Are you – or your partner – cheating by flirting? How do you tell the difference between harmless flirting versus emotional cheating?
Here are six signs of harmless flirting, five ways to know if flirting is hurting your love relationship, and five signs of emotional cheating…
“When a spouse places his or her primary emotional needs in the hands of someone outside the marriage, it breaks the bond of marriage just as adultery does,” says marriage counselor Gary Neuman, author of Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship. “An emotional affair can be just as dangerous to a marriage [as a physical affair], and often a more complicated situation to remedy.”
One of the best ways to differentiate between flirting versus cheating is to figure out where your primary emotional needs are being met. Are you emotionally satisfied by flirting with people of the opposite sex, or by your partner? (It’s better to be satisfied by your partner!) If flirting or emotional cheating has negatively affected your relationship, read Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity.
And, here are several signs of flirting, ways to know if flirting is hurting your love relationship, and indications of emotional cheating…
6 Signs of Harmless, Innocent Flirting
Harmful flirting is cheating on your partner when your body language goes beyond innocent winks, smiles, and teasing. Innocent flirting is something you’d do with someone of the same sex; harmless flirting doesn’t hold the promise of physical intimacy.
- Innocent flirts do tease or talk to friends or colleagues of the opposite sex in front of their partners (versus hiding their interactions, which isn’t good).
- Innocent flirts don’t make romantic innuendos or promises to people other than their partners.
- Innocent flirts make eye contact for short periods of time (they don’t stare meaningfully into another person’s eyes for long moments).
- Innocent flirts don’t laugh at jokes, tease, or nudge their flirting partner in suggestive or “hidden innuendo” ways.
- Innocent flirts don’t lie to their partners about who they spend time with, or what they talked about.
- Innocent flirts treat everyone the same way. They don’t reserve certain touches or moments for a particular person (unless it’s their partner!).
Note that doing just one or two of the above doesn’t mean you’re an innocent flirt…it’s a combination of factors that can change flirting from innocent to hurtful, and that can really hurt your relationship.
5 Signs Flirting is Hurting Your Love Relationship
You flirting is affecting your relationship when…
1. Your partner isn’t comfortable with your actions. If your partner feels hurt, betrayed or angry because of your flirting, then you need to reevaluate your definition of flirting versus emotional cheating. If your partner is the flirt and you think he or she is lying, read 4 Ways to Tell if Your Husband is Lying About Cheating.
2. Friends or colleagues misinterpret your actions. If your coworkers think you’re leading someone on or cheating on your partner, then you may be crossing those flirty boundaries. Pay attention to what the people around you say with regard to your behavior….they may be more objective than you are.
3. Your flirting partner misunderstands your signals. If your flirting partner thinks you want more than to share a joke, then you’re crossing over flirting into emotional cheating. If your flirting partner makes a pass at you or thinks you want to cheat on your partner, then you’ve gone too far.
4. Your flirting partner contacts or visits you regularly. If the person you flirt with calls you at home or visits your desk or workplace regularly, then you’re not longer “just friends.” If your flirt is a colleague of the opposite sex and you’re getting strong intimate vibes, then your flirting isn’t harmless.
5. You’re flirting for the wrong reasons. If you’re flirting to manipulate your partner’s feelings, attract people of the opposite sex, get a job, or increase your self-esteem, then you may have crossed the line into emotional cheating (or just flirting for the wrong reasons). Harmless flirting doesn’t usually have strings attached, nor is it manipulative.
Read When You Bring Out the Worst in Your Boyfriend for ways to cope when you can’t seem to get along.
5 Signs of Emotional Cheating
- Having long lunches or extended drinks after work with colleagues of the opposite sex – and work or business isn’t on the agenda.
- Engaging in thorough discussions of work problems with someone other than your spouse.
- Sharing jokes and gossip with friends or colleagues of the opposite sex, and excluding your partner.
- Spending as much time buying the right gift for a friend or colleague of the opposite sex as you do for your partner.
- Discussing intimate issues with friends of the opposite sex, not your partner.
It can be tricky to differentiate harmless flirting versus emotional cheating when you and your partner disagree on the definition. But, the most important way to love your partner is to act in ways that reassure him or her…which may mean stopping even the most innocent of flirtatious behaviors.
If you’re curious about online interactions, read Is Your Husband Cheating on Facebook With His Female Friends?
If you have any thoughts on emotional cheating versus innocent flirting in love relationships, please comment below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.