7 Signs You're Leading Guys On — Without Even Realizing It

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7 Signs You Lead Men On — Without Even Realizing It

If you’ve ever studied psychology 101, you know that Erikson places young adults in a stage of intimacy versus isolation. And there’s no shame in admitting that, even you have one or two dating apps set up to search for the intimacy half of the equation.

Of course, men are looking for the same thing. Some are searching for a more casual intimacy than others, but without a man on your arm, more serious suitors are bound to come your way. And why shouldn’t they?

But the real question here isn’t about the men. They’re doing what they are built to do: they’re seeking intimacy. The most important question in this suitor-single lady equation is you, and whether you fit the seven signs you lead men on, sometimes without even realizing it.

1. You give out your number because "no" would be rude.

Picture this: you’re at a bar with your friends. A guy comes up who isn’t your type — kind of short, nerdy, a vague scent of a Brazilian accent. Still, he made you laugh, and you made him smile. And when he asked for your number, you didn’t have the heart to say "no," especially in front of a crowd.

So now, a year later, he’s still reaching out. And, half flattered/half sympathetic, you're still texting back, again without the heart to turn him down. Your phone number has become his leash. 

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2. You offer digital foreplay with the give and take of a yo-yo.

Admit it: you and the guy you’ll never date have a text message thread that takes weeks to evolve. That guy with your number texts you now and then. Some texts, you don’t answer, but every once in a while, especially on those Friday nights alone, you type a reply. It could be small, just an emoji, but it fills an empty moment in your life and sends his heart to a race.

In digital distance, you tease him with foreplay. To the man who’s been waiting all this time, your out-of-the-blue text is a sign to start something up. And he jumps on it, excited.

Chances are, of course, that’s where you find a real-time connection and fade away... until, of course, your next lonely night. Face it, girl, you've got your flirtation on a digital yo-yo.

3. Your excuses for not going out are growing more elaborate.

You know what I mean. You met him at a cycling class. He wasn’t close to your age. You guys had a great conversation, but you could only see him as a friend. Nothing more. You went to a few group gatherings where you crossed paths and chatted. After some time, he asked you out. Instead of saying a simple "no," though, you wrote out some elaborate "I’m too busy" excuse.

Of course, the level of detail you created led him to believe you are actually too busy. So he asked you out again and again and again. Eventually, you have more excuses for him than you have products for your hair. 

4. You keep him around as a much-too-close "friend." 

And by "him," you're referring to more than one man.

Think back to the last guy who asked you out. When he throws you the offer, his identity, height, and level of attractiveness don't matter. The interest alone is an ego boost. So, naturally, even the quirky, short suitor starts to look more attractive.

You may still find yourself recoiling at the idea of a romance with him, but you aren’t ready to let go of this person who builds you up. It feels great to be around someone who loves to be with you.

And because he wants to be closer to you, you start opening up, buying into his compassion. He waits for your smile each time you cross paths, and even though you logically know he’s been friend-zoned, your emotions and actions start to cross that more-than-friends line. You shoot him that smile he wants just to keep him around, and you, too, start to look back for his smile. 

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5. You're always too busy for dinner — but only with "him."

Girl, we all know you eat. But for some reason, with these men in your life, you text and text, and never have time to sit down to either a dinner or a brunch.

In the back of your mind, you’re keeping that seat opposite you open for the better match to come along. Of course, you never tell your suitor that; it's better to let him think you just nibble carrots and protein shakes than to scare him off with the truth.

6. You're starting to feel jealous, and actually look forward to his texts.

Logically, he won’t wait around forever. Eventually, he’ll jump back into the dating pool and show up on social media and the local coffee shop with a woman in his hands.

In all the time you spent with him keeping him in the friend-zone, your devishly good feelings developed into something more. His texts started to make your day. His date with another woman stirs your emotions.

Looking in the mirror, you realize that you led yourself out of the friend-zone and let your heart and mind wander across the relationship line. And if you led yourself on, you can be certain you led him on, too.

7. The number of men at your door has started to dwindle.

If you're a woman who leads men on, this last sign is the real kicker. One day, you look in your notebook and realize the number of crazy bad pickup lines you’ve heard has decreased. Fewer men are picking you up. Fewer men are risking their emotions on you.

It may be for any number of reasons, but if any of the above experiences resonate with you, the reason is rather clear: you’re emotionally involved with one (or many) never-going-to-happen men. You’re leading on a relationship that doesn’t exist, and giving that fake-ship so much time and energy that viable men can’t even tell that you are still single and free! You're in a woman-made bind.

But there's always hope! If even one of these seven experiences resonate with you, take a deep breath. Leading men on is not a disease. There’s no cause for alarm. There’s no need for medication. But ladies, is this pattern of behavior really fair? 

Every time you give a fuzzy "no," every time you make a silly excuse, you leave room for hope. You’ve waited by a phone for that call that never came; it’s not fun.

Waiting for a relationship that will never happen can make a man feel the same sort of never-ending pain. And it puts you in a rather unfortunate position. So if you’re a woman who strings men along, there’s no reason for blame or judgment. Honestly, you’re probably just trying to be nice and hide that harsh "no." 

But in more ways than one, the best piece of advice for a strong woman is rather simple: instead of leading him on, just deliver that resolute "no." There will be growing pains, but, girl, your dating life will thank you.

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Mirissa Price has had publications in The Huffington Post, Kevin MD, and more. Stay up to date on her writing at and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.