Is Flirting Harmless?

Flirting is fun for many people and seems harmless, but the parter of the flirt may not think so.

Flirting is fabulous fun, when you are the flirt, but not so much fun when your partner is the flirt. Flirting initiates potential sexual relationships. You and your partner probably flirted with each other early in your relationship. Maybe you flirt just a little now. And if you do, you surely enjoy it. But what you probably intensely dislike is your partner flirting.

Why do people flirt?

Flirting is an interaction. Two people signal their attraction to each other. The immediate payoff is a feeling of being desirable or sexually powerful. For some, the reward includes a night of passion, and for a few, a long-term relationship.

Why do people in relationships flirt?

For the same reasons outlined above. They have a need to feel desirable. They may be in a relationship where that need is not met or they may need regular reassurance of their sexual desirability or power.

What can you do if your partner is a flirt?

Work out why they flirt. Humans always have good reasons for behaving in the way they do. We may not know what those reasons are, and unfortunately, our partner may not consciously know either. However if we watch carefully and listen attentively we may discover why they flirt. Once we know the reason we can take appropriate action.

Let’s explore some examples:

Marina and Peter.

Marina and Peter have been together for two years. The first year or so they had eyes only for each other.

Recently Marina has noticed Peter flirting with their female friends. He says he is perfectly happy with Marina and believes they will eventually get married and have children. He explains his flirting as adding a little spice to his life especially when he fantasises sexual liaisons with the objects of his flirting. He says he has no interest in acting on his fantasies. Fantasies have always been a part of his life including the five years of his last relationship in which he remained faithful.

Assessment: Peter enjoys the sexual power he feels when flirting and fantasising. He uses the word “objects of his flirting” with good reason. In this context he sees people as sexual objects, as does anyone who flirts just for fun.

Action: Marina should stop worrying and allow Peter his flirting and fantasies. This outlet will keep him faithful as long as she focuses on other, more important aspects of their relationship.

Lizzie and Joe.

Lizzie goes out one evening with her husband, Joe, and some friends to the casino. She has a few drinks and begins flirting with the piano player.

Lizzie and Joe have been married for 18 years. During this time Joe has been focused on his work and Lizzie has stayed home to look after their two children. Joe has never noticed Lizzie flirting like this before. Lizzie now goes out frequently with her girlfriends to clubs and bars. She drinks, laughs and flirts like a free spirit. Lizzie complains of feeling bored and stifled in her marriage. She wonders who is she is. She feels she lost herself during years as a housewife and mother.

Assessment: Lizzie is unhappy and the marriage is at risk. Lizzie needs to feel desired and loved because these needs have not been met in the relationship. She probably thinks her flirting is harmless but her signals of availability are potentially true.

Action: Joe needs to act immediately and devote much attention to Lizzie to win back her affection and goodwill. Seeking marriage counselling before this goes any further would be a good idea.

Mick and Sarah

Everyone calls Mick a hopeless flirt. He accidentally-on-purpose brushes up against girls in a crowd and makes provocative suggestions. Luckily he is good looking and personable so he gets away with it – most of the time. He says he likes women, that’s why he flirts.

Mick and Sarah have been living together for 5 years in their jointly owned house. Sarah is often jealous, and accuses Mick of being unfaithful. He denies it, but he does spend complete nights away from time to time. She also caught him kissing a girl at a party recently. He refuses to be interrogated and says Sarah should trust him and stop complaining about his innocent flirting.

Assessment: Mick is obviously a natural flirt. His defensiveness and behaviour suggests he sometimes seeks sexual conquest from flirting but not a substitute relationship.

Action: Sarah needs to decide if she wants to spend her life with a flirt. Mick’s behaviour will not change. If she doesn’t, she should leave. If, however, she can live with his flirting and the possibility that he is unfaithful occasionally, the relationship will probably endure.

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