The only place where hot and cold behavior is fun is in that Katy Perry song. In real life, it just leaves you confused, frustrated, and a little bit depressed. It’s worth remembering that guys know when they’re acting like douchebags—they’re not sending you mixed messages by accident. Here’s what’s going on when a guy does this to you. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be to get caught up in their game.
Why do guys act hot and cold?
It’s tempting to make excuses for a guy whose behavior is inconsistent. However, there’s usually a very simple explanation for this: He’s not 100% sold on your relationship. He likes you enough to continue interacting with you but isn’t sure if you’re actually relationship material just yet.
“When a guy plays hot and cold, it can be because they’re not yet sure what they want or are not confident enough,” explains Lauren Cook-McKay, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Men are often straightforward in letting women know that they like them, especially when they have good intentions. However, if he’s unsure of how he feels about you or the situation but doesn’t want to cut ties with you yet totally, they could end up distant one moment and sweet the next.”
It’s possible that a guy’s behavior is hot and cold because he’s trying to manipulate you. If he has something to gain from you or simply seeks an ego stroke, he may act this way to keep you where he wants you.
“This is especially common if one partner has more control or power than the other,” licensed clinical social worker Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII tells Bolde. “By going from being overly affectionate to distant out of nowhere, they can make their partner feel insecure, confused, and desperate for attention, all of which can give the manipulator more control over the relationship. This type of behavior should not be tolerated, as it can cause lasting emotional damage.”
Behaviors of an inconsistent guy
- He has a hidden agenda. What makes a guy exhibit hot and cold behavior? It’s about keeping you where he wants you when he wants you. He wants to know he can call you up and invite you over to his house when he’s lonely and you’ll go without question. To achieve this, he’ll turn on the charming behavior, using flattery and affection when he feels you pulling away. Then, when he’s confident you’re back in his grasp, he’s back to being aloof and uncaring.
- He’s incredibly selfish. Guys who blow hot and cold are playing a game and they want to get their way all the time. That means trying to make you feel special when they want sex or attention— or dissing you when they’re not interested. There’s no stability, only selfishness. It’s not about how you’re feeling but what they can get out of the situation. This guy doesn’t care whether he upsets you or if you’re unhappy with him. As long as he gets what he wants, he’s good.
- He’s super charming. Sure, he knows how to make you feel like a million bucks, but that’s not who he really is. In reality, he’s super insecure, immature, and stringing you along. The charm is a mask, so don’t fall for it! It’s used as a tool of manipulation to get what he wants and when he has it, the mask will slip.
- He makes you feel hopeful for nothing. How many times have you been crushed by a guy’s hot and cold behavior and thought, “Things will get better” or “He says he likes me, though”? Too many damn times! He wants you to be in that uncertain state where you’re easier to control. Your hope is a dead-end, girl.
- He doesn’t make things official, even after months of dating. Of course not. That would mean game over” on his BS. He’d have to suddenly start being consistent and reliable. Instead, he acts like your boyfriend when he’s trying to impress you and make you like him. He’s obviously not looking for commitment. If he was, he wouldn’t be playing games.
- He probably has other women on the side. If he’s all over the place with you, he’s not into you (at least not enough). What’s stopping him from having other women on speed dial or in his Instagram DMs or whatever? He gives you just enough breadcrumbs to make you think you’re the only one, but your gut’s probably screaming at you that you’re not. Listen to your gut rather than the guy.
- He’s making himself missable on purpose. He’s hot and heavy with you before blasting cold to make you miss him. You can’t really pine for him or realize how much you like him if they’re always around, right? He wants to play on that. It’s during this time when your pain highlights your feelings for him, especially because he was so nice/romantic/into you before he turned on the sub-zero temperatures. Instead of missing him, drop him and get out.
- He’s a master gaslighter. When you’ve had enough of his behavior and question him about how he’s putting you on the back burner, he might reply, “But we weren’t officially dating!” So now you’re the one to blame and he might even make you think you’re the one who drove him away with your clingy behavior. This is BS. It’s just a way for him to come out of the situation smelling like flowers. You wouldn’t feel nuts if he would just act normal. Don’t let him get away with gaslighting you.
- He’s all about the challenge. It’s not satisfying enough for him to get with you and enjoy a relationship. In fact, it might be boring for him. He wants the chase, the challenge, and the rush, along with the sex if he can get it. He tends to go cold on you when the chase comes to an end, like when he knows how you feel about him or you’ve figured them out. Hot and cold behavior is the way he tries to keep you where he wants you for as long as possible.
- He likes to feel powerful. Don’t be mistaken: this is all about the guy’s ego. Guys who blow hot and cold want to feel important and special, knowing such a great catch as yourself is into them. They want to feel that they can control women and be chased by them. What losers. All the more reason to walk away the minute a guy goes from giving you tropical to Arctic temperatures seemingly overnight. Don’t give him the satisfaction of making him feel worthy—his insecurities aren’t your problem.
- He’s a giant faker. Don’t waste your time keeping this guy in suspense or playing hard to get in the hopes of keeping him around or flipping the script on him. He’s not worth hiding your feelimengs in the hope of hooking him because it won’t get you anywhere. All those mixed messages point to one thing: He’s not really into you. The best thing you can do is see past the BS and walk away.
- He’s not taking this seriously. You might think the guy was really into you or that he wanted a relationship, but then something changed. No! A guy who’s truly into you isn’t going to change his mind about you, especially if you’ve done nothing to scare him away. The problem with a guy who blows hot and cold is that the minute things get too real, he bounces. He doesn’t want to get too serious because he was never serious to begin with! If he had been, he would have given you a nice, stable climate right from the start, not been so cold that he left you with frostbite.
How to deal with his wishy-washy ways
- Call him out on it. If you notice that a guy is completely inconsistent and seems to change how he feels about you from one hour to the next, for the love of God, don’t just sit there and put up with it. Call him out on it! If his intentions aren’t genuine, he may think you’re either too unintelligent or he’s too slick for you to realize the crap he’s trying to pull. Prove him wrong by letting him know straight up that you see what he’s doing and it’s completely unacceptable. However, make sure you’re not coming at him too aggressively or he’s unlikely to respond well. “Talk to him openly and honestly about how his behavior is making you feel, and ask what the underlying cause might be. Maybe he is uncomfortable talking about his feelings, finds it hard to express himself, or is struggling with unresolved issues from the past,” Carleton advises. “Whatever the reason, try to be understanding and compassionate, but also make it clear that this type of behavior is not acceptable in a relationship. You can also suggest ways on how both of you can work together to build a healthier and more consistent relationship.”
- Set healthy boundaries and demand changes. If you really like this guy and he claims to like you too, there’s no excuse for hot and cold behavior. Don’t let him get away with promising to change or insisting that you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Instead, put boundaries and expectations in place and make it clear that if he doesn’t start being more consistent and reliable and act like he actually wants to be with you, you won’t be around for him to mistreat anymore.
- If all else fails, walk away. If you’ve tried being upfront with him and setting boundaries that he repeatedly crosses, I think you know what you need to do here. The last thing you want to do is stick around for a guy who treats you like you’re disposable and that you don’t matter. If he’s not on board with treating you with respect, courtesy, and care, then it’s time to walk away.