In the context of relationships, leading someone on is making someone believe that you are romantically interested in them when you’re fully aware that you’re not. It can be done intentionally or unintentionally. Here are some common signs you’re doing it, reasons people do it, and how to stop.
Reasons for leading someone on
Some common reasons you may intentionally and unintentionally be leading someone on include you:
- Enjoy the attention
- Like the idea of people falling for or being in love with you
- Are too afraid to upset them by being honest about your feelings
- Are trying to get over an ex
- Didn’t lead them on, they just misunderstood your intent or words
Signs you’re leading someone on
Some common signs you’re leading someone on include:
- You avoid all honest conversations about the relationship
- You say what you think they want to hear, no matter how you feel
- You know what they’re looking for, and it doesn’t match what you’re looking for, but you’re still seeing them
- You hang out with them all the time and text a lot, responding immediately
- You avoid all talk about the future and don’t see a future with them in it
- They see you as an “us” but you don’t
- It’s only physical for you, you’re only interested in their body and not their mind
- Something just doesn’t feel right but you’re ignoring it
- You are overly friendly and affectionate, complete with excessive physical touch
- You compliment them too much, so much more than you do other people
- You hang out with them for selfish reasons like an ego boost or you’re just lonely
- You feel jealous when they hang out with other people
- You flirt with them or tease them merely for fun or your entertainment
- You want someone else, not them
- Going on multiple dates with them even though you’re not sure you want anything more
- You often agree to plans with them but then don’t follow through
- You keep sending mixed signals and avoiding direct responses to questions like, “What are we?”
- Other people keep asking where you stand because it’s so unclear
- You act like a couple, for example, you give friends gifts as a couple
What to do
Best case scenario, you’re honest with the people in your life about your intentions right from the jump. If you already missed your window to do that and suspect you have been leading someone on, here are some things you can do to stop and make amends.
- Figure out what you want: If you’re not sure about your intentions, take the time to find out. Your feelings may not be 100% clear to you, but if you take the time to dig deep, you can clear it up for yourself and them. You can determine exactly how you’re feeling and what you want.
- Figure out why you did it: Get to the heart of it, was it loneliness or maybe fear you wouldn’t get someone else? What is it? Why did you lead them on?
- Apologize and give them whatever space they need to deal with it (if you need to)
- Don’t say things you don’t mean: Going forward, strive for honesty and transparency in your relationships.
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