Hot and cold relationships

Katy Perry helped us all understand on-again, off-again relationships in her hit single Hot n Cold. But you may still need some advice on how to handle one. So, if you think your partner is playing games, read our take on it to help you get on top of the situation.

Two young people are in a kitchen. They are thinking about hot and cold relationships. This is a wide-angle image.

Am I in a hot and cold relationship?

You’ve met someone, you really like them and they seem to feel the same way. You chat all the time… then one day, radio silence. They don’t text, don’t call. This kind of thing can leave you feeling really confused. Here are some typical examples of hot and cold behaviour to look out for:

  • 20 texts a day have whittled down to three a week.
  • The texts you do get are straight to the point and sans kisses.
  • They’ve stopped trying to impress you. Instead you feel like they’re playing games.
  • You’re doing all the chasing. Eventually, you end up feeling like a stalker.
  • You have no freakin’ clue when you’ll see them again.
  • When you do see them they pretend, or actually believe, that everything’s okay.
  • You avoid talking about anything remotely serious for fear of losing them.
  • You’ve settled into a pattern of getting drunk, having sex. Then you wake up full of remorse when they walk away and don’t contact you for several weeks… and so it goes on.

Why is he hot and cold? (applicable to ANY gender)

Analysing their messages or reliving dates won’t give you the answer. The reality is, it’s probably not your fault they’re flaking like this.

“It actually says more about them than it does about you,” says The Mix’s relationship adviser, Matt Whyman. “It’s easy to obsess if you’ve been left with a question mark hanging over the relationship. But don’t let yourself fall into that pattern. Get some friends to give you relationship advice if need be.

“It could be down to the simple fact that they might be lacking maturity, or for some reason they’re just not getting the message,” he says.

Is blowing hot and cold acceptable behaviour?

No – especially if it’s making you unhappy. A healthy relationship is about mutual respect. You should both have fun and feel comfortable enough to speak if something isn’t working. It’s not about being ignored, treated badly. And it’s certainly not about being left in limbo wondering what the hell’s going on, only to be called when they feel like it. 

Should I end my hot and cold relationship?

Not necessarily, but you do need to have an honest conversation with them. Figure out what’s driving this hot and cold behaviour “It could be anything: bereavement, stress, they’ve gone off you, found someone else… but only they can say what’s going on,” says Matt. “Don’t drain your own energy trying to guess.”

We’re definitely not saying you should put up with it. If their behaviour is making you question your  own sanity, is all this stress worth it? “Focus on the impact this is having on you,” says Matt. “If it’s making you seriously unhappy then you need to let them know how you feel. ASAP. You deserve to have peace.

If you’re seriously considering breaking up, you might find our article ‘should I break up’ helpful.

How to deal with a hot and cold partner

It may be tempting to hit send on a passive-aggressive message, or scribble f**k you on a post-it note and stick it on their car. But, we promise, it’s not gonna solve anything.

Try and resist the urge to play them at their own game. They’re unlikely to realise the error of their ways and beg for forgiveness if you take that road. Instead, pause for a minute and ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want? To constantly be wondering ‘Why is he hot and cold?’’ If it isn’t, it’s time to have a serious chat about the future of the relationship.

“When you approach the subject, try and communicate your feelings without making them feel bad,” says Matt. “Remember, focus on the impact it’s having on you. That way they won’t feel like you’re trying to attack them. You also shouldn’t go in with the expectation they’ll change, or pin your hopes on fantasy.”

When to walk away from the relationship

Unfortunately sometimes there’s no explanation for their behaviour, it’s just the way they are.

Remember this is NOT your fault, and you do NOT need to fix them. You just need to calmly take control of the situation if you’re unhappy. “If they’re not giving you what you need, ask yourself, ‘Do I want to build a relationship with this person?’” says Matt.

“If the answer is no, know that you’ve tried your very best. It’s OK that it’s not happening. At some point you have to draw a line. That line often comes when you’re committed and they’re not.”

Need some more help figuring out your relationship? Read articles on a range of relationship topics on The Mix’s Relationship Support Page, in partnership with Click. 

Next Steps



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 31-Dec-2021