How to Determine What’s Innocent and What’s Crossing the Line
Maybe you’re hanging onto a co-worker’s every word and laughing at all his jokes. Perhaps your conversations with a friend get a little suggestive at times. Are you making sure your hair and makeup always look your best when you know you’re going to see a certain someone? Flirting happens, but how do you know when you or your partner have crossed the line?
People have different ideas about what constitutes flirting and which behaviors mean cheating. Some may think any relationship with the opposite sex is acceptable as long as it’s not physical. Others may be uncomfortable with their partner spending a lot of time texting someone. Reflect on what you and your partner consider cheating. Think about your own behavior. If your partner witnessed your interactions with someone else, would he be upset? Do you feel guilty about the amount of time you spend thinking about another man? Reflect on what behaviors would upset you if you watched an exchange between your partner and a friend or co-worker. Once you have given this some thought, have a conversation with your partner and work toward reaching an understanding about what level of flirting makes each of you uncomfortable.
Flirting, even if it’s meant to be innocent, can feed a partner’s insecurities. If you witness your partner flirting with someone, you may begin to question whether he finds that person attractive or if he still thinks you are. Turn the tables: Perhaps your partner is wondering why you enjoy the attention that someone else is giving you. It may make him question whether you’re happy in your relationship. If flirting is creating insecurities, it’s time to evaluate whether those feelings are founded on truth and how you and your partner can ease them.
But... I Like It
Whether it’s you, your partner or both of you, if you’re consistently flirting with someone else, you must have a reason. Perhaps the attention from another person is desirable. Flirting may give a boost to your self-esteem. Maybe there’s something lacking in your relationship that is being fulfilled by someone else. You or your partner may find excitement in flirting that you’re lacking with each other. Think about why flirting has become so desirable, and if you can, instead, inject that same sense of pleasure into your relationship. If your partner noticed your dress or complimented your hair, would it make you feel attractive? If you slipped away from work and surprised your partner with lunch, would your efforts make him feel appreciated? Think about how to turn your relationship up a notch, so you can fulfill both your and your partner's needs without either of you looking elsewhere.
Flirting that occurs in front of your children can raise another whole set of red flags. Children may be confused by the relationship mom or dad seem to have with a “friend.” Kids may resent the person showering their parent with attention and feel a renewed sense of loyalty to the other parent. You’re also entering dangerous territory if flirting leads to a strong emotional or physical relationship that threatens what you and your partner have together. What started out innocently can have serious effects on both your relationship and your children.
When considering whether flirting is cheating, no one answer exists for every couple. You and your partner should have open communication if flirting is becoming a problem before it threatens your relationship. Take a step back and establish ground rules that make both of you feel confident and secure.
A mother of two, Erin Agnello writes about parenting, relationships and education. Her work has appeared on sites including The Bump and Mom.me. Agnello has been teaching since 2001 and works in special education and early literacy. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University and a B.Ed. from Windsor University.