Is It OK To Flirt With Other People When You're In A Relationship? We Asked A Relationship Coach
One of the joys of being single is the ability to flirt with whoever catches your eye. Flirting is an art form — one that many people miss when they become part of a couple. But do you have to give up flirting while you're in a relationship? Or is some innocent flirtation OK as long as it doesn't cross the line?
First of all, like all behavior in a relationship, it depends what you and your partner have agreed on. Some partners may agree that they're both fine with each other flirting with other people — or dating other people or sleeping with other people, for that matter. "Whether flirting is OK if you’re in a relationship is going to be something that is up to the couple," NYC-based intimacy expert and relationship coach Lia Holmgren tells Bustle.
If you and your partner do not have an explicit agreement that permits flirting, the line is fuzzier. "Sometimes, flirting without a previous agreement will have no harm to the relationship and can even add an element of role play and fantasy to the relationship, while other times, it can break the partner’s trust," says Holmgren. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're thinking about flirting with other people while you're in a relationship.
1. It's OK To Be Friendly
Sometimes, friendliness or outgoingness gets misinterpreted as flirtation. "There is a difference between flirting and being charming. Being charming is an elegant way of being kind, polite, sexy, and not being overall sexually suggestive or flirty, while still exercising those flirt muscles," says Holmgren. "Sometimes, those lines blur without realizing it. Signs of genuine platonic affection, giggling, embracing or speaking at a close distance can often be misconstrued as flirting."
It's not your fault if this happens to you and you genuinely had no flirtatious intent. That's the fault of the person who falsely assumed you were romantically interested in them.
2. Examine Your Intent
If you're flirting with someone because you're hoping it will turn into more, you probably shouldn't be doing it. "If you’re taking a stranger’s contact info, why does one who is in a serious monogamous relationship need to take a number from someone he or she is attracted to without any professional reason and plan to meet?" says Holmgren. "The agenda is the key. If there is a sexual agenda, then it’s a cheating. If that’s something the partner can’t know or one needs to hide, it’s a form of cheating."
3. Don't Do It With People Who Know Your Partner
If you're going to flirt with other people, at least don't take the risk that it will get back to your partner. "I would suggest to casually flirt with random people that aren’t in a closer circle of friends and acquaintances and perhaps when the partner isn’t around, since it might cause jealousy and fights," says Holmgren.
4. Draw Clear Boundaries
Make it clear that any flirtation you engage in won't escalate by only flirting with people in situations with built-in boundaries. "If one needs to flirt so badly or is a flirt without knowing it, they can get their flirting out in spaces where flirtations and niceties can blend, such as with a bartender, cashier, or in public spaces," says Holmgren. "Keep it light and avoid anything sexually suggestive and avoid going further. A little blink or smile or a flirty comment is OK, but a sexually suggestive flirt that might make the other person think there could be something more isn’t OK, with or without the partner around."
5. Honesty Is The Best Policy
While a bit of light flirting will probably not destroy your relationship, you'll feel better if you discuss your desires with your partner and flirt with their blessing. You can also discuss whether or not you want to tell each other if you've flirted with other people.
"I advise couples to be more transparent with each other and establish rules for what they want to other party to share and what doesn’t bother them," says Holmgren. "Speaking about each other's desires and what makes the other feel safe in the relationship can help couples find fulfillment in their cravings for flirting while making the other partner feel safe."
So, in short, it's OK to be friendly and maybe even a bit flirtatious if you draw clear boundaries and don't plan to take it further. But it's best to discuss this with your partner rather than sneaking around their back. That way, perhaps you could even enjoy some flirtation and other monogamish activity together.