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What should I do when a guy sends me mixed signals?

I like him a lot and don't know what to think about him. No one actually seems to know what he's doing, and he always sends mixed messages.


I’m a freshman in college and am interested in an older guy. He’s a very godly man and is studying to become a pastor. I’ve had a crush on him since we met a year ago, and ever since I got to college that crush has grown a lot.

The hard thing is, he is not like any other guy I know. He loves to make everyone happy and consequently comes across as a huge flirt. We hung out quite a bit and actually had several people ask if we were dating.

It finally got to the point where we went for a walk and talked about how we felt. I told him that I liked him, and he let me know that he was content being single for now. We continued on our walk for a long time and had a really good conversation about what we look for in a person of the opposite sex and what it’s like being single.

Once we got back on campus, he asked when I first started liking him, and I told him it was every time I would come and visit the college and see him. He told me that he liked me then, too. He continued to go on and say that I am really pretty and extremely talented. Can you say mixed signals?

Well, since then it’s been a lot easier for me, and we’ve actually hung out quite a bit. However, lately there have been some rumors going about that he’s going to ask a different girl out, but he’s been flirtatious with me at the same time. I’m content being single and know better than to expect us to start dating. However, I like him a lot and don’t know what to think about him. No one actually seems to know what he’s doing, and he always sends mixed messages. What should I do?


Thanks for writing! I agree with you that your male friend (and future pastor) is indeed sending mixed signals. Though I disagree that he is “very godly” — at least when it comes to how he relates to women. This is sadly too common these days, in part because men aren’t expected to get married anytime soon and also because women let them get away with it.

In your case, I think your mistake is to continue spending so much time with this man. If other people think you are dating, but you know you’re not; if you enjoy his company more than your other male friends, and he yours; if you act differently toward him than toward other men, and he you; then you’ve crossed that line into a “buddy relationship.” It has all the markings of a dating relationship (except that maybe it’s not physically intimate, though it often is that as well) but with none of the clarity and intentionality of a dating relationship.

For your part, I think the best thing you can do is back away from him. It won’t be easy because you do like him so much and do wish it were more than “just friends.” But he is defraudingTo clarify “defraud,” let me quote Matt Schmucker’s “Physical Intimacy and the Single Man“: Christian men are called to protect their sisters in Christ, not take advantage of them. Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV): “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.” Where the NIV says, “no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him,” the NASB says, “no one should defraud.” Defraud means “to deprive of something by deception or fraud.” What do I mean by defrauding in this context? Simply put, a man defrauds a woman when, by his words or actions, he promises the benefits of marriage to a woman he either has no intention of marrying or if he does, has no way of finally knowing that he will. you; taking advantage of your time, friendship and affections without giving any commitment. He is not protecting your heart. He is acting irresponsibly toward you, even if he doesn’t recognize that he is. (In his defense, it’s possible he’s naive to the pain he’s causing you and the inappropriateness of his behavior. Though that’s no reason to let him continue.)

If you spend less time with him, he’ll either miss you and realize he does want to make your relationship official. Or he will move on to another woman (and likely treat her the same way). As painful as that second scenario would be, it will be even more painful if you delay it (and invest even more of yourself in him between now and then). As happy as that first scenario would be (and it would be happy if it works out that way), it’s unlikely to happen if you don’t cut him off from so much access to you. Either way there is no benefit to delay (you’ve already shown you’re unhappy with the way things are).

Now to him. If he really does want to be a pastor someday, his behavior will have to change, or he’s headed for trouble. What a man like him needs most — in addition to a rock solid commitment to Christ and Christ’s transformative power at work in his sinful heart — is godly, wise and practical mentors who can help him see his need to change the way he relates to women. Then he’ll be ready to find and take a wife. And that’s also something a man like him probably needs to succeed in his life work and calling. (See especially God’s solution to Adam’s aloneness in Genesis 2 as well as Paul’s conversations with Timothy about the centrality of family to making healthy church leaders.)

His behavior is really frustrating (and despicable) wherever it occurs. But especially so in men who are already claiming pastor status. The standard of conduct for them is, and ought to be, higher (James 3:1-3).

The question for you is, will you hold him to it?

I pray God will embolden you to do what’s best.


Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is the editor of, a weekly devotional blog helping believers fight the fight of faith by memorizing Scripture. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen. In 1998, she and her husband, Steve, founded Boundless.


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