Part of being human is the need for attention, but is flirting while in a committed relationship a breach of trust, or simply a bit of fun?
No matter how you look at it, flirting while in a committed relationship is always a touchy subject – is it acceptable, or frowned upon? Can you actually define it? Or gasp, can you honestly completely avoid it or walk through life with your horse blinders on, in a world where there are a million ways to reach out and bat your eye at someone?
Picture the scene, you’re sat at a cafe with your friends, chatting and drinking coffee and suddenly someone tells you that they saw your partner flirting with someone else whilst out around town a few nights ago.
How would you feel?
Shocked, upset, betrayed?
All of those emotions would be completely right on the money, but if nothing actually happened, and it was simple flirtation, would it be wrong?
Flirting while in a committed relationship – Wading through the grey area
Flirting while in a committed relationship is fine in some people’s eyes and totally off limits in others. Personally, I wouldn’t like it if my partner was flirting up a storm with someone else, whether they meant to do it or not. The problem is, what you might consider to be flirting, they might simply consider friendly joking. There are so many fine lines here and so many of them are different shades of red. [Read: Friendly vs flirting – 12 simple ways to read between the lines]
A story of not being right, and not being wrong
This happened to a friend of mine a short while ago and I actually witnessed the apparent flirtation. ‘Apparent’ isn’t actually the right word to use, because there was nothing apparent about it, it was as clear as day. I had a friend with me at the time and we agonized over what to do – should we tell our friend that her boyfriend had been flirting up a storm, or should we just let it go?
This actually caused a heated debate between the two of us, because I felt it was wrong to flirt the way he did, but she felt it was nothing to become that upset about, because it clearly had no intention behind it.
My argument was this – how can you tell if flirting has an intention behind it or not? You’re not in that person’s head, you can only judge the situation based on what you see and hear.
In the end, we told her. I just couldn’t not tell my friend, and do you know what her reaction was? She wasn’t bothered. She said that she knew her boyfriend was quite the flirt and she’d actually been sat with him in the past when he’d done it; apparently he doesn’t even realize he’s being flirty, he thinks he’s being friendly.
You see, the way I always look at things is to ask how I would feel if it happened to me. Before I do anything, most of the time, I think ‘if this was the other way around, how would I feel?’ That normally tells me whether what I’m doing is okay in my eyes or not.
You could argue that flirting is healthy, because it is fun, and we’re told to have as much fun in life as possible. My argument is if that’s the case, why can’t you flirt with your partner? That would still be fun!
The best way to approach this is to figure out where you stand on it yourself. You have to live your life by your own ideas and values. Take my friend for example, she flirts whilst she’s at work, in a predominantly male environment, and she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong, because she loves her partner. Clearly her partner does the same, and they’re both okay with it. It works for them.
Firstly, I totally understand that in a long-term relationship things can get a little same old, same old on occasion, but surely you should be boosting excitement together, and not apart? There are plenty of ways to stop things from getting a little stale – have you not seen Fifty Shades of Grey?!
Secondly, are you supposed to feel trapped in a relationship? I personally think if you feel trapped there’s something a little wrong going on. I get that you might need an ego boost on occasion, I do, but I tend to do that by buying a new dress, rather than heading off to flirt with the nearest single male. Finally, you want to flirt with someone else to keep your partner on their toes? Seriously?! I can think of far better ways.
There are many who think that flirting is part of a healthy life and that it bears no reflection on the state of their long-term relationship. Maybe that is true, but would the flirting partner feel the same if their boyfriend or girlfriend was doing it too?
Whether or not you deem flirting while in a committed relationship to be totally fine or a big red cross, that’s really a personal deal. I think that is the best way to address the issue. What we do need to talk about however is whether your partner feels the same about your standpoint.
For instance, maybe you see no issue with it, but maybe your partner is deeply hurt by it. In that case, it doesn’t make it right, does it? The best way to address this now is to make sure that you’re both on the same page. If you both feel the same about a little harmless flirting every now and again, well, who am I to judge? That’s fine, because you’re not hurting anyone and you’re both aware that it means nothing. [Read: Open relationships and why so many couples think it’s a perfect solution]
The big problem hits when one partner thinks it’s fine and the other doesn’t. If they continue to do it knowing that it hurts their partner, that’s a major, major red line. If they do it because they don’t know that their partner doesn’t like it, that’s a communication issue that needs to be fixed.
Maybe the answer to all of this is a need to sit down and actually talk to each other.
What’s the intention behind the flirting?
The other issue is how you can judge an intention. I totally get that innocent flirting without an intention to take it further and with no attached feelings whatsoever, no attraction or anything, is just that, pretty innocent flirting.
But, how do you know that is the case? Does the other person *the flirtee, if you will* know that’s the case? Or, more likely, do they think this guy or girl likes them and perhaps they’re onto something? In that case, surely another person is going to get dragged into the whole mess and will end up getting hurt too. All because you needed an ego boost. [Read: Love triangles and its confusing complications]
Can you see how messy this might become?
Maybe it all comes down to what you deem flirting to be. A flirty wink, a brush of the arm *accidental, of course*, or a quick suggestive remark as a one off, is probably fine. But, repeated flirting with the same person? For me, that’s more than flirting and that has an intention of some kind behind it.
Flirting while in a committed relationship is certainly an area for debate which is likely to run and run. The only way to really answer the question is to focus on how it feels to you. Only then can you really the answer the question of whether it is a yes or a no.
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Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...