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Dealing With a Flaky Person While Protecting Your Own Emotions

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

It’s a common dating experience we all have likely had to suffer through. That person who just seems wishy-washy about the whole dating or relationship experience. A flaky person will play you hot and cold, one moment seeming very committed to your interactions and the next, leaving you on read.

So let’s take a look at flakiness, its effect on the modern dating scene, how it takes shape in relationships and how to nip these toxic dating prospects right in the bud.

What is a flaky person: A definition

Flakiness basically just means people who can’t be depended on. During some relationship stages they’ll seem like they’re ready to be there for you emotionally but can often let you down when the moment calls for them to rise to the occasion.

It’s easy to see how a flaky person can make for a generally unhealthy relationship environment – when you don’t feel you can trust or depend on someone you should, conflict can arise.   Healthy, real relationships aren’t just about the fun parts but also when you may find yourself in need of support.  

How to identify a flaky person

Here are some common signs that a person in your life is flaky, particularly in a dating dynamic.

 The emotional risks of dating a flakey person

  • In most contexts, they’ll put their emotions before yours meaning you’ll never be a priority to them. Their priority is their own comfort.
  • They likely don’t consider your needs in a relationship and choose a neglectful attachment model to keep you interested.
  • They’re quite resistant to commitment.
  • They may play you hot and cold. One moment offering you all of the emotional availability you need and the next is incredibly distant, which can be frustrating.

Understanding the motivations of flaky people

People who are flakey tend to share one basic physiological motivation: they’re too agreeable. But they express it in different ways, habitual or just occasional. They say yes to things before even coming to terms with the idea of whether they want to actually do it. They don’t want to be in direct conflict so by saying ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ but meaning ‘no’ a flakey person gets to avoid a concept for now while reserving the emotion for later.

It’s important not to judge this psychological state, as it can often stem from trauma or social anxiety but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to hold these people accountable

The best ways to deal with a flaky person

In any dating situation, the most important thing is putting your emotions first. It’s very easy for infatuation to take hold but take the time to practice self-awareness and self-care and realize when certain flaky people are taking more from the relationship than what they’re offering.

It can be so difficult, particularly if you have a shared history but sometimes it is worth more to you to cut these people off.

But let’s look at some basic ways you can put yourself first while still working on your relationship with someone you think is generally flaky.

Effective communication

A flaky person often has poor communication skills so a good way to break past those boundaries can be:

  • Actively listening when they talk so it feels like you’re truly hearing them. Flakiness is often a result of feeling misunderstood.
  • Give them space to share their emotions as they may be ill-equipped to share them in a health manner. Instead try to be patient with them and be that gateway for their emotions. Organize a time every week where you can have an open platform to discuss each other’s emotions. This can make it a more formalized moment to share.

But communication isn’t the only ingredient in a healthy relationship.

Setting boundaries

Boundaries are incredibly important in maintaining your own emotional health. It’s important to remember that any intimate relationship must be built on the idea that you’re both separate beings in this connection and have your own set of needs.

You’re not exclusively there to adjust to them. They also have to recognize what your requirements are out of a relationship. So set proper communication boundaries regarding how you build up your relationship and never be afraid to voice when you feel like yours have been crossed.

Preserving relationships

Sometimes we just have a flaky person in our life that we have to deal with, like with certain family members and/or friends. Here are some tips to manage your interactions with them to give them some perspective.

  • Let them know that your time is also valuable and that you sacrificed some of it to try to meet them that day.
  • Tell them how much you value them but that their behavior is starting to affect your desire to connect with them.
  • Let them know that how they’re acting is actually disrupting your life and affecting you emotionally.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting that person to still be in your life but make it a healthy interaction.

Alternative perspectives

When dating a flaky person, we often have a knee-jerk reaction to ascribe their behavior to selfishness or self-absorption.

The truth is that many underlying factors often make people flaky and so many of them aren’t related to a notion of superiority or dominance. ADHD and various other mental maladies can often contribute to these tendencies so try to get to the heart of what’s really affecting them instead of defaulting to a comfortable term like “selfish.”

Try to find the layer that exists beneath this facile definition.

Self-growth and resilience

As mentioned earlier, the number one priority in any romantic relationship is yourself. It’s not your job to change this person or simply learn to live with their habits. You have your own romantic journey, and you have to realize that it is yours and yours alone.

If it doesn’t feel right and it’s not just a temporary personality quirk, look after yourself first. Not all romances are destined to last and it’s an emotionally healthy and self-aware act to also know when something has reached its conclusive point and there’s nothing more to really be said or done.

Don’t let a flaky person affect your dating life

When it comes down to it, flaky people can sometimes just be that way because of the  relationship phase they’re in and it could change as they settle into intimacy. Or for others it can be a profound communicative chasm, whichdoesn’t bode well for your relationship.

But focus on your sense of well-being and inborn instinct to tell when someone is just wasting your time or will adjust to your intimacy model as your relationship matures. But one thing is for sure when it comes to dating, always put yourself and wellness before the other person. 

Essential dating red flags you should look out for

Let’s take a look at some red flags examples and, if/when they can be overcome through communication and basic aspects of conflict resolution before they become very real obstacles in your budding relationship.

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