Is ‘leading someone on’ always intentional?

It's a phrase that's thrown around a lot nowadays, but how much is 'leading someone on' just a matter of miscommunication?

Georgia Purcell
24th November 2021
Image: Pixabay
The definition of ‘leading someone on’ seems to have been stretched to cover every budding romance that doesn’t quite flourish – a convenient way to protect yourself from a genuine rejection, but the question remains – what is leading someone on and is it always intentional?

When the spark in your budding romance begins to fade away, despite you having already picked out both your wedding dress and the bridal party, it’s easy to blame it on the guilty party ‘leading you on’, i.e. dating you without any intention of forming a true relationship.  But the very idea of leading someone on implies such an in-depth understanding of your feelings that I can’t help but feel slightly sorry for those who have been accused of it.

I believe that most instances of ‘leading on’ are accidental – when you’ve given your all to something and then the conditions or emotions have changed it’s easy to be accused of leading someone on, but emotions changing is natural and not something that can be controlled. It’s easier to go along with someone’s ideas and plans without thinking too hard about it, and it’s easier to tell a white lie to let someone hear what they want to hear. 

When one of you believes the other has been leading you, on it’s difficult to move away amicably

The real line is crossed when the intention becomes malicious – agreeing with someone’s ideas of commitment whilst planning to sleep with them and then move on, or even worse, using them whilst holding out for someone better. 

Deciding after a couple of dates that you and your date aren’t the right fit for each other doesn’t have to be messy, but when one of you believes the other has been leading you on, it’s difficult to move away amicably.  If you’re the one being accused of leading them on it’s almost impossible to persuade them that you didn’t intend to cause any hurt.

Communication is undoubtedly the best way to make sure you don’t run into problems in the very initial stages of a relationship, show you respect someone by making sure you’re on the same page as them and take the time to hear what they want to achieve too. No one wants a moment like Elle Woods at the beginning of Legally Blonde!

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