Understanding Men: mixed signals, game playing, and “closure”

I am “one of the boys”. I have been since I was 19, and I’m no longer considered by these guys to have a gender – on the one hand they know I”m not like them, but on the other they think nothing of getting naked in front of me, in a totally non-sexual way. Because of this, many of my girlfriends, and women I barely know, use me for relationship advice. I am told about in minute detail about the tone of voice he used, the relevant pauses, and the speed of response. I am told about how they were getting along so well but then he just backed off, and now he’s playing games, and they were talking to their friend Cheryl at work and now they’re convinced he thinks she’s a psycho stalker, so she should just send a message telling him she’s not…..

I think what I am supposed to say, in honour of the sisterhood, is “Babe, you’re too good for him”. But I can’t help see things through his eyes also, and in many cases where “He’s” being accused of sending mixed signals or playing games, he’s really not.

  • Mixed signals are the difference between what you want to see from him, and what he actually does.
  • Game playing is the difference between the fantasy scenario you have conducted in your head of what he’ll do next, and the reality of what he actually does
  • Sending that message “just for closure” is always, 100% of the time, a bad idea that will get you nowhere.

I’m not trying to have a dig at women or men here, I’m just trying to demystify some of his behaviours without resorting to the Sex and the City-style dramatics that many women were raised on. Most men aren’t consciously being jerks 99% of the time, there’s just a gap between fantasy and reality

“He keeps sending me mixed signals”

Mixed signals don’t actually exist. Rather, they arise when there is a difference between what someone wants to happen, and what is actually happening. The bigger the gap, the more “mixed” the signals you think He’s giving off. You know that mental filter that makes you only see red cars after you’ve been talking about red cars?  It’s the same thing: you see everything through a lens of “He secretly likes me, He’s just afraid to show it”.

How do I know you’re doing this? Simple. You tell me that “it wasn’t what He said, it was how He said it” or “you weren’t there, you don’t know!” or “but He replied like, really fast”.  You need to stop that;  if you were to write down the words that He said and hand them to a stranger – that is what He meant. Quite simply, He means exactly what He said; how He said it is irrelevant.

Men aren’t really capable of generating hidden meanings and they don’t understand subtlety. How do I know? Advertising aimed at men is still focussed on boobs, bums and beer. Men don’t notice you had a haircut, they usually have no idea you’re pissed with them, let alone knowing the reason why!  Given they are utterly clueless in receiving these messages, how likely do you think they are to have embedded their secret (passion/love/loathing/contempt/emotionally neutral) feelings for you in a five-word text message?

Ladies, please save yourself a lot of time and brain-power and stop giving them more literary credit than they’re due. Put down the phone, and spend your spare time relaxing with your friends, having your own life, reading a great book; not analysing His behaviour.

“He’s such a game player”

Men don’t play as many relationship games as women seem to think they play. They play Playstation, Xbox, or real sports, but the thrill of making someone twist in the wind is way too boring for them to consciously do.

What we women interpret as game playing is usually His way of minimising His effort while still achieving maximum results. For example, you go out and He’s super-attentive and adorable and lovely and you can’t wait to see Him again. He’s 100% focussed on you and it’s awesome. Then you get a “I had a really good time” message the next day, so you reply. And you don’t get a reply back from Him. So you start to get paranoid. Then you text Him again and you only get a brief reply. So you text again, all the while imagining that He’s got what he wants from you and He’s such an ass for playing hard to get, and you’re sick of all these guys and their relationship games!

Here’s a secret that will change your life: the same concentration He gave to you on that awesome date, where He was so adorable and attentive and you could totally imagine having his babies, is the same level of concentration He probably puts into whatever it is he is doing. So when you don’t hear back from Him and you know He was “only” playing video games, He was probably giving that video game the same concentration He gave you. Was He hanging out with his mates? He was probably giving them the same focus He gave you. He learnt that skill somewhere; just think of it as an example of what you love about someone is also what drives you crazy about them.

And to turn that around, if He replies immediately to every single one of your messages, that means He’s not paying full attention to what He’s doing. This, of course, makes you feel really special in the early days, but once the initial glow wears off, this constant distraction will shit you to tears. Again, what you love about someone is also what drives you crazy about them.

“I think I just need closure”

No. No you don’t. Never do this. This is the worst idea ever. Especially for a relationship of less than three months, or in any relationship where you haven’t had “the talk”. If you have this urge, sleep on it. Then if you still feel like sending a message in the morning, go for a run, go to the gym, do absolutely anything you need to do to distract yourself. Then, when you can hold out no longer, turn off your phone, and give it to a friend. Whatever you do, do not send this message.

Why? He probably doesn’t think there is anything to “close”. The best parts of most of the relationships I’ve ever had existed only in my head. In my head I get all angry and righteous and say exactly the right thing for maximum effect. Of course he responds as any logical man would: by immediately seeing the error of his ways, realising he was an insensitive and/or thoughtless ass and then begging for my forgiveness by bringing me Tim Tams at 2am.

You see, you don’t want closure. You want him to understand and validate your feelings, and realise the error of his ways and do what you want him to do. The very reason why you want “closure” is probably because he was totally incapable of doing that.  If you only wanted closure, you’d buy your own Tim Tams, delete his number and messages from your phone, and move on, and he’d never need to know about it. In fact, do that. Whatever you do, don’t give him the ammunition he needs to write you off as That Psycho Chick.

What is the worst that can happen if you DON’T get “closure”? He’ll never know what an ass he is? He’ll never know what an awesome chick he missed out on? Trust me, it’s better he learns both of these things through personal experience.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Men: mixed signals, game playing, and “closure”

  1. Now this is the reason that I have more blokes as friends then women. Yes they are generalisations, but if more people looked at what was actually being said, rather then what might be being said we would all get on better.

    I don’t have the time or energy to try and work out what you are trying to say to me just bloody well say. Oh, and I will give you the same curtsey. I generally say what I think and think what I say. Might explain why I am single.

    Great work Cat.

  2. I agree that the scenarios are stereotypical, but it was my intention to actually stick up for the guys:

    1. There are not that many “mixed messages”, rather there’s a gap between what you want to happen and what is actually happening.
    2. Guys don’t generally play games – they couldn’t be bothered. Game playing arises from that lovely female tendency to imagine all sorts of potential scenarios in her head with a new man, sometimes having the best bits of that relationship in her head. And when the reality differs from what she expects to happen, he is accused of playing games.
    3. Don’t send the “closure” message. It’s unnecessary.

    Based on feedback I’ve received, I understand that I haven’t really communicated this very well, so I’m going to edit the post to make it a little clearer. Thanks for that!

  3. Bit disappointed with this Cat. Fabulously well written as it is, it possess a very genetic, stereotyped view of men.

    Yes, SOME men are like this. Yes, many men are SOMETIMES like this-just as some women are like those on wagnation. I can’t imagine you’d appreciate people assuming you were those women, simply because you are also a woman and all women are the same.

    Still, keep writing, it’s mostly awesome!

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