Flirting while married? Playing with fire, or keeping the embers glowing?
Most of the guys I know flirt. Most are married and some are single. Flirting has been a problem for some of them, especially the married ones. Do you flirt?
I have always flirted whether single or married. The way I flirt and the intention of flirting changes depending on my marital status.
Some people believe that once married you should never flirt. Why is that? I can think of a number of reasons like: your partner may find it insulting, they may wonder what your intentions are, they may feel you don’t care, that you are insensitive, that you are looking for something better, that you are unsatisfied, and that his or her feelings don’t count for much. In other words, your flirting is very upsetting to them.
On the pro side of flirting: it is a natural expression of your libido, lust for life, and playfulness, it keeps your partner from taking you for granted, it makes you feel alive, it makes you feel attractive (at least when it is reciprocated) and, it reminds you of the dance between people who are alive to sensuality.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines flirt (v) as: to behave in a way that shows a sexual attraction for someone but is not meant to be taken seriously.
Similarly, in Your Dictionary: it is to act as if one is sexually attracted to another person, usually in a playful manner.
And yet when defining the noun (a flirt), it is someone who is behaving “in a way designed to be attracting, interesting and engaging to someone in whom they have a romantic interest.”
These definitions have some important differences. In the first two the behavior is not to be taken seriously and in the third definition the behavior is directed towards someone to whom they have a “romantic interest.” In other words, this is a serious attempt to woo through flirting.
For example, when courting my current partner, I flirted with her and I was serious in my intentions (we have since been in a relationship for sixteen years). Also, I have flirted with women in a playful manner with no intentions of it leading anywhere, both when I was single, and when I was in a committed relationship.
There is no doubt in my mind that flirting when in a relationship has the potential for disaster on a number of fronts. First, playful flirting can have unintended consequences. You might become attracted to the object of your attention, you might get turned on to the possibility of some sexual engagement and, over time, the relationship might grow at the expense of your primary commitment.
In other words, when playing with fire, there is always the potential to get burned. Maybe, this is what makes it so exciting. I have seen buddies of mine push the envelope when flirting and getting themselves into hot water with their spouses by being a little too obvious in their engagement with other women.
Many of you know or have heard of people whose flirting ended with a sexual liaison that ended in a destroyed marriage. There seems to be much anecdotal evidence regarding the dangers of flirting when in a relationship, yet some of us continue to engage in this activity. Why is this?
I suppose looking at it as an addiction is one perspective. There is definitely a “high” feeling when flirting. We become alive, animated, focused, and totally aware of the other person. Our senses are attenuated, the heart beats quickly, and the mind plays with fantasy and reality, balancing between playful teasing and serious intention or the “what if” scenario that bounces between the synapses of our brain.
Another reason might be the need to feel desired. Maybe your relationship has flattened out or become mired in the everyday chores of raising a family. When out at a party, someone gives you a little attention, you lap it up and return the vibe. A playful little encounter occurs – what harm could come of it?
First, that depends on whether your partner notices or not, and what they think about the encounter – are they threatened by it? Second, it depends on the meaning you give to it and how the encounter affects your future behavior.
I used to think that most men thought it was not a smart thing to flirt with another woman in front of their partner. Having lived many years and being a therapist has changed my mind on this one.
Every day I hear women complaining about their partner’s flirting. These women feel disrespected and think their partners’ are hypocrites when imagining what would happen if they started flirting in front of their husbands. All hell would break loose.
And yet, these women hear their partners’ say, if they even admit to flirting, “We were just talking, don’t worry, it’s not serious, you’re being overly sensitive.”
These sorts of interactions typically don’t go well. The flirt-er thinks their partner is making too much about nothing, and their partner is furious and or threatened.
The simple answer to this problem is for the flirt-er to stop flirting when the partner is present. If they are unable to do this, a deeper look is required. Are they power tripping, being deliberately hurtful, or totally unaware of the effects of their behavior (narcissistic maybe)?
There is a saying in psychology – all behavior is functional. In other words, it serves a purpose. It may be totally dysfunctional but, it has a purpose.
Flirting, may point to something in the relationship or in the individual. Maybe the partner doesn’t want to be in a committed relationship, maybe romance is missing, or maybe they don’t respect their partner (or themselves). It could be many things.
What is most important is for the couple to communicate with each other their definition of flirting, what it means to them, and how it affects them when they see their partner flirting.
Ultimately, it is an opportunity for deepening your connection with the one you love and deciding when, where, and how flirting is going to play out in the relationship. You never know, you might start flirting with each other.