Sex + Dating

Unmixed Signals: Dating 'Signs' You're Reading Into Way Too Much


When it comes to dating (sex addiction and general cluelessness aside), most of us have three things in common. We hate getting rejected, we hate wasting time, and deep down, we all just can't help but love a good love story. 

Unfortunately, the romantic-comedy industrial complex has collectively made us terrible readers of signals. Thanks, Meg Ryan.

We're hesitant in the young love stage to apply anything even so much as resembling pressure to our love interests. This approach, while socially safe, frequently leaves us interpreting more than communicating. And scrounging for promising signs of interest means certain gestures get blown way out of proportion. Like these.

But they messaged me after the date and said they had a good time!

Just because they have good manners doesn't mean that they want to courtesy-date you for two more months. Sure, it's a sign they're not running for the hills... but they're not exactly running into your arms either. The key here is whether or not they mention anything about doing it again. It's not a stone-carved reservation, but it's marginally more promising than what has become par for the politeness course in most of the developed dating world.

But they invited me to something that's like, a month away!

Nowadays, invitations usually come in two parts. Part 1: verbal suggestion, e.g., "You should totally come to <EventName> with me in February." Part 1 is bullshit. It means they’d like to know when they're getting laid several weeks in advance. Part 2: digital confirmation with details, e.g., "So are you in for <EventName>? It's on the 11th, starts at 8pm. Tickets are taken care of. Let me know!" If you make it to Part 2, you can start putting a few eggs in that basket.

But they brought me out with their friends!

Most of us care deeply about the compatibility between our friends and significant others. When someone parades you in front of their friends (read: runs this compatibility test), they're showing due diligence in equal parts to their emotional investment. You haven't won any awards yet; you've just been presented to the academy for consideration. As a close friend once said: "If men didn't care what their friends thought, we'd never be lonely."


But they message me several times a day!

Between people with masturbatory-level jobs, people who are perpetually distracted by phone screens, and people who actually use text messaging to get to know other humans, this might mean that they really like you. But it might also mean that they're really annoying. If you're still inside the first four or five dates, it's probably the latter. It could also mean that you have an indiscriminate clinger on your hands. Text carefully, my friend. Text carefully.

But they liked a bunch of my Instagram photos!

Oh boy, then imagine how badly they must want to date small kittens, seafood platters, and racist memes. Maybe if they had to send likes by snail mail this might provide some valuable insight. While such a gesture can be indicative of some attraction (now that double-tapping has effectively replaced breathing), this effectively means little more than, "I haven’t filed a restraining order... yet."

But they told their parents about me!

My mother and grandmother once heard me have sex with a girl not only before meeting her, but without meeting her (we were living in disturbingly close quarters at the time). The following day, I told them about the girl. After that, I did not date the girl. Sometimes parents and children are close. "Friends" close. Perhaps, too close. Just because mommy or daddy knows you exist, it does not mean that existence is a particularly meaningful one. Being invited to meet extended family? That's a different (horror) story.

But they're not even pushing sex, they just really want to spend time together!

Considering that sex is one of the only things people like more than puppies, this means your situation could be going either way. It could be that they're bonding with you at an advanced level. Or, they really like you and are trying to mitigate potential complications or distractions that can arise from unmitigated boning. Or, something you or someone else did has called into question your sex appeal and romantic future... thus forcing them to slowly relieve your genitals of all active duty. They could also just be super boring.

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Benjamin Mann is a Sex & Dating contributor for Thrillist and the author of the blogs This Is Your Brain on Dating and Love Gone Cray. With extensive expertise in both dating and baseball, there is one thing he knows: signs.

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