When is Flirting OK and When is it Cheating?

Flirting is a powerful form of communication, but like all power, it can be used for good or ill.

When is flirting OK and When is it cheating?

Flirting is OK when the other person appreciates it and no one gets hurt. The more that flirting hurts others, even third parties, the more dangerous it is. When married people flirt for the purpose of seeking a new romantic or sexual relationship, that is cheating.

The Purpose of Flirting

There are a number of purposes that people have for flirting. Furthermore, people often use multiple purposes when they flirt, so flirting is rarely done for one reason only.

1. To show your romantic interest in someone
In this situation, you may have met someone for the first time that you flirt or you may already have established some kind of a relationship. By flirting you are beginning to show you have an interest in going into a deeper more romantic relationship with the object of your flirting.

2. To see if someone is interested in you
Another reason for flirting is to Signal your desire to know if the other person thinks that you are interesting, attractive or a potential romantic partner. The advantage of flirting is that it’s indirect and it doesn’t put too much pressure on the immediate situation. Plus this is a good and quick way to see how compatible your sensibilities are.

3. To have fun and get to know someone better
Some people seem to be natural flirts; whenever they meet someone new, they will flirt with them, not for the sexual attraction, nor for some ulterior purpose. Instead, they just flirt because they find the new person interesting or exciting in some way and that is the normal way that they were they act in these situations.

4. To achieve some external goal
Another reason people flirt is to get some benefit from someone. This can be a form of manipulation. It’s very commonly known that in a bar a woman will flirt with a man in order to get him to buy a drink for the woman. The woman may not have any desire for a further relationship with the man but she knows by flirting she can get something for free. Obviously, men can do similarly.

5. To feel good or make someone else feel good
Another reason people flirt is to boost their ego or possibly to boost the ego of the other person. A common example is when somebody’s old grandfather will flirt with a young woman. This kind of flirting has no deeper purpose than to make everybody feel good.

6. To express sexual desire
And a final form of flirting is to openly and directly express sexual desire without using the exact words. The person is not desiring a romantic relationship; they’re just desiring a sexual relationship.

The Flirting Spectrum

Now let’s get to the heart of the question. When is flirting okay and when is it cheating? First, let’s set up a flirting spectrum the goes from Okay to Danger to Cheating. This measures the harm that flirting causes.

When Flirting is OK

1. Singles seeking a deeper relationship
Flirting is absolutely okay when single people are flirting with each other in their desire to seek a deeper relationship. In this situation, people naturally flirt with each other and often the consequences are far less troublesome than directly confronting each other.

2. Singles flirting with a new person for fun
It’s also okay for singles to flirt when they are there just natural flirty and they flirt for fun as long as everyone understands what’s going on. This is harmless and enjoyable. Flirting can be a pleasant way to spend the evening without any expectation of deeper motives.

3. Singles flirting for some indirect purpose
When singles flirt for some indirect purpose, it’s still okay but it’s kind of manipulative. If I flirt with you because I want some non-relational benefit; there is a danger that you may think I have been using you and you may feel resentful and you will trust me less in the future.

When Flirting is Dangerous

4. Singles flirting to steal someone’s girlfriend/boyfriend
Now you’re flirting with danger. There are those who say that people are not property and you can’t steal them. But this does seem very dishonorable. So, while some people would say this is okay; this could have a lot of negative consequences, such as the old boyfriend or girlfriend wanting to get revenge. Plus, you cannot fully trust that your new relationship won’t be stolen away from you.

5. Singles flirting with a married person for fun or some indirect purpose
If nothing sexual happens and there is no emotional entanglement, you may be fine. However, you can only control what you do; you can’t control how other people respond and so you could create a situation that has a lot of negative consequences; even hurting or destroying the other person’s marriage by accident.

6. Married person flirting for fun or some indirect purpose
It’s very dangerous for married people to flirt outside of their marriage. It’s a little bit ironic that married people married couples don’t flirt with each other often when there are no negative consequences, but the same married people may find a desire to flirt when they feel bored with their current spouse. This kind of flirting is dangerous. It can create a lot of insecurity or jealousy; even the desire for Revenge from your partner.

When Flirting is Cheating

7. Singles flirting to steal someone’s wife/husband
Now we have gotten to the part about cheating. If you are single and you are flirting with the intent to steal somebody else’s husband or wife; to steal their affection; to harm their marriage, and to get some benefit for yourself out of that misery, then this is just wrong. Whether you call it cheating or stealing; you shouldn’t be part of.

8. Married flirting for deeper romantic relationship/sex
And perhaps the worst of all is when you are married and you’re flirting with someone else who is not your marriage partner in the desire to get with them in a deeper romantic relationship or a sexual relationship. There’s no other way except to call that cheating. If this occurs in your marriage, I would recommend marriage counseling to resolve it.

Signs that you are a flirt

1. Others call you a flirt
The most obvious sign that your flirt is that other people call you a flirt. They may they may mean that in a positive way or in a negative way. But when a number of people call you a flirt, you should consider the social truth that you’re really a flirt.

2. You continually seek to engage people who are attractive/interesting
Another sign that you’re a flirt is when you continually seek to interact with people that you find interesting and attractive while showing that you are interesting and attractive, too. Likewise, if you are attracted to those who flirt, then you may be a flirt, too.

3. The ego boost you get from being attractive is very important
You may be a flirt if you find that you get an Ego Boost from other people finding that you’re attractive. If it is important that other people confirm that you are attractive, you probably will be flirting in order to encourage more responses.

4. Your social interactions create mistrust and misunderstanding
You could be a flirt if your social interactions are creating mistrust and misunderstanding. You may tell yourself, “I’m not flirting”, but if other people are responding to your actions in a way that you don’t expect, maybe you’re sending out flirting signals that you didn’t consciously intend.

How to stop flirting

If you feel that flirting may be hurting your relationships, here are some ways for you to stop flirting.

1. Admit you are a flirt
The first step, just like for alcoholics, is to admit that you’re a flirt. Since flirting is always a social activity, how other people perceive you creates a social truth. Thus, if everybody thinks you’re a flirt, you should own up to it.

2. Discover why you flirt
Next, you want to be a bit introspective and discover why you are flirting. Since flirting actually takes a lot of time and energy, what is the need you’re trying to fulfill by flirting? Are you flirting because you need to have people confirm that you are attractive? If you’re already in a relationship and yet you flirt with others, then you must have a need that your relationship is not meeting. Think about this unmet need and how you could get it without flirting or without harming the relationships that you already have.

3. Consider the negative consequences of flirting
Many times we need to consider the worst case scenario: what could happen if you continue flirting and it continues making problems for you and for the people around you? For you to really change a habit, you need two Visions: a vision of the best possible outcome and you need a vision of the worst possible outcome if you don’t change.

4. Choose to meet your needs without flirting
Finally, having seen both your personal Heaven and Hell, now you need to make a choice to meet your needs within a faithful relationship and without flirting outside your relationship. You can still flirt with your significant other if you still want to flirt.


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2 Responses

  1. Salomon says:

    Hi Peter
    I enjoyed reading your article and I am married person
    Some time I think about flirting but I will not do that because I love my wife and this was learning to read.
    Do you think it’s OK to flirt only To feel good or make someone else feel good?
    For my self I think that is OK.
    Best regards

    • admin says:

      Rather that say “OK”, I’d focus on “Is it safe to flirt when you are married?” I would say it is safe if you wife is accepts your flirting as harmless, and the person you are flirting with also sees your flirting as harmless. Then you only have to worry about controlling yourself. But even then, we can easily fool ourselves. So, I will hedge my answer and say, it might be OK, but it will always have some risk.

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