“It’s harmless,” you say, “just a little fun.” But where do we draw the line? When (if ever) is it OK to flirt while in a relationship?
Let’s be honest: flirting is fun.
I don’t know anyone who thinks otherwise; it’s a universal truth for anyone over the age of… well, whatever age it is you began to flirt. It makes your heart beat a little faster and the butterflies start swarming—everything just seems good in the world for a few minutes.
But is it okay when you’re dating someone?
And what defines flirtiness?
According to the dictionary:
Flirt: (v.) to court trifingly or act amorously without serious intentions; play at love; coquet.
Well, doesn’t that just sound like fun?!
I think so. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think so. I personally at this point in my life am avoiding all things relationship, but I love everything about the definition of flirting.
Which is why I get in trouble sometimes; when I’m dating someone, that is.
My view is this: we were made to act this way. It’s defined as trifling. So where’s the harm? There can’t possibly be any, right?
The trouble starts when we think about a little more—when we realize what flirting is not by definition. When we think about what it is in a little more abstract terms. When we put it in a little bit of context.
Think about what you’re doing when you flirt with someone. It’s an action based on a feeling. It’s the intent for something to happen. Sometimes that something foreshadows a relationship. Sometimes it’s just sex. Even more times than that, it’s words.
But it’s never just words, is it? Words come from somewhere. Sometimes they mean little, but often our subconscious uses our word choice and diction to convey what we really feel.
And that’s where it gets a little tricky.
Flirting is fun to me—at this stage in my life—because it isn’t serious. It seems harmless and meaningless and like it’s simply a way to pass the time.
But I’m single.
I’m a flirt by nature—I don’t think in the completely obvious way, but if you know me, you know I tend to do it without thinking about it.
This caused a huge problem in my last relationship.
That relationship had a lot of problems—truthfully, the least of which was my occasional flirty comment here and there. I tried to be cognizant of the fact that I do it so often without thinking, and tried my best not to make my partner feel uncomfortable.
My ex-boyfriend was equally charming—often more so than myself—so as long as I watched what I said, things were mostly fine. But there are two sides to every equation—another universal truth.
My overwhelmingly charming boyfriend would say overwhelmingly charming things to our friends or people I introduced him to, and suddenly… wait, why are my feelings hurt?
Flirting means nothing! It means nothing! So why was I upset? I talked myself out of it at first because that’s silly. I’m flirty, too—so why did he hurt my feelings?
Because there was a perceived intent there. He was looking for something from someone—even if that something was simply a nice comment form a stranger to boost his ego. He wanted something.
And by nature, when our partner wants something from someone else, it’s pretty easy to internalize that—why didn’t he want that from me?
That’s a dangerous statement for so many reasons—the least of which I’ll get into right at this moment, but pretty much says it all.
Flirting is dangerous when you’re in a relationship because it breeds insecurity in your partner. They’re not sure why you’re talking to someone else and not them. It becomes a vicious cycle in which they’re not really sure what you’re doing and you’re not really sure what they’re doing and everyone’s just confused—all over the place.
But if it’s something that comes so naturally to most people, why would we want to curb our inclination to flirt?
Because it’s the thoughtful thing to do.
I’m in no way saying you shouldn’t talk to new people around your partner. Be friendly.
And no, I can’t define where the line is between friendly and flirty. It’s a really small, thin line. But you’ll know when you’re getting close and need to back off. It always feels like you’re about to cross a line—like you’re about to do something that could potentially hurt someone you really care about.
So be thoughtful. Think about what you’re doing and how it will impact your life and your partner’s heart.
And if you constantly feel like you need to flirt with every cute woman or guy you see, even though you’re seriously dating someone? You might want to do some thinking on whether you’re in the right relationship.
[image: via Rolands Lakis on flickr]