How Flirting Can Harm a Relationship

Woman discovering that her husband has been flirting with someone on his phone

People in committed relationships often find themselves in places where they can encounter attractive strangers. For example, you may see a good-looking guy at the supermarket or a beautiful woman at a restaurant. In addition, you may encounter handsome strangers in the subway or at the gym. It’s difficult to imagine people in relationships not meeting and having an occasional conversation with other attractive, interesting people who aren’t their current significant other.

These encounters range from friendly chats to something slightly more, like a flirty laugh, suggestive smile, or wink. So what happens when a stranger flirts?

Of course, you can’t control how people interact with us, so does it really matter if they flirt? But what happens when it’s us who do the flirting? Does this make our relationship more vulnerable? What are we supposed to do about it?

For the most part, committed partners generally ignore hot strangers. Casual interactions with attractive strangers don’t threaten a relationship’s stability much, mainly because commitment includes a level of unconscious behaviors designed to keep the partners faithful to each other.

In most cases, partners in a committed relationship actively work to ignore attractive strangers who may threaten their relationship.

Consider it a nonverbal relationship defense system that, in many circumstances, works great to keep individuals focused on their partner. In other words, the less you notice attractive strangers, the more likely they will not tempt you.

Reasons Why Flirting Is Risky

If you ask fifty people whether they think flirting with a person who is not your partner is cheating, chances are you’ll get 50 different answers, ranging from “Definitely” to “Possibly, but..” to “Nah, flirting doesn’t count.” Why would there be so many responses to one question?

Studies indicate that flirting is considered way more than chatting it up at bars, parties, and workplaces. Flirting is regarded as a universal and vital aspect of human interaction. Some type of flirting is found in all societies and cultures worldwide.

Studies also show that flirting is an instinctual need that’s part of human nature and is required to express interest in people to continue reproduction.

In other words, it’s rare to meet someone of the opposite sex and just hop into bed. In most cases, there needs to be some form of sexual attraction to occur first, and that’s where flirting comes in.

However, if you feel like you can’t control or stop flirting and that it has become detrimental to your relationship, you may need to seek outside help from a therapist or a counselor.

Reasons Why Flirting Outside of Your Relationship Is Not OK

Emotional affairs can be gateway affairs that end in a sexual encounter. What begins as an innocent flirtation that you believe will go no further can often lead to a full-blown sexual relationship, so it’s best not to risk it. Flirting can be dangerous even with innocent intentions when subtle innuendos become overt.

1). It’s Cheating Period.

As mentioned previously, out of those fifty responses to whether someone is cheating when they flirt with someone who isn’t their partner, a few will answer a resounding Y-E-S!

It may be a strong stance, especially in today’s environment, where most people say flirting is only a friendly chat and completely harmless. Besides, everyone does it. But do they?

However, the reality is; if you’re flirting, you may already be emotionally cheating, so it’s a blurred line that isn’t worth stepping on. Here are some red flags to assist you in deciding if the “innocent” flirting has stepped into dangerous territory.

  • You rationalize and justify why you’re speaking with the other person. You say, “It’s not a big deal because we’re just talking.”
  • There is a sexual agenda behind it. You’ll know by the sexual overtones of the conversation. No matter how slight, it’s still wrong.
  • Your intentions are wrong. This can be conscious or subconscious; it doesn’t matter.
  • Your family and friends voice their concerns that you’re overstepping your boundaries.
  • You’re keeping it a secret. If it’s something you’re hiding from your partner, it’s wrong.
  • You’re significant other doesn’t like it. They’re jealous because you’re putting out the signs that incur such emotions.

2). It’s Not Fair to Your Partner

When you flirt with people outside of your relationship, it’s not just about your partner; it also affects the person you’re flirting with. Even if you have innocent intentions, the other person may wrongly take your behavior and think you’re interested.

Additionally, they may have some hope that you may be more than just someone flirting and that you may take the “relationship” further. Then, if your committed relationship begins to crumble, they can feel like they’re next in line when you have no intention of doing anything more than flirting with them.

3). Your Partner May Be Jealous

Believe it or not, some individuals flirt for the mere goal of making their partner jealous. Unfortunately, this behavior is inconsiderate and dangerous that can backfire at some point.

When you intentionally cause a partner to experience jealousy, it’s a risky strategy for getting attention. It can hurt your significant other and irreversibly damage your relationship to the point where they may break up with you. The bottom line is, whether intentional or not, flirting can make your partner jealous, which is not OK.

Unhealthy Jealous Behavior

Whether it be the jealousy of a romantic partner, a sibling, or a co-worker, we’ve all had jealous tendencies at some point. But there’s a difference between feeling envious of something and exhibiting unhealthy jealous behaviors.

Normal jealousy is that pang that comes about instantly and is one we can typically dismiss on our own. But, unhealthy jealous behavior occurs when we indulge those feelings and act impulsively from a place of insecurity and suspicion.

The problem comes when that insecurity in the relationship runs rampant, and jealousy grows into an obsession and paranoia that threatens to destroy the relationship we’re scared to lose.

So What Does Jealous Behavior Look Like?

People can sometimes confuse unhealthy jealousy with love. Here are some standard warning signs that show up at the beginning of a relationship and crossover into dangerous territory later on.

You’re requested to check-in

Your partner enjoys knowing where you are at all times. They want to know what you’re doing and who you’re with. When you’re away, they text, call or contact you via social media to keep tabs.

When they contact you, they expect immediate responses. They ask you to turn on tracking apps like Google Maps, so they can see where you are. You must keep your phone close because you know they’ll get upset or suspicious when you don’t respond fast enough.

They want you to spend all your time with them

They aren’t just happy to see you; they expect to see you. They ask you to ditch friends, blow off practice, or call out from work and family commitments because “they love you and never felt this way before” and “need to be near you all the time.”

When you don’t comply, they become whiny and tend to “accidentally” show up where you are. They don’t like being away from you and constantly contacting you when you’re
not together.

They’re suspicious

When you go out with your friends, you know you will get the third degree from your partner when you return. They’re convinced everyone is flirting with you, so they worry when you’re away. They get upset when someone simply looks at you and then acts like you’re the cause by making statements like, “You’re dressing too provocatively.” Regardless of how much you reassure them of your faithfulness, they don’t believe you.

They require rules for who you can talk to

If you want to interact with certain people, you must keep it a secret (or don’t do it) to keep the peace with your partner. This list may include exes, people you have a crush on, or that extra flirty co-worker.

Your partner will say things like, “I trust you, but I don’t trust them,” or “I’ve seen how he looks at you.” You agree with it because you don’t feel like fighting.

They’re quick-tempered

One minute you’re looking forward to hanging out, and the next minute they’re yelling at you because of what you’re wearing.

This often happens with jealous partners because it indicates an attempt to control you with emotions. It keeps you on eggshells wondering when the next blowup will occur.

They act possessive

They believe they own you because they bought gifts like clothing or jewelry. They want to know who you’re texting, and they’re all over your social media, insisting on having a say in which profile pictures you post.

They are jealous of someone they think wants to date you, so they attempt to keep you close. They’ve asked you to cancel plans or leave parties early so you can be with them. They also constantly make statements like, “No one will love you the way I do.”

They are emotionally intense

You noticed that your S.O. came on strong initially, but you figured it was because they really liked you. Now they can’t stand being apart from you, so they constantly text and call you, comb through your social media, like and comment on
everything, even old posts.

They monitor all your communication

Your partner tells you they’re an “open book,” which may or may not be true, but they state that they don’t want secrets between you two.

This is why they must have the password to your email account, Facebook, phone, Instagram, Snapchat, and all other social media. They go through all your messages and question any “suspicious” activity. They also take it upon themselves to delete contacts they don’t approve of, with or without consent.

4). It’s Only a Fantasy

Every so often, we all like to visit Fantasy World, where you have the opportunity to be a white knight who can rescue the little lady from the big bad partner. Or, you can be that woman who provides the guy with all the sexual favors his partner won’t do.

What you fail to realize is that these are only fantasies. Of course, in the beginning, relationships are perfect. But then come the kids, bills, and other outside pressures that even you, as the fantasy, will have to deal with.

The realization is that long-term relationships that survive life’s troubles make it because both parties are willing to stand together through good and bad times.

The initial impulsivity is in the past. Instead, you both built a robust and powerful foundation, and that’s sexier than any short-term fantasy.

5). It May Affect Your Career

Flirting with a stranger is one thing, but flirting with a co-worker is another and can affect your business relationship. It’s common to flirt with a co-worker because you’re together for eight hours a day, five days a week. It’s a fertile ground for flirting and all the temptations that go along with it. The endless opportunities include the company picnic, the Christmas party, and happy hours.

However, the object of your flirtation may attempt to take it to the next level, making flirting on the job risky. For example, what happens if a flirting relationship goes sour? Maybe your intentions were innocent, but your co-worker took it seriously. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to see that person every day, which could make for awkward and arduous moments.

6). It May Affect Intimacy with Your Partner

Flirting with someone in a relationship can negatively impact your sex life with your partner. For example, suppose you’re engaging in “fantasy flirting,” as mentioned above. In that case, you may be so addicted to that flirtatious encounter that you expect the same intensity with your partner, and if you don’t get it, you may be disappointed.

How to Rekindle the Romance in Your Relationship

After being together for so many years, you may find your relationship boring. The good news is you can rekindle the romance, but both parties must be interested. Here are surefire methods to ignite the passion.

Change the way you initiate sex

If you’re denying your partner or coming on way too strong, try changing it up. Don’t play the blame game and stop criticizing each other for what they are and aren’t doing behind closed doors. For example, if you’re waiting for him to initiate sex, take the lead next time. He’ll be surprised and appreciate it.

Show a little PDA

Take time to hold hands in public. A simple hug or touching can be calming to a tense partner. Additionally, physical affection is proven to reduce stress levels.

Plan time together

Put the kids to bed and carve out some time to be together. You don’t have to have sex. You can also spend time watching movies or talking. As long as it’s time with just the two of you, it’s all good.

Initiate communication

Leave a message for him in his lunch bag or send her a text message in the middle of the day telling her how much you appreciate everything she does. It will catch your partner off guard and is a simple way to show your love.

Make sex a priority

Sometimes we get busy, so we put off sexual intimacy. Make sex your number one priority. Set the mood with some candles, music, and a bubble bath.

Then, try new things in the bedroom with toys or food. Then, if both parties agree, go out on a limb and try something new. The point is to mix it up, so your sex life doesn’t become monotonous.

7). Flirting Can Destroy Your Relationship

The biggest consequence of flirting outside your relationship is that it can destroy your connection. It begins as a slow deterioration that may affect you emotionally.

If the flirting continues, it can cause intimacy issues with your partner, eventually leading to the relationship’s demise. So you have to think to yourself, is it really worth it?

What’s the Big Deal?

Flirting can start out innocently, but don’t take the fact that it can quickly become more for granted. Even online flirting can make us feel less attracted to our partner and more likely to be unfaithful.

Studies indicate that people view their partner as less attractive after social media flirting with a stranger.

Flirting may also lessen passionate feelings toward our significant others, making it easier for an outside party to sneak in and fulfill a need we aren’t receiving at home. Any user of online dating apps probably realizes that introducing social networks into our lives can pose a significant threat to monogamy. Eliminate temptation by communicating your needs to your partner.

If you find yourself flirting while in a relationship, try taking a deeper look to determine if it’s innocent or if something more personal is causing it.

Then, have a conversation with your partner to see what you may be missing, and if needed, seek professional help from a counselor or therapist.

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