually express her feeling and make a choice right now about whether rejecting you giving you hopes.

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