Is Flirting Cheating?

Published 02.04.2022
9 min read
Taimi

If you are in a committed relationship, should you be able to engage in some harmless flirting? As it turns out, this is a really intense subject. Some people see flirting as absolutely wrong. If it goes on for an extended period of time, they may even call it an emotional affair.

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Others see this as harmless behavior and believe that any healthy relationship should be able to withstand a bit of flirting. To them, shaming or attempting to control flirtatious behavior is controlling.

So, is flirting cheating? Guess what! We are not going to answer that question for you. It's up to you to decide that within the context of your own relationships. However, we are here to offer food for thought. So, let's take a deep dive into the subject of flirting while you are in a relationship. Check out the arguments in favor of both sides.

Don't worry, you won't leave empty-handed. We do have some great advice to handle your partner flirting, and ways to deal with this topic in your relationships with respect and empathy.

Yes! Flirting Counts as Cheating

Is flirting cheating? Some say it absolutely is. If it isn't, they see it as disrespectful to the relationship and their partner. Let's take a look at this line of thinking. There are certainly some good points to be made against flirting with someone else when you are in a relationship.

Flirting With Someone Else Creates Risk

If you love and respect someone, you want to protect your relationship with them. Flirty behavior isn't funny. It's disrespectful. When a person decides to flirt, they communicate that:

  • They are okay with exposing themselves to temptation

  • They don't mind making their relationship status ambiguous

  • The potential for physical contact with another person is okay with them

It may not constitute cheating, but it definitely puts your relationship at risk. Why take that chance if you truly love someone?

Flirting is an Attempt to Play The Field

Let's call flirting exactly what it is in many cases. People often say they were just flirting when the truth is that they were attempting to pursue a sexual relationship with another person. Why shouldn't that be considered cheating? At the very least it is emotional cheating. The fact that it didn't go far doesn't make it okay.

It Takes Energy Away From Forming Healthy Relationships

If you are truly committed to someone else, you should use your energy to make your relationship stronger. Any family therapist will tell you that relationships take work. When you flirt, you are spending your energy on someone else. Chances are, you could be making your partner feel amazing, and affirming your commitment to one another.

Flirting is Emotionally Abusive

What do you call the behavior that:

  • Diminishes self-confidence

  • Makes a person doubt and question their own instincts

  • Leads to poor self-worth

  • Often encourages the other person to engage in unhealthy behaviors to appease or please others?

This is exactly what flirting behavior does. Often the partner's reaction to seeing their loved one flirt is to feel devastated. They feel unworthy. Worse, by telling them that "people flirt and it's no big deal" they feel gaslighted. Isn't it more important to be a source of emotional support than it is to engage in flirting that causes emotional damage?

No! Flirting is Not Cheating

Now for the other side of the issue! There are people who believe that flirting should almost never be considered cheating. To them, there isn't always a sexual agenda behind flirting. Instead, it's just a fun way to engage with others, and feel good about yourself. They think the slippery slope argument is ridiculous, and offer these insights on how they view flirting.

Flirting Makes People Feel Good About Themselves

Harmless flirting isn't cheating behavior. It's a fun, self-affirming way of interacting with people. In most cases, there is zero desire or temptation to take things any further. The only thing that happens is that the person flirting gets some positive feedback. They leave the exchange feeling good about themselves because somebody outside of their relationship finds them to be attractive.

No, that doesn't mean you are doing something wrong if your partner flirts. You may be providing plenty of emotional support and physical affection. Some people still need that external confidence boost. If you insist that flirting is cheating, you may be cheating your partner out of meeting an emotional need.

Cheating is Cheating And Flirting is Flirting

If flirting is cheating, then why establish any boundaries at all? It's one thing to have a problem with flirting. That's understandable. The problem comes in labeling it as something it isn't.

If flirting is something that you find to be unacceptable in a relationship, there is nothing wrong with that. Just approach your partner honestly with that concern. Don't accuse them of infidelity. That's nothing more than hyperbole and will shut most people down.

Flirting Can Spice up a Relationship

Flirting can be a great way to bring life back into your own relationship as well. After all, for many people having contact with only one person can make even the brightest relationship start to become dull over time. By flirting with others you gain new insight and perspective on your own relationship and become capable of bringing spice and shine to your otherwise bland or dull life.

By flirting with others you may learn of great ways to surprise your partner. You may also feel more inclined to become physically intimate with your partner as well. Flirting is also a great way to practice specific social cues such as eye contact and conversation.

Stop Scapegoating Flirting

Scapegoating is generally defined as a person or object that is usually placed as the object of blame. Usually in an irrational context.

Many people who believe that flirting is cheating often use the terms interchangeably in a way that makes either the flirter or the flirted into a scapegoat. You may hear them use terms such as 'It's their fault I'm so paranoid! They're always flirting with that one person!' or 'My life would be so better if they stopped flirting with my partner.'.

The opposite can also be true and people can flirt in a way that disrespects the boundaries that were placed by their partner. Then they can also place blame on said partner for taking note or making mentions of the behavior. 'Oh you're delusional, I'm not flirting with others that much' or 'I wouldn't have to flirt with others if you paid more attention to me' These are just a couple of examples of what this type of person may say if they were to be called out for this type of behavior. So the question is how does one stop the Scapegoating?

Establish Boundaries:
Sometimes the best way to end a toxic trait such as scapegoating is to simply stop it before it begins. Sit down with your partner and establish with one another exactly what you expect from each other. Every person has a limit to what they're ok with and what may seem obvious to you might not be so for anyone else.

Recognize Your Biases:

When you see your partner flirting with that person rather than get mad take a step back and analyze yourself and your feelings. Is your anger justified? Has your partner done anything to disturb your trust or have they broken any established boundaries? How did you react to the last person they flirted with, and how were they different from this person?

By taking just a moment to analyze your feelings you get a feel for your own biases and are more capable of understanding how to control your feelings in a healthy manner.

Learn to Recognize Problems in Your Relationship:

For some people their worries about flirting are well found, however, the anger, blame, and resentment oftentimes fall upon the wrong people. After all, it's a lot easier to be mad at that person at the restaurant that kept chatting up your partner instead of looking internally at what makes your relationship tick. You may have become bored with one another and don't want to admit it. Perhaps the two of you are fighting more often and are constantly finding yourselves distancing from one another?

Whatever the issue maybe it's best to take a step back and learn to recognize issues in a relationship. Once the problem has been established all you have to do is take the steps necessary to fix the problem.

Remember that whether it is you who is becoming the scapegoat or if you are making a scapegoat out of another person it is ultimately your responsibility to take the time needed to fix said issues.

Is Your Partner Flirting?

Your partner flirts. What do you do now? Can your relationship handle flirting? Take a deep breath. It isn't the end of the world, but you and your partner should be on the same page.

Be Honest With Yourself

You may feel angry, betrayed, sad, indifferent, or maybe a bit turned on. Whatever you are feeling is okay. The key is to recognize and own your feelings. It is okay to seek out advice and support from relationship experts or other people you trust. ]ust be aware that this is an issue that causes strong opinions. Don't feel pressured to react to flirting in any particular way.

For example, if you aren't bothered by your partner flirting, that is perfectly valid. The fact that some of your friends would be bothered by this shouldn't change your mind.

Have a Conversation With Your Partner

Your next step is to have an honest conversation with your partner. This isn't a time to shame or be accusatory. They may not view flirting as cheating. Tell them how you feel, but be open to receiving their input as well. Talk things through respectfully, and you will be able to understand your partner's intentions. These may in no way be disrespectful. That can make it much easier to determine how to handle flirtation when the two of you may have different boundaries.

Setting Boundaries in Your Romantic Relationship

Like any other potentially difficult issue, you have to set some boundaries. If flirting is something you just can't live with, you have to communicate this. Ideally, you and your partner can come to an agreement. You may also find that you are able to come to some sort of compromise. For example, you may not care if they flirt when you are not around as long as there is no exchanging of phone numbers or social media information.

What if You Are The One Who Flirts?

You run into an old friend at a coffee shop. You are catching up with one another, and you notice that you are smiling at them, laughing at their jokes, maybe even touching their arm from time to time. It is quickly clear that you are someone who engages in flirting. You don't have any intentions beyond talking and having a bit of fun, but this could lead to misunderstanding. What do you do when you are the flirt, especially when you are with someone who believes it counts as cheating?

Respect and empathy are key. You may not agree that this is cheating, but you should respect how your partner feels. Don't try to convince them to feel otherwise. Instead, focus on working together to find a solution that respects your need to connect with others, and ensures that they don't feel betrayed.

This might mean giving up on flirting. After all, is it worth hurting the one partner you are in a committed relationship with? Not for a bit of flirtatious interaction it isn't!

On the other hand, accusing you of cheating could be a sign of controlling behavior. Are you being accused of flirting with someone or cheating over normal interactions? That is unreasonable, and you might want to talk to a relationship expert about that. Many behaviors are perfectly normal, and not cheating. Don't let anybody gaslight you into thinking otherwise.


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