Mixed Messages about the Future
One way we lower the trust level in a new relationship is when we send mixed messages about where the relationship itself is headed. For example, there’s nothing at all wrong with saying, “I think we’ve got something really good going here.” But if you follow that up with actions that imply that you aren’t ready to make more of a commitment to the relationship, then it’s going to be hard for your significant other to believe other statements you make. So make sure that when you discuss the future, you say what you really mean, and then that your actions are consistent with what you’ve said. A clear and direct “Let’s take things slowly until we both figure out what we want” is infinitely better than an enthusiastic promise that you’re not sure you want to live up to.
Physical Mixed Messages
Your words aren’t the only way you can make promises. How you physically interact with your new partner sends all kinds of messages as well. This can of course apply to sexual intimacy—for many people, sleeping together is a sign that the relationship has moved to a certain level of seriousness. But there are also plenty of non-sexual physical gestures that send messages as well. Holding hands or kissing in public, for example, often signals that you two are a couple. There are plenty of exceptions to this, but the point is to make sure that you aren’t sending signals that communicate messages that aren’t consistent with how you honestly feel.
Silent Mixed Messages
Just as you can send mixed messages with what you say and what you do, you can also create all kinds of confusion—and thus damage the trust in your relationship—by saying nothing at all. For instance, when your partner asks, “What’s wrong?” and you answer, “Nothing,” that’s not necessarily a problem. But if something really is wrong and your partner knows it, then the fact that you are refusing to discuss it, or even to acknowledge it, can erode his or her ability to trust what you say. So if you don’t want to talk about a subject, be direct and say, “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” That way you’re being honest and direct, rather than sending signals that have to be interpreted and can damage the foundations of your relationship.
Mixed Messages about your Preferences
Watch out for ways you may send mixed signals with what you say you like or don’t like. For example, if your significant other invites you to a concert you won’t like, and you accept the invitation with a lot of enthusiasm in order to keep from hurting his or her feelings, then you shouldn’t sit through the show as if you’re bored out of your mind. The issue, once again, is trust. Honesty and direct communication build strength and intimacy into a relationship, whereas mixed messages and little white lies can erode that healthy groundwork you’re trying to lay together. (Plus, you may have to keep going to those awful concerts!) So when your partner asks your opinion on a topic, or wants to know how you feel about a certain subject, tell the truth. Even if it’s not what he or she wants to hear at the moment, your honest and direct answer will score major points in terms of deepening and strengthening the connection you two are building together, and allow the other person to know you in deeper ways.
Mixed Messages About “the Ex”
When you are building a new relationship with someone, a former boyfriend or girlfriend is one subject where you absolutely cannot allow any ambiguities. This applies, first of all, to what you say. Any time the ex’s name comes up, you need to be perfectly clear regarding the fact that things are definitely over between you, and that you have moved on without a doubt. And more than that, this point applies to what you do. There is virtually no way that you can build a new relationship with a new person unless your actions back up your words on this subject. If you have told your new partner that the old relationship is over, but you continually take calls and exchange emails from your ex, then your new significant other is going to have a hard time taking you at your word—on this and lots of other points.
Want a surefire way to doom your young relationship? Send mixed messages. It will set up damaging patterns that will be difficult to overcome as you and your partner move forward.
But if you want to build a solid connection and fortify your relationship so that it can be as strong as possible, then prioritize clear, direct communication from the beginning. The more you both say what you mean, and mean what you say, the better chance you’ll have of going the distance together.
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