Unless you’re unusually cruel, no one takes pleasure in leading someone on or does it intentionally. However, it’s possible that you could be exhibiting certain behaviors that make the person believe there’s romantic potential when there’s none at all. The last thing you want to do is send the wrong signals and end up breaking anyone’s heart. If you’re not sure whether you’re inadvertantly leading someone on, here are some signs to look out for.
- You hang out with them for selfish reasons. They’re attracted to you and you know it, but you also know you’d never date them. You hang out with them because they offer you a bit of an ego boost or because they’re fun enough to be around and it’s better than doing nothing when you’re bored. Maybe they’re just there to fill the void left by your ex. You care about them, but not in the way or to the level that you know they care about you. Spending time with them anyway is a classic sign of leading someone on.
- You always lie to them. You do it to make them feel better or good about themself. Because you’re such a people pleaser, you’re good at telling people what they want to hear rather than how you really feel. If you’re always lying to them about your true feelings, their place in your life, and your plans with them, you’re leading them on a bit. You don’t even have to be lying to them directly. If they continue to make their feelings for you clear but you fail to say that you’re not on the same page, you’re also leading someone on.
- You flirt with them for fun. If you’re only getting them all hot and bothered to tease them afterward, then you’re unintentionally (or intentionally!) leading them on. Flirting can be fun and make you feel powerful, but it’s not always nice for the person on the receiving end, especially if you know you have no legitimate feelings for them. This is really terrible behavior when you know someone has feelings for you that you don’t return. Regardless of how much of a natural flirt you are, you should be mature and considerate enough to draw the line.
- You don’t see them in your future. Is leading someone on actually possible when you’re casually dating them? Of course. If you’re sleeping with them or even in the early stages of a relationship with them while knowing that you have no intention of staying with them long-term or that you’re completely incompatible, that’s not a good thing. That’s not to say you have to imagine every person you date as your future spouse, but if you know from the beginning that they’re not on your level, it’s no good pretending otherwise.
- You’re quick to ghost them. If you’re known to go AWOL from their life for days or weeks on end without explanation, only to pop back in and pick up where you left off when you can be bothered again, it’s a sure sign you’re leading someone on. One moment you’re texting them every day, and the next month you don’t even send a single text. That’s a problem. Do you know the signal you’re sending out? “I don’t want to be with you every day, I just need you to be around when I need you.”
- You keep sending mixed signals. If they’re always asking the “what are we?” question and you always put them off by insisting that things are going well and you don’t need labels, then you’re definitely leading them on. If you liked them that much and felt as strongly as they did, you’d be keen to put a name to the connection that exists between you. Instead, you keep sending mixed signals that leave them more confused. They don’t know if you’re into them or not even though you certainly know. You pull them close, yet you’re emotionally distant. It’s a harrowing experience!
- You want someone else, not them. Maybe you just recently ended things with your ex and you’re trying to get over them. Maybe you even want your ex back but there’s someone else who gives you a shoulder to cry on and who has serious feelings for you. It’s clear they want you but you don’t feel the same. Your mind is still entangled with your ex and you’re hoping they’ll come back to you soon. Yes, that counts as leading someone on because you’re not being honest.
How To Stop Leading Someone On
- Start by working on your self-esteem. This is the first step towards ensuring that you’re not leading someone on. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize that the core reason why you want people around you even when you don’t have the intention of ever dating any of them is because of your insecurities. You’re using them to cover up your low self-esteem. Having them around makes you feel like you matter when inwards, you feel like crap! You should start working on yourself. It’s going to take some time but realize that you don’t need those validations.
- Be honest about your feelings from the beginning. Once you notice that someone has a romantic interest in you that you don’t return, please sit them down and have an honest conversation. Don’t flow with it hoping that it’ll magically disappear. Tell them how you’re feeling and what you want or don’t want from your relationship with them. If you only want a casual fling, let them know and decide if they want to continue being in your life.
- You should take things slow. Don’t jump into bed with him immediately. Don’t go around flirting with him at every opportunity you get. Take it slow. This will give you enough time to process your emotions and figure out how you truly feel about him. You can start by being friends and then take this up a notch if it’s right for both of you.
- Ask them about their expectations. Whenever they bring up the, “So, what are we?” conversation, don’t push the conversation aside. Instead, ask them what they want. If they’re looking for a long-term relationship and you’re not, save them the heartbreak and respectfully decline. It doesn’t stop there. Also, try and set healthy boundaries to ensure that both of you don’t slip down the same route again.
- You should practice the golden rule. Try and put yourself in their shoes. If someone is treating you the way you’re treating this person, would you like it? You obviously wouldn’t. So, don’t do the same to someone else. Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t want to be treated like an option, avoid treating others that way.