New-relationship sparks send smiles to the face, lightness to the step, and images to the mind about what could be. Thoughts of first, second and third phone calls bring excitement tinged with a little bit of nervousness. Such is the start of a new relationship. But what happens when that new person you’re dating drives you wild—with frustration—by behaving as though they like you sometimes, and other times not at all?
It’s called “hot and cold,” and the repeated exposure to the tropics of love followed by the confusion of Siberia can really wear a person down. In advanced stages, some may even become frustrated enough to start mimicking that “I-like-you/I-like-you-not” behavior themselves in an attempt to “punish” the objects of their unrequited love. In the case of the hot-and-cold treatment, though, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery; frequently this kind of behavior backfires, pushing them further out into the cold.
So what to do? If you’re in the throes of hot and cold, the first thing to do is calm down. Resist the urge to play games. You don’t have to make any rash decisions to address the frustration and indignation you might be feeling. Before you start thumbing through your desktop reference edition of He (or She’s) Just Not That Into You, mentally beating yourself up, complaining to all of your friends—and for goodness’ sake, don’t even think about firing off a passive-aggressive e-mail, text message or voicemail to the offending party—take a giant step back, take a few deep breaths, and take yourself out of the equation. Repeat after me: MySpace is not a weapon.
When someone doesn’t call you when they say they will, don’t return the favor the next time you say you’re going to call them. Don’t ignore their e-mail for three days thinking they’ll feel the burn of unrequited love the way that you are. While it can be tempting to the ego to show them exactly how they’ve made you feel, this response will only hurt you in the end.
It’s all about the shoes. You already know how you feel—and if you’re an extravert, so do all of your friends and maybe a few of your coworkers—but what about the other person who seems to be shutting you out? If you can mentally step inside his or her shoes, you may be able to understand their point of view more objectively. With a more objective viewpoint comes a better assessment of the situation and better decision-making for you.
You can rest assured that there is something on their mind, but it’s probably not what you would like it to be. The good news is that you don’t really know what that “it” is, so don’t give up hope just yet. He or she could be preoccupied with work or experiencing something deeply personal that they don’t feel comfortable enough sharing with you at this point (think family issues or healing from a failed relationship or series of failed relationships). But be forewarned: on-and-off again attention may also indicate their romantic interest in someone else, or there could be something about you that they’re just not sure about.
People are looking for the same thing: someone who fits them really well; someone who makes them happy and who makes life a joy just by being present in their life—that’s what love is. When searching for that kind of love, many issues come into play that really all just point to timing and selection.
First and foremost, a person must be ready to want to find that kind of love. For whatever reason—age, life stage, personal obstacles—a person may not be ready yet to welcome the kind of relationship into their life, and that’s okay. You want someone who can bring as much enthusiasm and desire to have the kind of relationship you need for you. And, although not always voiced directly, each person has their own internal list of absolute must-haves and can’t-stands, and there can sometimes be a feeling of “I like this person, but you know, there a few things here that make me uncomfortable.” These uncomfortable feelings are the key to the hot-and-cold treatment. Your object of affection is backing off to weigh your compatibility together, and so should you.
In your search for the right person, be flexible, opening yourself up to new people and experiences. Instead of hoping, wishing, and pushing a round peg into a square hole while wondering why you still don’t feel fulfilled in your romantic relationships, take a step back and don’t be in such a hurry to turn a Ms. or Mr. Right now into a Mr. or Mrs. Right. Any amount of unrequited love becomes a preoccupation that prevents you from being open to meeting new people who could give you exactly what you’re looking for in a relationship.
If your goal is to be with someone for the long term, hot-and-cold usually won’t work. That being said, you can’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. So back up, give it distance and time—Dr. Warren says about 2 months is enough time to really gauge someone who’s behaving this way toward you—and then confront gently and honestly. You may not like the answer (or with some less emotionally developed sorts, a continued lack of answer), but the truth is always better than living in your own private Idaho of wishing and hoping and pretending that things are different while the repeated out-in the-cold just gets old.
Are these boots made for walking? Should you find that after gently confronting this person that the connection you two share warrants waiting for the kind relationship you really need to be happy, then great! Keep on keeping on, and be careful not to cross that line of having the patience of a saint into the status of a doormat.
And don’t worry—if you find after stepping inside their shoes for a bit that their gait is out of step with the romantic path you’d like to walk, it’s okay. Remember the end goal of the type of person you’d like to be with and the kind of happy relationship you must have. Keep your spirits up, your senses tuned in to your needs and how to meet them, and your heart wide open. The right person you’re looking for is out there, and more consistent hot relationship sparks are just around the corner.