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Flirtationship: What It Is, 41 Signs & How to Know If It’s Sizzling or Fizzling

Are you in a flirtationship? Do you even know if you are or what it really is? If not, here is everything you need to know about it and what to do.

flirtationship

Flirting is a natural human instinct. It is the precursor to dating, having sex, or getting into a relationship. Sometimes, it doesn’t go that far, and that’s when you know you’re in a flirtationship.

What is a flirtationship?

A flirtationship is a relationship between two people who flirt with each other a lot. There are actually two types of them. The first type is where both parties engage in flirtatious behavior without the promise of becoming anything more. They just flirt with each other without expecting a kiss, sex, or dating. You just flirt.

The second type of flirtationship is when two people flirt with the hopes of it leading to romantic interaction, dating, or a relationship. In this situation, one or both of the people hope the flirting leads to something more.

This is very different from the friend zone and being friends with benefits. A flirtationship is situated somewhere in between those two. [Read: Prolonged eye contact when flirting – what it means and how to do it]

A flirtationship is something that develops between two people who are aware that they have an attraction for each other, but they cannot or choose not to pursue it because of extenuating circumstances. 

Although you may give hints or exchange sweet words, it’s never explicitly stated that there really is an attraction there.

Flirtationships happen at school, work, parties, gatherings, or anywhere that has a group of people engaged in any activity. [Read: Friendly vs. flirty – 22 signs to tell if someone is flirting with you]

You can flirt by complimenting each other, making sexual jokes, or by fooling around without having to take your clothes off. You can even do this through texts, emails, or social media comments.

All in all, the first type is pretty safe and gratuitous. There’s no pressure or expectations. Most of your friends will end up teasing you, but they won’t even try to set you up because you’re already flirting. The second type can get frustrating if only one person wants to go beyond the flirting to start dating and the other person doesn’t.

Flirting is just something that people do to pass the time or test the waters on whether or not they are ready to be in a relationship. It does not necessarily mean that it’s with the one they’re in a flirtationship with. [Read: Everything you need to know about flirtationships]

What happens in a flirtationship?

One or two things happen in a flirtationship. Two people will start flirting with each other by doing thoughtful things for each other, such as giving each other pet names or talking to each other as if they were in an actual relationship.

They don’t kiss or have sex. The most intimate things they do are hug and hold hands because doing anything more physically intimate than those things can lead to various complications.

Why do people get into flirtationships?

It’s not something that most people set out to do. It usually happens because two friends decide that they like each other, but can’t be romantically involved for one reason or another. The reasons are usually as follows:

1. They have a girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse

Without discussing the moral implications of this one, this is usually the reason why most flirtationships can’t progress into a real relationship. [Read: Is flirting cheating when you’re in a relationship?]

People flirt with other people for the thrill or just to try something new. Other times, it is caused by dissatisfaction in their current relationship.

2. The age difference

Legalities aside, a huge age difference can prevent two people from having a relationship. Their families might not agree to it, and society isn’t that forgiving. 

The best thing that they can do to avoid emotional backlash is to avoid getting together at all. If they can’t fight the power, the best thing that they can do is admire each other from afar and engage in a flirtationship. [Read: When does the age difference matter in a relationship?]

3. The ex

It could be that their ex is crazy, or maybe one of you has just broken up with your last partner. Either way, dating someone publicly with those factors in mind can seem inappropriate or downright improbable. 

A flirtationship will do for now, but this type can progress to something deeper if the ex is out of the picture. [Read: Smart ways to deal with your hostile ex]

4. One of you isn’t ready

Whichever one holds the reins on this decision is the one who decides whether it will remain a flirtationship or not. By not making any promises, they can still spend time with the person they like without having to commit to anything. 

The downside is they can’t do anything more than flirt with their “friend.” [Read: 16 signs you’re not ready for a serious relationship]

5. Distance

If two people can’t get together because they’re hundreds or thousands of miles away, what else can they do but Skype and text? 

A flirtationship usually develops, but nothing else can happen unless someone is willing to bridge that continental gap. [Read: How to handle a long-distance relationship]

Why stay rather than take it to the next level?

Sometimes, the people in a flirtationship can be brave enough to upgrade their situation. Other times, the circumstances mentioned above prove to be too difficult to overcome. 

When that happens, all they can do is engage in a harmless flirtationship that promises nothing more than a few smiley emoticons and a haphazard XOXO.

It could also be that neither one wants to do anything about it because they’re comfortable in the situation. Another reason could be that they don’t want to ruin their flirtationship by speaking up and potentially scaring their partner away. [Read: Ways to flirt with a guy without actually flirting]

No matter the reason, both people in a flirtationship should agree that they want to take whatever it is they have to the next level.

If they don’t, there are a lot of consequences for what they are doing. Someone could fall in love. Someone could get caught by their girlfriend or boyfriend. Most of the time, flirtationships end with someone’s heart broken.

How do you know if you are in a flirtationship?

It’s fairly obvious if you are in a flirtationship. When the person you like is flirting with you and you’re flirting back, the flirtationship has begun.

When this flirtation becomes stagnant because neither of you wants to take it further, you can then confirm that it is definitely a flirtationship. [Read: 15 obvious signs that two people are flirting with each other]

Most people don’t label it at all unless someone asks. This is reserved for people who don’t want to be in a relationship but also don’t want to sleep with each other.

The signs that you are in a flirtationship

How can you tell if you’re in a flirtationship or if you’re just talking to someone who’s super friendly with you? Let’s clarify your status with these signs.

1. You send each other cute and adorable texts about how your day went

You can also talk about other things and still squeeze in a few harmless flirty texts. [Read: 20 flirty emojis to tease in your texts and leave them thinking of you]

2. You don’t pay for each other’s food unless it’s someone’s birthday

Being in a flirtationship means that you are not eligible for the fringe benefits that an actual relationship provides. Unless you’re willing to put your heart on the table, you’re paying for your own dinner.

3. You give each other pet names

It can be the generic “baby” or “babe,” but most people in flirtationships develop their own pet names that tend to double as an inside joke. This makes it more evident that you are still friends even while you’re flirting.

4. You don’t kiss at all

You want to, but it’s “forbidden.” No one agreed to it, but no one is willing to throw away the fun you’re having by making it complicated with a kiss. [Read: 15 secrets for a memorable first kiss]

5. You don’t sleep together

If you do, you will be considered friends with benefits. It’s a tad more intimate than being in a flirtationship, but it also has worse repercussions, such as a potential unwanted pregnancy or a bigger emotional hang-up.

6. You never say “I love you” 

Why would you? If you do, you’re practically on the losing end if they don’t reciprocate. If they do feel the same way, great! But you could potentially bring in the complications that come with an actual relationship.

7. You don’t complain about the girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse 

This is one of the biggest disadvantages of agreeing to be in a flirtationship. You went in knowing that the person you’re flirting with has a significant other. 

If you do complain, your flirtationship partner might reject you or find it presumptuous that you think you have a right to complain.

8. You treat each other more like friends than a girlfriend or boyfriend

The flirting comes and goes, but flirtationships usually revolve around the two of you making it all about your friendship. No matter how much flirting you do, you never forget that you are, first and foremost, friends. [Read: Steps to know if you’re really more than just friends]

9. People don’t understand what’s going on

They are aware that you two are in a flirtationship, but they usually don’t get why you won’t either do something about it or break it off. It’s even harder to explain. They have to be in your situation for them to see everything that happens in your pseudo-relationship.

10. You can’t label it

You’re not together, but you’re not not together. One of you says that it’s complicated. The other says that it just isn’t the right time.

No matter the reason, it’s hard to explain what you are doing. If necessary, you can at least relax knowing that someone invented a term for what you guys have: a flirtationship. [Read: What are we? How to get your crush to label your relationship]

11. You have cuddled at least once without it being weird

When people cuddle, there are usually romantic intentions behind it. If you have cuddled with this person at least once and neither of you thought it was weird, you could be in a flirtationship and not even know it.

Flirtationship rules

Flirtationships can be fun or dangerous, depending on each person’s relationship status. If you truly want to keep this person around without it leading to anything more, then you have to follow these rules.

1. Just flirt

As the word says, this is a flirtationship. Flirting means bantering back and forth, giving compliments, and laughing and having fun together. But that’s it.

It doesn’t go any further than that. You don’t talk about any romantic future between the two of you. [Read: Is she flirting with me or just being friendly? 17 quick signs to read her mind]

2. Don’t talk about significant others

If either of you is in a relationship, don’t talk about your partners. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell the other person about your relationship status, but if you talk about your partner when you’re flirting, it kind of kills the moment. Keep that to yourself and focus on the person you’re flirting with.

3. No romantic touching

When people flirt, it’s not uncommon for them to laugh and touch the other person on their shoulder or arm. Stick to platonic touching. Don’t hold hands, put your arms around each other, or cuddle. These are romantic touches that can lead to more than just flirting.

4. Don’t hang out alone too often

If one or both of you wants to keep your relationship strictly flirtatious, don’t hang out alone too much. This can be dangerous because it can lead to a sense of emotional or physical intimacy.

If you have mutual friends, hang out in a group to keep it in the zone of friendship. [Read: Emotional cheating vs. friendship – the point when a line is crossed]

5. Don’t stay in contact too much

It might be tempting to talk to each other 24/7 because it’s fun to keep the flirting going, but it can be a danger zone, too. If you’re both single, you’ll get emotionally attached *or maybe just one of you will*. If you’re in a relationship, it’s not fair to your partner to talk to another person that much. It’s borderline cheating.

To flirt or not to flirt? The pros and cons

There are many reasons why people will choose to be in a flirtationship, but most of those reasons are something that only one of the two people involved can control. 

One of you could be in a relationship, you rarely see each other, you live in different cities, or maybe one of you is not ready. Any valid reason not to be in a relationship counts as a reason to be in a flirtationship. [Read: Different types of flirting and how to pick the one that works for you]

Pros

1. It gives you time to think about the relationship’s potential

Being in a flirtationship can give you enough time to decide what you really want out of the person you like. You can choose to pursue an actual relationship, be content with your current situation, or forget about it and never look back.

2. It’s fun

Who doesn’t like to flirt? It’s fun! It’s a welcome change and distraction from normal life. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, most people don’t flirt too often. It’s something exciting to look forward to, and it makes life less boring.

3. It can be harmless

There can be a variety of reasons why flirting can be absolutely harmless. It can be because of an age difference, geographical distance, or any other reason. When it’s harmless, you’re not hurting anyone. [Read: When does flirting become cheating? The guide to know for sure]

4. It makes you feel alive

When you have a crush on someone, it makes you feel alive. Your brain releases a lot of feel-good chemicals, and it makes you feel like you’re walking on Cloud 9. It almost feels like falling in love, but it’s not. Regardless, it puts a pep in your step.

5. It makes you feel attractive

If someone is flirting with you, then that means they like something about you. Sure, it could just be your personality, but they probably find you physically attractive, too. It always feels good when other people think you are hot! Everyone likes to feel that way.

Cons

1. You can get hurt

It seems easy from an outsider’s point of view, but being involved in a flirtationship means that you are already emotionally vulnerable. Just because it seems harmless, it does not guarantee that one of you won’t fall for the other. [Read: How to get over a crush on a friend – 15 steps to stay platonic]

When this happens, you need to start reconsidering your position. Do you want something more, or do you just want to let it go?

2. Genuine interest can be one-sided

Maybe you are very interested in dating this person, so you think that the flirting will lead to that. Maybe to them, it’s just fun and nothing more. They might not have any intention of dating you. Instead, they might just have a flirty personality or be using the flirting to pump up their ego.

3. You don’t know their real intentions

Even if they are interested in you, you don’t really know if they plan to take it any further than just flirting. There will be a lot of guesswork involved unless you come right out and ask them what their intentions are with you. [Read: Mixed signals from a guy – the guide to interpret his intentions]

4. It can be dangerous if one or both of you are in a relationship

Flirting can be harmless, but if either of you is in a relationship, you could be entering dangerous territory. It might start out innocent, but then it might progress to a point where one or both of you are tempted to take it to the next level.

5. It can be frustrating

While flirting can be fun and exciting, it can also be frustrating. If you want the flirting to lead somewhere and it doesn’t *or it’s taking way too long*, it can make you a little crazy. You might wonder if it will ever go anywhere and feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and standing still.

Signs that your flirtationship has fizzled out

Flirtationships don’t last forever. They can last for years and never move forward, but it never goes beyond that. People will either develop feelings for their flirt buddy or they won’t. Here are the signs that your flirtationship is headed nowhere:

1. He or she still hasn’t asked you out on a date

The one thing that sets a flirtationship apart from other types of pseudo-relationships, such as affairs, friends-with-benefits, etc., is that no one ever goes out on a flirtationship date.

When your partner continues to flirt with you but never attempts to officially ask you out, that’s as good as it will ever get. [Read: Ways to get him to ask you out]

2. He or she has flirtationships with other people

Flirtationships are non-exclusive. Once someone starts flirting with you and you flirt back, it’s already considered a flirtationship. 

If you notice that your partner is being too flirty with his other “friends,” it probably means that your flirtationship is nothing special and probably won’t be in the future. [Read: 15 obvious signs of flirting between two people]

3. You can’t bring yourself to ask, “Where is this going?” 

There is no good way to define the relationship when you’re in a flirtationship. You have no tangible factors to draw from like sex, admissions of feelings, or any other forms of intimacy and affection. 

In your eyes, you were just flirting. You can’t exactly upgrade to a relationship from something as trivial as that, so how can you move forward if you can’t even bring up the subject of where your little “thing” is headed? [Read: Tips for talking about defining the relationship]

4. When you do ask, they “don’t know” 

That’s because they know exactly where they stand and can’t deal with something that hasn’t seriously crossed their minds. If you want a relationship, you need to ask for it. But first, you have to consider whether your flirt buddy feels the same way.

5. You start getting frustrated by the situation

One of the biggest red flags to consider in a flirtationship is being frustrated that you don’t have more. This means that the temporary high of your flirtation has now reached its peak and is spiraling downward, taking you with it. [Read: A guy likes you but doesn’t want a relationship – will he ever be ready?]

You need to stop, re-evaluate your situation, and find out what you really want before you overreact to something that isn’t a big deal to the other person.

6. Nothing you do or say can change the situation

Even if you do put the idea of a relationship on the table, there is a big chance that the person you’re flirting with will reject the idea. If this happens, you need to accept it and move on. 

You can’t push someone to do something that they don’t want to do, including turning a flirtationship into a relationship. [Read: The signs it’s time for the relationship talk]

7. You’re tired

Being in a flirtationship is fun at first, but there will come a day when you get sick and tired of not being able to progress with your feelings. All the smiley faces and compliments cannot make up for the fact that you can’t say “I love you” or go on a date.

Flirtationships are simple. Love is complex and needs to be explored on a deeper level. If you’re finally ready for that, we suggest you dispose of your flirtationship immediately.

How do you end a flirtationship?

Ending a flirtationship is very different from breaking up with someone that you are in a relationship with. You don’t need to explain yourself. You can just stop doing it, and no one will hold it against you. But when do you decide to stop? [Read: The crucial guide for surviving the hookup culture]

You should stop being in a flirtationship when all the signs listed above start to become more substantial and obvious. If the only benefit you get is a temporary escape from the reality that is your single life, then you should end it. 

You may be flirting with a friend, but his feelings for you cannot be validated unless you both start to contemplate moving your flirtationship forward.

If that doesn’t happen, you need to end it. How? Here are a few tips:

1. STOP FLIRTING BACK

Lessen the emojis. Stop acting like a sorta-girlfriend. Start treating your friend like a friend. [Read: How to stop a guy from flirting and hitting on you]

2. Casually tell them you plan on getting serious with the next person you like

If that’s not an obvious sign to step back, we don’t know what is.

3. Lay everything out in the open

Try being honest. You never know. He might just need a jumpstart to realize that a relationship with you might be better than a flirtationship that will end in nothing.

[Read: Foolproof ways to get yourself out of the friend zone]

Being in a flirtationship is an easy choice, but staying in it or leaving it is a hard one. Know what you’re up against by reading these signs. That way, you can decide for yourself if this is really what you and your partner want. If it’s not, step down by ending it, or step up by making it more than just a mere flirtationship!

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