What is flirting?
Flirting is expressing romantic or sexual interest in someone playfully or jokingly. It often involves subtle body language cues like smiling, eye contact, laughing, and light touching. Flirting allows people to gauge interest and chemistry without committing to anything serious. It can be exciting and boost self-esteem. Many people flirt just for fun without expecting it to lead to more.
Is flirting cheating?
Whether flirting counts as cheating depends on the boundaries set in each relationship. Many couples are fine with harmless flirting as long as it doesn’t cross established lines. However, some consider any flirtation outside the relationship inappropriate. The impact also depends on whether flirting happens in secret or openly. Deceptive flirting is more likely to be seen as cheating.
When can flirting be inappropriate?
Flirting can cross the line in several ways:
- Flirting with intent to pursue more and cheat
- Flirting that humiliates, disrespects or makes others uncomfortable
- Flirting with inappropriate people like coworkers, employees/bosses, or someone underage
- Flirting that distracts from commitments to a partner
Even if not intended maliciously, flirting is inappropriate if the target and their partner do not welcome it.
Does flirting count as emotional cheating?
Emotional cheating means investing romantic or sexual energy in someone else, which often starts with flirting. However, light flirting between trusted friends may not qualify. Situations that could constitute emotional cheating include:
- Flirting that fills an emotional need that should be met by one’s partner
- Flirting with an ongoing romantic/sexual tension or chemistry
- Flirting that leads to sexual or romantic conversation and interest
- Flirting that becomes a secret or results in lies to a partner
If flirting fills an intimacy void or deep emotional needs for external validation, it can take energy away from the committed relationship.
Does flirting ever lead to more?
Sometimes flirting serves as a gateway to an affair. A study found 56% of cheaters started with flirting that got out of hand. Flirting releases hormones like dopamine and oxytocin that can promote bonding and attraction. Over time, flirting can lower inhibitions and make it easier to justify crossing boundaries.
However, many happily married couples flirt in healthy ways without it going further. Clear partner communication, strong intimacy, and boundaries are key to prevent flirting from escalating beyond intentions.
Can flirting be good for relationships?
Playful flirting in a trusting relationship can have benefits like:
- Increasing intimacy, fun and romance between partners
- Making your partner feel desired and reassured
- Boosting confidence and self-esteem for both parties
- Bringing excitement and passion back into the relationship
As long as both partners enjoy it and no lines are crossed, a dash of flirting can nurture intimacy. It shows your relationship is fun and thriving.
Tips for healthy flirting
To keep flirting from going too far:
- Discuss and agree on what behavior is appropriate
- Be open rather than sneaking around
- Flirt with your partner too to enhance intimacy
- Keep it light, don’t flirt with those you’re seriously attracted to
- Stick to public places, not isolated settings
Prioritize flirting with your partner. Give them focused attention rather than flattering others.
How to set flirting boundaries
It’s important for couples to discuss and agree on flirting boundaries like:
- Is any flirting outside the relationship permitted?
- What specific behaviors are considered off limits? E.g. touching, pet names, compliments about appearance
- Are colleagues, friends, exes off limits for flirting?
- How much time spent flirting is too much?
Table outlining different levels of flirting boundaries:
|No flirting boundary
|Light flirting boundary
|Strict flirting boundary
|No flirting with others permitted
|Harmless flirting ok
|Flirting should be avoided
|Zero tolerance of any flirty behavior
|Casual flirting fine, but not constant or intense
|Only very subtle flirting condoned if unintentional
|Any flirting would be cheating
|As long as no emotional/physical intentions
|Flirting considered inappropriate and dangerous
Agreeing on details prevents misunderstanding and hurt.
How to handle jealousy over flirting
It’s normal to feel occasional jealousy over a partner’s flirting. Ways to cope:
- Communicate feelings calmly without accusations
- Avoid policing behavior; focus on stating boundaries
- Understand jealousy often comes from insecurity, not just a partner’s actions
- Request reasonable reassurance from your partner if needed
The most important thing is for both people to feel secure. A partner should prioritize making you feel respected.
Is flirting while in a relationship healthy?
Light flirting can be healthy when:
- Partners are open about it rather than hiding interactions
- It’s consensual, wanted flirting, not forced on others
- It stays within agreed boundaries and stops if unwanted
- It’s focused on shared fun, not filling an emotional void
- It involves interest in your partner too, not just others
As long as flirting avoids deception and supports intimacy for the couple, it can be relationship-enhancing.
How to flirt with your partner
To flirt in a committed relationship:
- Make eye contact, smile, and be playful when you greet them
- Compliment their appearance and thank them for small things
- Whisper suggestive compliments and fun date night ideas in their ear
- Rub their neck, hold their hand, and find other affectionate touches
- Bring them small gifts and their favorite treats for no reason
Prioritizing flirting with your partner prevents needing validation elsewhere.
Flirting falls into an grey area relationship behavior. Light, mutual flirting is often harmless fun that builds confidence. However, deception, disrespect, and lack of consent can make flirting damaging. Setting clear boundaries and understanding a partner’s comfort level is key. Flirting in healthy moderation can boost passion. But it requires strong intimacy and communication to avoid jeopardizing the relationship. With mutual care and respect, a dash of flirting can be relationship rocket fuel.