Center for Shared Insight, PC

Mixed Signals: Trusting Actions Over Words

August 27, 2019
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

We’ve all trusted the words of a partner and let promises of change propel the relationship forward. Especially if your love language is words of affirmation the commitments your partner makes to you are vital to building confidence in your relationship. But, how often have your partner’s actions not matched those promising words? How do these mixed signals make you feel, particularly if you have an anxious attachment type? We’ll explore the answers to these questions and more in this blog post.

Handling Mixed Messages

Misaligned words and actions can feel like mixed signals to the recipient. It’s often hard to properly decode such situations and frequently, the recipient of mixed messages simply sees reality through the lens of their own wishes and desires. Because they want the relationship to work, they are more likely to see the relationship positively instead of recognizing and accepting the actual relationship data they have observed and experienced.

It’s helpful to get clarity about mixed signals by making a list of relationship experiences in which actions feel short of verbal promises. This might look like a situation in which your partner offers to help you with a project around the house, but they make alternative plans during the time you decided together to tackle that project. Or, it might be an empty promise like “I plan to make your birthday really special this year” and then failing to follow through on planning a special outing or a getaway or creating a meaningful gift. Noting the actual questionable situations, the regularity of them, and any patterns are important in making decisions about the health and potential of the relationship.

Behavior Quality

People tell you what is in their heads or minds, but they show you what is in their hearts. When you are evaluating a relationship, don’t look at just what your partner says. They may want to mean what they say, but feel pulled, scared, or reluctant to put your needs first, feel vulnerable or let you in. Instead examine their behavior and the consistency of that behavior. In addition, consider the quality of their behavior.

Because a relationship cannot be built on words alone, tuning into your partner’s follow-through provides valuable insight into their true intentions. When considering the quality of your partner’s actions, notice whether he or she is going out of the way to make you a priority. Examine whether his or her actions are genuine, heartfelt, and intentional. Do they not only keep their word but do they prioritize turning those words into actions? Do they follow through in a timely manner on their commitments and promises to the relationship? The quality of their behavior provides powerful insight into how much they are willing to make the relationship work. Words need follow-through. Words need action.

Addressing the Situation

It’s hard not to spiral up a story that your partner doesn’t value the relationship or make up excuses for the behavior you have experienced with mixed signals. You might even blame yourself for their behavior. Instead of drawing conclusions about why your partner is acting the way they are, considering sitting with your raw emotions and working to define them. Instead of going to your partner and saying “you aren’t a person of your word,” try communicating what you are really feeling, like “not valued” or “deceived” or “confused” based on the experiences. Likely, this won’t put your partner on the defense and will give them the opportunity to not only explain actions but also recognize how those actions result in emotions for you. Have a heart-to-heart about what you feel, but don’t spin up stories. Focus on communicating your raw emotions instead.

At Center for Shared Insight, we help you decode dating and relationship behavior and mixed messages. We can draw upon our experience helping hundreds of clients throughout Denver to overcome similar situations and our therapists support you throughout dating challenges like decoding mixed signals, and other situations. Individual therapy often leads to more fulfilling relationships, sometimes even without couple’s therapy. We offer a complimentary consultation. Contact us to share your story and learn how we can help today.

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