8 Reasons Why Flirting With Others While In A Relationship Is Risky
If you ask a set of people whether they think flirting with someone other than their partner is considered cheating, chances are you'll receive a wide variety of responses. Their answers could range anywhere from “absolutely” to “maybe” to “it depends” and so on. Sometimes, two people in a relationship even find that they have different views than one another on this topic. Why are these responses so different from person to person and couple to couple? A variety of causes could be at play; nevertheless, it can be important for couples to be on the same page to avoid conflict and hurt feelings.
What Is Flirting?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, flirting is defined as "to behave amorously without serious intent." Amorously is an adjective that means "inclined or disposed to love, especially sexual love." So, flirting could be defined as "to behave, with the inclination of sexual love, without serious intent."
Studies show that flirting is much more than fun bantering at parties, bars, and workplaces. In fact, flirting is a universal and essential aspect of human interaction. Anthropological research has found that flirting is found, in some form, in all cultures and societies around the world. Furthermore, the research shows that flirting is a basic instinct that is part of human nature and that if we did not express interest in people through flirtation would not progress to reproduction, and the human species would become extinct.
Flirting And Cheating
Although many people believe that playful flirting with someone while you're in a relationship is harmless, there can be downfalls to entertaining such an idea – for example, temptations to take it to the next level. Now, what is cheating? Most would gravitate to the obvious example of two lovers secretively meeting each other away from their partners engaging in forbidden sex. However, cheating can be non-physical as well. Many think that if there's no physical contact, it's not cheating. One can have an affair with no sexual intimacy whatsoever.
While some believe that an emotional affair is harmless, most marriage experts view an emotional affair as a form of cheating without having a sexual relationship. Emotional affairs are often gateways to sexual infidelity, with about half of such emotional involvements turning into full-blown affairs. Flirting, in fact, could be construed as an emotional affair. Therefore, it can be important to discuss boundaries and expectations around flirting with your significant other.
Flirting With Others While In A Relationship Can Be Risky: 8 Reasons Why
It Could Lead To Cheating
As discussed before, emotional affairs are many times gateway affairs that could result in a sexual affair. What may seem like an innocent flirtation that you're sure won't go any further can very well turn into something more, and it may be wiser not to risk it at all. Even if you have the most benign intentions and are completely and utterly head over heels for your partner, the subtle changes with flirtation can lead to negative outcomes.
You May Already Be Cheating
Some individuals consider flirting to be cheating. However, you might not know their stance unless you’ve outright asked them about it. The reality is that if you're flirting, you could already be emotionally cheating on your significant other. Until you’ve had a discussion with them about it, it may be a gray area not worth taking a chance on. Take a look at some red-flag indicators to help you decide if the innocuous flirting has stepped over the line.
It has a sexual agenda. If there are sexual overtones, no matter how slight, you may want to take a step back.
You're rationalizing. Do you feel the need to justify speaking with the person?
Your intentions are wrong. This may be conscious or subconscious but look at your intentions.
Others voice their concerns. Are your friends and family worried?
Your partner doesn't like it. They may be jealous, but if so, you might be putting out the signals to incur such emotions.
It's secretive. If you're keeping it from your partner, then you may already know it is wrong.
Your Partner Could Be Jealous
Some people flirt for the mere goal of making their partner jealous. This is a risky behavior that can backfire eventually. Intentionally causing a partner to experience jealousy can hurt your partner to the point that the relationship is damaged. They may not want to be part of the relationship anymore or experience negative effects like low self-esteem. Relationships that are healthy are meant to build people up, not tear them down.
It's Not Fair To The Other Person
Flirting with others when you're in a relationship may not just be about your partner; it can also affect the other person with who you're flirting. They may take this behavior the wrong way and think that you're interested in them. They may have high hopes of something more, like a future relationship—whether physical or emotional. They might also get the wrong idea that if you're flirting with them, then your relationship with your partner is crumbling, if not completely over. It’s not fair to lead someone else on.
It Can Affect Your Career
Flirting with a friend in the workplace can be a very common scenario. With people being together eight hours a day, five days a week, it can be fertile ground for flirting and all the temptations that come with it. Whether it’s the extra smiles directed at the other person, the special treatment, the touchiness, or making an effort to remember things they have in common, different behaviors can constitute workplace flirting. They might even take it to the next level and ask the other person about their relationship status or give their own. Flirting at work can be risky on many levels. If the flirting relationship goes sour, those individuals may still have to see each other every day, which could make going to work arduous and uncomfortable. Even more, if the other party is disinterested, it could be perceived as harassment, which could have detrimental consequences, up to and including the loss of one’s job or even legal filings.
It Could Be An Escape
The reason long-term relationships survive the calamities of life is because both parties are willing to stand strong through positive and negative times. The need for excitement and impulsivity is often in the past because a stronger foundation has been built. Flirting typically has excitability intertwined in it. Many times, flirting with others when you're already in a relationship is a sign that you’re lacking something in the relationship. In this way, you may be trying to escape from your relationship by looking to someone else to fulfill those unmet needs.
Holding eye contact, remembering their every word, not looking around the bar at anyone else but the person in front of you, leaning into them while flashing your pearly whites, a touch of a hand or arm, sending a clear message that you are attracted—these are the thrills that lure people to flirt. However, that passion often quickly fades rather than leading to a stable, long-term relationship.
It Can Affect Your Intimacy With Your Partner
Flirting with someone else while you're in a relationship can have a negative effect on your intimacy. The main reason for this is that the "fantasy" flirting you're engaging in might be so alluring and addictive that you expect the same level of passion with your partner. However, life with your partner may not be so simple. You may both have responsibilities to attend to including kids, jobs, and parent-teacher conferences, all of which can put a fork in the spokes for what the fantasy illusion of the flirting has given you. When you don't the same reaction from your partner as you did with the person you were flirting with, intimacy can be negatively affected in the relationship.
It Can Destroy Your Relationship
Flirting has the potential to end your relationship should it remain unchecked. While some couples are okay with certain levels of flirting, others are not, and have strict boundaries around it. If you’re aware that your partner isn’t okay with your flirting with others, yet you continue to engage in this behavior, it could lead to the end of the relationship. Your partner may feel they can’t trust you, or they may start to think they’re not enough for you. For this reason, it may not be worth it to entertain flirting with others while in a relationship.
Online Counseling With Regain
If you're finding yourself flirting while in a relationship with someone else, it can't hurt to figure out if it's innocent talk or a deeper, more personal issue causing it. Talking to someone who understands confusing issues such as this could be very beneficial. It may be comforting to know that online counseling is available if you need help or have questions about flirting or relationships in general. At Regain, it's simple to connect with professional counselors from the comfort of your home. Online counseling is available anywhere you have an internet connection and at any time. Getting the mental health support that you need is often more accessible and convenient with Regain.
The Efficacy Of Online Counseling
Those who are experiencing a range of issues in their relationship can benefit from online therapy. In one study, researchers found evidence that couples therapy via videoconferencing was “a viable alternative to face-to-face interventions, especially for those couples who may not have access to the treatment they require.” The therapeutic alliance increased significantly with time for both groups and participants experienced improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and all other outcome scores over time.
Being in a relationship can be very different from being single. You may not be able to engage in behaviors that were once acceptable, such as flirting. Discussing these issues with your significant other and setting boundaries can help ensure the relationship is healthy. A couples therapist can intervene and offer guidance when there are issues in the relationship and help both individuals express their needs clearly to the other person.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is flirting a form of cheating?
Flirting with another person while you are in a relationship could be walking a fine line. To determine whether flirting is cheating, you and your partner first have to decide on a definition of cheating. What constitutes cheating for each of you? For most people, cheating is any behavior in which you express romantic interest, either emotionally or physically, to another individual outside the relationship.
Many people believe that flirting counts as cheating because it is a step above harmless banter and can develop into other romantic activities or relationships. Be sure to be mindful of the decisions you make and the advice that you adhere to. Unless you and your partner have mutually agreed that it's appropriate to pursue outside relationships or flirt with others, it may be in your best interests to avoid this behavior.
Is flirting wrong while in a relationship?
Flirting with others is generally considered inappropriate while in a relationship. This area on the cheating scale can be confusing for some people to navigate, especially because various couples have different boundaries and expectations. Flirting is cheating to many because it can involve pursuing a romantic relationship with another person, even if it's casual. Flirting with others can make us fear that our partners don't care about us or will abandon us, so it can be wise to avoid it in general unless you have discussed that it’s okay within your relationship.
What's considered cheating?
What's considered cheating can vary from couple to couple, but in general, pursuing a romantic relationship with another person in any way is considered cheating. Many behaviors are considered cheating by many people, including flirting with others, kissing others, or being intimate with someone else. In many cases, if you're cheating, it's usually clear that you're doing something wrong. If you feel like you have to hide your actions from your partner, you may be engaging in cheating.
Perhaps you have been of the mindset that only physical actions constitute cheating. While physical activity often counts as cheating, it is not the only form of cheating behavior. Infidelity, both physically and emotionally, generally counts as cheating.
Is liking someone cheating?
Liking someone else romantically while you're in a relationship may only constitute cheating if you become emotionally or physically unfaithful. Liking someone romantically and continuing a friendship with them while you are in a relationship isn't necessarily harmful but using them as an emotional support system can be cheating even without physical intimacy. Liking someone else may not be in everyone’s traditional definition of cheating.
What is crossing the line in a relationship?
To know where the line is in your relationship, talk with your partner. Find out what they are comfortable with and decide what you are comfortable with on the flip side. By setting boundaries and making your expectations clear, you can have a better idea of how to respect and love each other. You also know where the line is when it comes to cheating. A therapist can help facilitate these sorts of uncomfortable but necessary conversations if you think you need assistance in starting them.
Is flirty texting cheating?
Flirting can count as cheating when it crosses into the unfaithful territory. For example, when you send a flirty text exchange, consider how your significant other would feel reading the conversation. If you think they would be uncomfortable with it, that’s often when flirting is cheating. If you’re still wondering if flirting is cheating because you don’t feel like you did anything wrong, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Your definition of cheating might be different than theirs, but you must be both on the same page and respect each other's expectations. If you are struggling or need help talking through these topics with your partner, consider enlisting a therapist for support.
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