Ask 20 people whether they think flirting with someone other than your partner is considered cheating, and chances are you'll receive 20 different answers ranging from "Absolutely" to "Well, it depends," to "No way, it's harmless." So, why the wide range of responses?
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 shows 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 members of the opposite sex-flirt-we would not progress to reproduction, and the human species would become extinct.
Wow! That's a heavy responsibility. Ok, so then what's wrong with flirting? It appears everyone around the world is flirting and even keeping the human race alive.
The problem lies when we give the same amount of weight with two people who are not in a relationship flirting instead of flirting with others when one or both are in a separate relationship. These are two completely different scenarios and should be treated as such.
Although many people believe that playful flirting with someone while you're in a relationship is harmless, there are too many downfalls to even entertaining such an idea - too many temptations to taking it to the next level even to go there. So, is flirting considered cheating? Let's first break down what flirting is and what cheating is.
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."
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 and wild sex. But 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. Furthermore, emotional affairs are often gateway affairs leading to full-blown sexual infidelity, with about half of such emotional involvements turning into full-blown affairs.
Flirting, in fact, could be construed as an emotional affair, and therefore it is wrong to be flirting with others while you're in a relationship. Let's look at exactly why it's not ok.
1. It Could Lead To Cheating
As discussed before, emotional affairs are many times gateway affairs that can 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's better not to risk it. 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 catastrophic results.
That's a strong statement, especially in today's world where most people would probably side with the view that a friendly chat here and there is completely harmless-everyone does it. But the reality is that if you're flirting, you could already be emotionally cheating; it's 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.
Some people flirt for the mere goal of making their partner jealous. This is a dangerous behavior that will backfire in a bad way at some point. Intentionally causing a partner to experience jealousy is a risky strategy for getting attention because it can hurt your partner to the point that the relationship is damaged, where they may break up with you. Flirting can make your partner jealous, whether intentional or not, and that's all-around simply not ok.
Flirting with others when you're in a relationship is not just about your partner; it also affects 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-a a future sexual relationship. And they may get the wrong idea that if you're flirting with them, then your relationship with your partner is crumbling, if not completely over.
Flirting in the workplace is a very common scenario. With people being together eight hours a day, five days a week, it's fertile ground for flirting and all the temptations that come with it. We've all seen it the extra smiles directed at the other person, the special treatment, the touchiness, and making an effort to remember things they have in common. 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 is risky on many levels. If the flirting relationship goes sour, you still have to see that person every day, which could make going to work arduous and uncomfortable. Even more, if the other party is disinterested, it could be perceived as sexual harassment, which could have detrimental consequences.
Sure, we all like to venture out into fantasyland ever so often. You have a chance to be that knight in shining armor who can give the woman all that she doesn't get from her partner. You can be that perfect woman who listens-really, really listens-and understands you. Unless you're brand new into the dating scene or on your honeymoon in Paris, chances are these acts have watered down a while back; and they should. The reason is that long-term relationships that survive the calamities of life make it through because both parties are willing to stand strong through good times and bad. The need for excitement and impulsivity are in the past, and a stronger foundation is being built.
Flirting has excitability intertwined in it. It's just an act of playing out a fantasy. Many times, when flirting with others, when you're in a relationship, you're doing it because you lack something in the relationship. It's not real. 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. There are the thrill and passion that lures people to flirt. But that doesn't make it ok.
Flirting with someone else while you're in a relationship can most definitely cause 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. But life is life. There are responsibilities to attend, too, including kids, jobs, parent-teacher conferences, which can all put a fork in the spokes for what the fantasy illusion of the flirting has given you. When you don't see your partner's same reaction as you did with the person you were flirting with, intimacy can be negatively affected.
The most detrimental consequence is saved for last. Yes, flirting can most definitely destroy your relationship. It can deteriorate your relationship with your partner and can have long-lasting negative effects. With all of the reasons mentioned in this list, they can very well result in your relationship's annihilation. It's simply not worth it to entertain flirting with others while you're in a relationship.
So, what do you do?
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. Having someone who understands confusing issues such as this and listening to you, and providing advice could be very beneficial. It's 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 who will work with you to figure out the next steps. Online counseling is available seven days a week, 24/7, and you can get help from the comfort of your home.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is flirting a form of cheating?
Flirting with another person while you are in a relationship can indeed be walking a fine line, and for many, you might be wondering: is flirting cheating?
To determine whether flirting is cheating, you and your partner first have to decide on a definition of cheating.
What does constitute cheating? For most people, cheating is any behavior in which you express romantic interest, either emotionally or physically. In general, 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.
Are you getting your flirting tips from someone who is traditionally unfaithful? Or are your flirting tips generally defined by poor choices? Without the proper guidance, you will understandably wonder, "is flirting cheating?"
Flirting is cheating under any circumstance for most people unless you and your partner have mutually agreed that it's appropriate to pursue outside relationships or flirt with others.
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 different couples have different boundaries and expectations.
Flirting is cheating to many because cheating is any behavior in which you are pursuing a romantic relationship with another person, even if it's casual.
When an individual finds out a partner is cheating, it's almost always devastating. Flirting with others can make us fear that our partners don't care about us or will abandon us, so it's best to avoid it in general unless you have discussed other options.
What's considered cheating?
What's considered cheating will 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 others.
In many cases, if you're cheating, it's usually quite clear that you're doing something wrong. If you feel like you have to hide your actions from your partner or engage in these sorts of behaviors with another person, you'll likely feel the urge to hide it from your partner and know your behavior counts as cheating.
Perhaps you have been of the mindset that only physical action will 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.
If you are trying to weigh infidelity on a cheating scale, you might consider physical infidelity on one side of the cheating scale and emotional infidelity on the other. Truthfully, cheating is any behavior in which you are lying to your significant other or any conduct during which you broke the trust and promises of your relationship.
Is liking someone cheating?
Liking someone else romantically while you're in a relationship will likely 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 a sort of emotionally supportive partner can be cheating even without physical intimacy.
Behaviors that count as flirting are areas on the cheating scale that you do not want to get entangled with. Even if liking someone isn't in your traditional definition of cheating, it's generally safe to assume that flirting is cheating, especially when it is with someone you like.
What is crossing the line in a relationship?
When someone is cheating, it’s usually because they began flirting. Giving off the vibe you are interested in someone romantically often constitutes flirting, and flirting can quickly become cheating.
To know where the line is with 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 will have a better idea of how to respect and love each other.
If you think you need a marriage and family therapist's assistance to have that conversation, don't be afraid to seek professional guidance. A marriage and family therapist will likely help facilitate these sorts of uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
Is flirty texting cheating?
Flirting counts as cheating when it is crossing 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 family therapist's assistance. Not only will a family therapist be able to help you navigate the way you conversate, but they will also hopefully be able to mend any communication issues you have with your significant other.