When A Guy Ignores You, What Does It Mean?
Updated February 05, 2019
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
There's nothing quite as confusing as the single's game. There doesn't seem to be any set rules. You spend time with a guy who has been giving off signals for weeks, but then when a guy ignores you, you're left in the dark. The more you try to indicate you're still interested, the more he seems to push you away. But when you try to ignore him back, it just doesn't feel right. You are positive that chemical attraction is still there, but it's beginning to feel more like a wall instead of a connection.
Maybe I'm Just Obsessing
Rationally, you can put aside the guy who has chosen to ignore you. After all, you haven't really become boyfriend and girlfriend yet. You've been playing the field, trying to decide whether entering into a relationship with him is worth it, or keeping him at arm's length so he doesn't think you are exclusively dating.
But when he stops paying any attention to you, you feel confused. You begin to wonder if there was something you did wrong to make him lose all interest. You begin questioning your actions and reassess every interaction you ever had with him. It can be maddening and make you feel obsessed over the situation.
Essentially, our minds don't like uncertainty. No matter how low the temperature was in a dating relationship, it's a hard blow to the ego when we are suddenly completely ignored by another person. A psychological threat response to our limbic system is activated. We instinctively want to know why, so we can process it and store it in our memories for future reference.
When a Guy Ignores You and You Ask, Am I Being Punished?
People handle their disagreements with others in very different ways. Some people are quite vocal in their reasons while others will clam up and withdraw from the situation. The silent treatment is a form of punishment in many couple's relationships and could be the cause of the sudden ice wall you just encountered in your developing interests. Some people just don't like confrontation and this is preferable to telling the other person why they are no longer interested.
Other indications that he might be punishing you could be if he deliberately makes out with a girl in front of you, talks loudly with his friends when he sees you around, or becomes clumsy or brusque in your presence. Although this behavior is immature, it tells you a lot about the other person, especially where they are in terms of their development.
Maybe I got My Signals Crossed
Since so much of our communication is based on body language, it's easy to believe we misinterpreted a dating relationship if there weren't any words that could solidly cement our feelings. But according to Cornell University researchers, if he's been giving off signals that he's interested, then suddenly ignores you, it's probably not because you had misinterpreted his intentions in the first place.
Most communication between two people is nonverbal. When we first meet someone, prolonged eye contact, relaxed postures and dilated pupils are all signals that this person is attracted to us or us to them. But this is just an initial attraction and does not necessarily last. Over time, if the other person avoids eye contact, leans away from you or crosses their arms, this a good indication that they have lost interest and provides you with a lot of good feedback.
If he's ignoring you, it's possible he is either trying to speed up or slow down the development of the relationship. He may be trying to stimulate your attention by playing hard to get, or he may be trying to establish a more dominant role. It is also important to look at your own behavior during this time. Perhaps you were leading him on because you enjoyed the attention. If this is the case perhaps it's time for you both to be honest and start communicating with one another.
It's All About Communication
In these situations, you may have to take the initiative and confront him. Sometimes, being upfront is the best option. Don't be afraid to ask the question: are you interested in dating me? If he doesn't answer immediately with yes then this provides you with a lot of information and you can make your decision about continuing to pursue him or not.
Sometimes, you may have to be the mature one and address his behavior. If he is telling you that he wants to date you but his behavior says otherwise, this needs to be challenged. This can be done in a non-threatening manner. For instance, in such a discussion, try and use I language rather than your language. These two pronouns can create very different messages.
When you express a statement such as I feel confused about what I am experiencing in this relationship, you take ownership of your feelings and express them without provocation. This is far more effective than saying: Your behavior is confusing. This automatically puts the other person on the defensive and sets up a potential conflict. No one likes feeling as if they are being accused of something. It's all about setting up a situation where the other person will listen to you and not feel as if they have to defend themselves.
Where Do I Go from Here?
There are a lot of reasons he could be giving you the cold shoulder. He could be punishing you. He could be trying to play the field. He may be trying to get the upper hand of the situation, or he could feel insecure about himself and your reciprocation of his attention. The chances are unless he is upfront and honest with you, you will never know.
A cooling off period is actually a good time to appraise your own interests. Is this really a relationship you wish to pursue? Do you find the "hard to get" aspect annoying or intriguing? These are important questions to ask yourself. Life is short and we don't want to waste our time pursuing someone who is not going to fully respect us. We all want to date someone who is interested in interacting and spending time with us.
Don't Be A Ghost
If you decide to say goodbye to the relationship, be mature about it. Many people will simply ghost the other person that they were dating when they decide to no longer pursue a relationship. This is immature and is not only disrespectful to the other person but hurts you as well. Treat the other person with dignity and respect and tell them you are no longer interested in talking to them or spending time with them. Many guys will appreciate your candor and integrity. By ending it this way, this opens up the possibility of dating in the future or just being friends.
No one likes being rejected but being rejected by being ghosted causes people to really question their self-esteem. It is hurtful and disingenuous. Thank the other person for their initial interest and wish them the best of luck in their dating efforts. This will show the other person you a kind and sophisticated adult.
Let's Just be Friends
We're chemically wired to socialize and form relationships. We are social creatures. It gives us pleasure to make connections with others and feel ourselves click with each other. Not all initial attractions develop into relationships, however, and not all relationships retain this attraction. Sometimes, that initial spark you feel for the other person will fizzle out after a few months. At the same time, you may not be into someone you first meet but over time develop an attraction towards that other person. Relationships develop differently.
If it looks like the cold war isn't taking either one of you anywhere, try calling a truce and become platonic friends. If you can be friends, it was more than a spark of physical attraction that drew you together. And if you can't be friends, somebody's still carrying a torch. If you decide to be friends then you will both need to agree on establishing healthy boundaries.
Healthy boundaries, in this case, is not getting upset when the other person is dating someone. It's easy to cross these boundaries when you are both single, so no flirting, kissing or holding hands. Intimate contact will blur the boundaries between you both and lead to someone getting hurt in the end.
If you have any doubts about your social relationships, please contact our online therapists at BetterHelp. There is always someone standing by ready to listen to your perspective and help you out. Many therapists have training in how to effectively communicate with other people and set healthy boundaries. They can help you navigate the treacherous waters of modern dating.