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Ask Lynn-I’m Getting Mixed Messages…


She told him she wanted to keep things casual—so why is she jealous when he flirts?

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
I work with a woman that I'm very attracted to. We've been out with each other numerous times and intimate a couple of times. It seems that she likes me when we are alone, but most of the time at work it seems she doesn't. When we're together, it's
I wasn't looking for anything serious from her either…
great. We have fun and I consider her a good friend. She says she isn't looking for anything serious right now because her ex-boyfriend is still in the picture and she just doesn't know what she wants right now, which is fine by me. I wasn't looking for anything serious from her either, but if she ever changed her mind, I would be there in an instant. However, anytime she knows I'm talking to another woman, she gets jealous. I don't get it. What should I do with her?
– Confused about a girl

Dear Confused,
Where do you guys work, Mixed Messages, Inc.? Actually, the first part of this gal's message is not mixed at all. When anyone says any combination or permutation of "I'm not looking for anything serious right now/my ex is still in the picture/I just don't know what I want right now," that person knows exactly what she wants right now. She wants something serious… with someone else. Maybe with someone she hasn't met yet, but that person is not you. She may want to hook up with or hang out with you, or not, but you cannot, cannot count on her for anything more. Take her at her wishy-washy word. I'm sorry, but it's true.

The above, however, does nothing to explain the mixed part of her message, as in: "I don't want anything serious with you, and I don't want you to have anything serious — or anything at all — with anyone else." Hmm. This doesn't make rational sense, no. But hey—in love, and lack thereof, we have raw, irrational feelings. They don't necessarily make sense, but they're normal. It's kind of like when you break up with someone — that is, you break up with the other person — and you still wish that your ex would stay single
So let her know, gently but firmly, that she can't have it both ways.
forever, just to keep things simple. Normal jealousy can be like that: amorphous, illogical. (It can also escalate into not-normal and dangerous, but that's not what's happening here.) Sometimes our heads say, "I like that person, but for whatever reason I don't think he or she is The One," but our hearts get only the first page of the memo. So our heart says, "Hey, I like that person! What is he doing flirting on the phone?"

But even though she is entitled to her feelings — we all are — she is not entitled to project them onto you. She can say she doesn't want a relationship, fine; but then she forfeits relationship privileges, such as complaining if her non-partner appears to have interest in others.

So let her know, gently but firmly, that she can't have it both ways. You guys can date casually and date other people (be safe, please!), or you guys can date seriously and not date other people. Or you can not date at all. Those are the options, all of which presume and require utter decorum at work, by the way. And speaking of work, honestly, if I were you, I'd hold out for someone who's interested in you full-time.


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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