If You Get Mixed Signals, It’s a ‘No’

Do yourself a favour and move on to a ‘Hell Yes!’

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

Homeschooling and online teaching offered an unwanted yet eye-opening perspective for me this year; for sure, it’s been a hell of a ride, and it taught us a lot about our teaching skills as a parent, our patience under enhanced stress levels and about the way how our kids deal with problems on their own.

To me, it also showed an even more important realisation: the things that really matter in life should be taught at school from an early age, and they are not.

When solving equations and working ourselves through the Pythagorean theorem or sitting down to memorise entire chapters of texts, I couldn’t stop thinking about how many useless things kids need to cram into their heads — instead of learning about more interesting and important topics.

We say that life doesn’t come with a user manual and we need to learn through our experience — growing and failing, succeeding and struggling. But it’s not entirely true. In a lot of cases the knowledge and experience are already there, we already lived it and experienced it, we just don’t find the ways to transmit them to our kids. In schools, kids learn about the anatomy of their bodies but they don’t learn about consent. They learn about the different species and races but topics of equality and racism are not in the curriculum. They learn the basics of coding without the basics of online privacy. It’s outdated and very harmful.

When it comes to important life lessons, kids are expected to grow up into decent adults with boundaries and a steady set of values. But no one ever mentions to them at school — where they spend more than half of their waking hours — how to navigate relationships, how to be a caring empathetic partner, how to ask good questions or how to listen. They are expected to pick it all up — in a world that is clearly not focusing on these skills. We might laugh at the ‘housewife’ courses our grandmas had many decades ago, and true, it might sound ridiculous and conservative now that they had been given advice about how to make their husbands happy with hot meals, patience and silence — but they at least got some guidance that matched the societal expectations.

Our kids — and us too — get zero help on how to act in a relationship, assuming they will figure it out on their own, and when they don’t, we blame them and chalk it up to being a selfish, entitled useless generation.

Relationship advice should be taught in schools — with case studies, cautionary tales and examples. The difficulty of this is that it falls into the responsibility of the overworked parents to offer the right kind of advice, which will be rejected immediately, because you know, parents trying to advise their kids never really worked.

One of the most important, seemingly tiny relationship advice ever, that should be hammered into the heads of kids from an early age is that mixed signals are not a playful way to get attention, they are not a way to manipulate someone into consent, they are not a decent way of communication — and they simply mean a big fat ‘no’.

We have all been there at some point, on one side of it or the other — getting and giving mixed signals. It might seem cute at first, especially if we are made to believe that playing hard to get is a good way to elicit attention from others. But it’s not cute, it’s actually the opposite of cute.

Feelings are fragile little things, just as much as egos. And we shouldn’t be toying with others just as much as we don’t like to be toyed with. If you get permanent mixed signals from your crush or from your lover, or even worse, your significant other — it’s not playful or attractive, it shows a lot of things and you need to understand what it means when you don’t get a specific answer to your attempts.

Mixed signals are signs of manipulation

Manipulation is one of the most toxic behaviours that you can come across in a romantic environment. Flirting is not manipulation — it’s a playful way of showing attention. Ghosting is not manipulation — and as much as it is terrible to experience, it’s a clear signal that they have something better to spend their time with than you. Dumping someone is not manipulation — unless it is a recurring phenomenon, which is just unhealthy and emotionally harmful.

Manipulation is a way to play with someone’s emotions to elicit the desired response from them, be it more love, more attention or even anger.

If someone is sending you mixed signals, meaning they play hot and cold, they pull away and then come back, they appear only when they need something from you means that they haven’t decided about you and they are keeping you close until they make up their mind or until they find someone they want to say yes to.

Keeping you at arm’s length is manipulative. It might be good for them to have a backup option, but it’s definitely detrimental to you as it stops you from moving on. If nothing else, do you really need an indecisive, immature person around who can’t be honest about their feelings with you?

Don’t allow anyone to be a significant player in your life when they treat you optional. Don’t allow manipulation, recognise the signs and speak up, and if nothing changes, move on with your dignity and heart intact.

Mixed signals put you in undefined situationships and stop you from finding someone who really cares

These days you can come across the notion of situationships. Situationships are that undefined kind of relationships when it is not articulated what is really going on between the two of you. Situationships are characterised by mixed signals from at least one party — as there are no boundaries and rules to adhere to, it’s easy to mislead the other even with the best intentions. They are usually temporary, casual setups where any definition would scare at least one party away.

It might be working for some people, but if you happen to be the one who wants more, then it’s a sure-fire way to disappointment and heartbreak.

The similarity between a situationship and receiving mixed signals in any other way is that it stops you from finding someone who really cares about you and who wants to deepen their relationship with you.

Don’t put up with half-solutions and don’t sell yourself short. If you need clear situations and relationships, don’t settle for someone who stops you from making your real dream come true.

You deserve someone who says hell yes to you

“If it’s not a hell yes then it’s a no.

The phrase was used by many self-help gurus, from Derek Sivers to James Altucher and Mark Manson — and I am sure the same concept can be found in earlier literature and philosophy too, maybe with slightly different wording.

It speaks about filtering your life according to how you feel about a certain thing — and if you are not all-in, with 100% enthusiasm, then you have to realise that it’s not really what you want and thus you can move on to the thing that makes your heart soar. Of course, there are nuances to this and we all need to make compromises every now and then, but as a rule of thumb, it is crucial to understand what and who makes our heart beat faster and whenever we have a choice to go for that path.

You deserve to spend your time with people who treat you right and who appreciate you for who you are. If someone lets you wonder whether you matter to them or not, chances are that you don’t matter as much as you would want to. It could be bad timing, different lifestyles, physical distance or too many options for them to choose from — but whatever it might be, it is a sign for you.

If someone cares about you they won’t confuse you with maybes and won’t let you worry about your own worth when they could reassure you about it, in every possible way.

It’s difficult to handle mixed signals also as an adult, so how could we expect kids with a lot less experience and maturity to understand this. Well, the same way that they understand mathematical principles — if you hear something enough times and if you need to learn it as an unquestionable truth, it becomes a part of you. This article was trying to repeat the obvious so that you should never forget it and live accordingly, doing yourself a huge favour when it comes to your romantic decisions.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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