By Lindsay Geller & Woman’s Health
Your ‘Innocent’ Flirting Might Actually Be Cheating If You Cross These Lines
Okay, so maybe you put one too many Y’s on the end of a “hey” text to an old friend. Or maybe you held your coworker’s shoulder for a second longer than necessary at a work happy hour. You’re already in a relationship, so it’s all just harmless flirting, right? Well, it is… until it isn’t.
Sometimes, flirting that seems innocent at first can become a “slippery slope” and eventually turn into cheating, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Still, she doesn’t consider flirting a form of cheating “as long as it remains at that level.”
Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship and professor at Oakland University in Michigan, agrees and adds: “Flirting is when you intentionally want to attract the attention of someone, or when you signal an interest in interacting more with someone. These actions don’t necessarily mean you want to have sex or become emotionally close to that person.”
So, you don’t need to worry if you or your S.O. pays extra attention to a friend or signs off the occasional friendly email with XOX. “All these behaviors are friendly behaviors to attract or signal a desire to interact, not have a romantic relationship or sexual relationship,” explains Orbuch. “How these behaviors are interpreted is another thing.” While you think your flirty vibe is just another part of your personality, the person you’re flirting with could see it as a desire for a relationship or a sexual connect. Oops.
This doesn’t mean you can’t chat up the cute bartender when you’re out with friends. Just know that flirting can cross the line into emotional cheating-sometimes, without you even realizing it. Here’s how to tell when:
1. You’re afraid to tell your partner about the person you’re flirting with.
2. You go to the other person for emotional support and connection.
3. You tell them things your partner doesn’t even know.
4. You’re constantly flirting.
5. You have inside jokes with your flirty person.
6. You find yourself thinking about the other person when you’re with your partner.
Uh oh… I’ve crossed the line. Now what?
Don’t pretend it’s not happening-it is. The first step is admitting that to yourself, and the second is looking inward to figure out why, says Whitbourne. She even recommends trying to imagine what your future could look like if your flirtation actually lead to something more. Chances are it’s not worth sacrificing your actual relationship. Then, depending on your relationship, Whitbourne recommends being honest with to your partner so, together, you can address what you were looking for in that other person and what bigger problems your flirtatious behavior could be hinting at.
From there, Orbuch recommends setting flirting rules and boundaries that you’re both comfortable with. You may have to change or compromise your behavior, but, she says, “caring about what makes the other partner upset is important in a relationship.” On the flipside, if the flirting partner dismisses the other’s feelings and doesn’t modify their behavior, you might want to call it quits. Flirting seems like a small thing, sure, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re not a priority in your own relationship. Let your partner know where you stand and, if need be, walk away.