Is flirting while married or in a serious relationship harmless?
Is it totally innocent or does it toe the line of something akin to emotionally cheating?
I’ve long been a believer that it is OK to partake in – but do I do it? I honestly don’t know.
I enthusiastically talk, laugh, and dance with people that may or may not be single – as long as they aren’t coming on hard. I don’t act cold or aloof, I don’t announce I’m married (but I don’t hide it either). The whole argument of whether people in relationships should flirt or not is always going to be a blurry one, as there are so many different ways that ‘flirting’ can be interrupted.
If laughing with men, talking with men, and possibly drinking with men while out with my friends constitutes as flirting, I’m guilty. Do I dance closely? No. Do I engage in flirtatious texting or messaging? Definitely not. But in all likelihood, I probably engage in typical flirting behavior with random people that I just met, who I would never give my full name or number to, and who I will likely never see again.
Does that cross any type of line? For me, it certainly doesn’t. I know that this may seem conservative to some people, or maybe too flirtatious for others. But it is what I have found to be a happy place both for myself, and for my husband. (Being a jealous type, the idea of my husband flirting with someone via text message? Uh-uh). The most important thing is being aware of that imaginary line, and knowing when to stop. When to pause to make sure you don’t lead anyone on, to ensure that you don’t hurt your partner.
And it’s always been super easy for me to know when to stop. When to move away, when to stop giving away my smiles and laughs. When to subtly mention “my husband.”
At least that’s what I thought. I used to think that I could accurately sense if I seemed to be giving false hope. Until a chance encounter at a concert, a random message, and for a moment I realized that I had crossed a line.
It started innocently enough at a folksy-feminist concert that I went to with some friends. People were swaying and drinking in the dark intimate venue. I swung my hips and tapped in time to the music, surrounded by others downing the same. He tapped me on the shoulder, asking if we could dance. At first a bit taken aback by this polite request, I said yes, thinking it was better than him decide he was going to dance with me.
We weren’t grinding, weren’t touching. We were just dancing. I danced with him the way I have danced with many others. But the way he looked at me was unnerving. I hadn’t been looked at like that by anyone, apart from my husband. It was a hungry, searching look that told me quite clearly what he was thinking, what was on his mind. I stopped dancing with him, feeling uncomfortable, but only to return again.
Once the concert ended, he introduced himself, and I gave him only my first name before saying good-bye and leaving with friends. The next day, he was forgotten in my memories, as no one more than a nice person that I happened to enjoy a concert with.
Until two days later when I realized he somehow, using just my first name and the knowledge that I went to the concert he (creepily? determinedly?) found me on Facebook, and sent me a respectful, and complimentary message.
For a moment, the memory of the music and the dancing, and the promise of a possible friendship made me pause. And that pause was the red flag.
It was the signal in my brain, waving energetically back and forth to stop. I should have seen the red flag waving while I was dancing. But the pure joy of the concert, of my friends, of the music, and yes, the flattery that someone was into me, stopped me from making it clear that I wasn’t interested in him.
Yes, he should have picked up after I stopped dancing with him that I wasn’t interested. He should have realized that I wasn’t interested when I only offered up my first name, with no number, or last name to use to possibly get in touch with me. And if nothing else, he definitely should have realized I wasn’t interested once I messaged him back literally telling him that I was in absolutely no way interested. It didn’t stick until I told him I was married and felt uncomfortable continuing to talk to someone I knew was interested in me.
Looking back, I realize that my actions may have been leading him on. I flirted, and failed to stop it. My husband, who is not the jealous type and trusts me completely (as I trust him) has never gotten hurt, or upset over flirting. With the exception of this one occurrence, when I told him how someone I danced with at a concert reached out to me via Facebook. So is flirting with people outside of your relationship OK? Yes, but if you let it cross the line, it can be hurtful, and dangerous.
But it can also be fun and harmless. Just be aware of how the person you are flirting with may be feeling. Be aware of what your partner would feel. Be aware that someone may insert themselves into your life more than you thought they could.
Keeping that in mind, I’ll continue to dance, chat, and laugh.