No matter how in love we are with our spouses, anyone who has been married or in a relationship knows that you don’t stop finding other people attractive. You may even have a crush or two over the years. But is it OK to be married and flirting?
If your spouse approaches you because he or she is upset that you have been flirting, it’s easy to become defensive. Flirting is innocent, you argue. We were only talking. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’m not seriously interested! Do you think I would cheat on you? How could you think that! This can easily turn into an argument.
But is flirting really so innocent?
Most infidelity doesn’t occur out of the blue. It happens between people who know each other–either in a friendship or professional relationship–and have grown increasingly attracted to each other. Combine this with feelings of distance in a marriage plus opportunity, and you can get an infidelity. The longer temptation is allowed to be present, the greater the chances that an affair will happen. Flirting is the first step of feeding temptation, and the longer flirtatious interactions take place, the more dangerous it becomes. Simply put, flirting may seem innocent, but it can lead to real heartbreak.
Sometimes it’s not easy to agree on what constitutes “flirting.” Women tend to be more intimate listeners–they smile, laugh, lean in, and use physical contact to communicate. A husband may not notice that this is how his wife normally interacts with her girlfriends, but becomes hyper aware when he sees her interacting with another man. Some men are also naturally communicate this way. And, even more confusing, all of these behaviors make up flirting, too.
The bottom line: talk it out with your spouse. Set up behavior guidelines for interacting with people of the opposite sex–decide together what is acceptable and what is not. Then, be honest about any concerns you have with how your spouse is interacting with other people. Read our post on how to deal with a jealous husband or wife for step-by-step tips on how to initiate a conversation.
Beyond being a dangerous gamble, being married and flirting is also a big warning sign for your marriage.
People who are married and flirting consistently often have underlying marital problems. Many people use flirting with others in view of the spouse as a tool for revenge. Perhaps your spouse has done something that you are upset at, or you don’t feel appreciated, or you are jealous of his interactions with other women. In your head, flirting is a way to sting him. You want to make him a bit nervous, to make him realize that you are desired by other people and that he is lucky to have you. While this tactic may work at a basic level, it is extremely toxic to you marriage.
Spouses should never use sex, withholding sex, or the threat of an affair, as punishment. In fact, punishment should be a concept that is absent from your marriage. Negative back-and-forth creates an aura of mistrust and bitterness in your home and will only distance you from each other. Instead of using the silent treatment or flirting, learn to express your feelings verbally. Power of Two can teach you skills for discussing sensitive topics and come to mutually satisfying solutions.
Being married and flirting is still a warning sign even if your aren’t doing it to provoke your spouse. A desire to flirt may signal that there is an underlying issue in your marriage that are not consciously aware of. If you find yourself suddenly attracted to other people and much more flirtatious, reflect on the following questions:
- How does flirting make me feel? What is it about flirting that I enjoy?
- Is this behavior recent, or has it been going on for a while?
- Has anything happened recently that has unsettled or stressed me in my life?
- Is there something I want that I feel like I am not getting from my spouse?
- How is my sex life? Am I satisfied with the quantity/quality of sex with my spouse?
You may want to work with your marriage counselor, alone and/or with your spouse, to uncover what underlying causes are contributing to your behavior. Addressing this issues early on will help prevent more marriage problems down the road.
In conclusion, feeling sexy and fired up is great–just direct that energy towards your spouse!