Coloring the Grey Zone – Is Flirting Cheating?

Dating 101
24 Feb 2023
10 min read
how to know if flirting is cheating

Flirting is a great way to show a potential partner that you like them. It’s also a great way to make friends, especially if you’re just starting your journey as a couple. It’s our basic instinct and part of our human nature, in the end. But is flirting cheating?

Indeed, flirting can also be used in a way that borders cheating. The key is knowing when it’s ok to flirt and when it’s not. Knowing how flirting differs from other forms of communication with potential partners is important.

The Moral Dilemma: Is Flirting Cheating?

a) to behave amorously without serious intent
b) to show superficial or casual interest or liking

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Flirting is a normal part of relationships, regardless of how you’re involved with each other. Friends and co-workers often flirt, which is mostly considered harmless. However, at what point do you decide that flirting does constitute cheating?

Even partners in a healthy relationship will flirt with other people, but does that make it morally questionable? Well, this is entirely dependent on the couple’s take on cheating behavior.

Related reading: Dating vs Relationship – What Are the Main Differences Between Them?

A couple must outline what is tolerable and what isn’t. This way, it’s no longer innocent flirtation when it goes against your relationship rules or your partner’s approval. Flirting counts as cheating when it betrays your current relationship.

It is important to know that there are different kinds of flirting, and each determines the consequences. This helps you understand when flirting crosses the line and when it’s no longer considered harmless flirting. This is when both partners are aware of the situation and don’t consider it cheating.

When Can Flirting Be Cheating?

Flirting is a natural response to attraction, and it doesn’t always result in cheating, emotional or physical. However, how much you take to flirting or what comes of it depends on you. So, let’s see when flirting is cheating.

1. Flirting with Physical Contact

For many people, physical contact sends the message as much as verbal communication. A handshake and a hug are decent and acceptable forms of physical contact in social settings. Anything more is often considered intentional flirting.

For instance, lingering eye contact and casual touching on different parts of the body are considered the universal moves of a flirt. We can’t ignore that touching forms the basics of all flirting techniques.

2. Lying or Hiding about Flirting

Secrecy in a romantic relationship is one of the major red flags, and it often points toward infidelity.

A classic example is a partner who hides their phone from their partner. This is because they are worried about their partner’s reaction to the quality of messages and pictures they exchange with someone else.

Other warning signs of emotional cheating include deleting text conversations, silencing notifications, and having a secret app. In addition, making plans to meet up with someone without informing your partner indicates the intention of cheating or having physical affairs.

Flirting cheating builds intimacy

3. Flirting to Establish Intimacy

Intimacy is a crucial component of relationships. Other than sexual intimacy, a couple should strive to be spiritually and emotionally intimate.

As such, sharing intimate details with other people counts as emotional cheating because it’s no longer a special bond you share with your partner. Being intimate with other people creates a specific relationship in which your partner is not included. An emotional affair is a connection formed outside your romantic relationship, with or without a physical connection.

4. Prioritizing Someone Else Over Your Partner

Emotional affairs are more common than people care to admit, especially when physical intimacy is not involved. Such flirting is considered cheating because you hold someone else with more regard than your partner.

Sacrificing your partner’s needs so you can be with another person is flirting and cheating. It might be dangerously close to physical cheating if you ignore your partner and deny them love and attention.

5. Complimenting with Intention

Compliments are a great way of congratulating those around us and making them feel special. However, compliments can cross the cheating line very fast, and the line might be blurred for some people.

However, flirting is cheating if you’re using compliments as a flirting technique. It’s often a strategy that focuses on eliciting feelings and leading someone on. Such compliments focus on the aspects of an individual that make them attractive, such as mannerisms, physical attributes, and qualities. Suppose the intention of such compliments is to evoke sexual or romantic feelings. In that case, you are trying to cheat on your partner.

When do you enter cheating territory?

When Flirting Goes Too Far

Technically, flirting is not immoral, and it might help you stay on top of your dating game. However, if you see another person, intentional flirting is considered cheating in such circumstances. It’s possible that flirting can be taken too far! Here are several signs that indicate when your flirting is considered cheating;

  • The other person is initiating physical intimacy, such as kissing, before they’ve been invited to do so by you.
  • Flirting is cheating when you’re having intimate emotional conversations with them. You talk about your emotions, thoughts, or past experiences.
  • You’re feeling guilty getting involved with a person who is not your significant other.
  • You are spending too much time together, online and offline. Text cheating is one of the many behaviors that most people will deny. You know you’re in tricky territory if you often engage in frequent late-night calls and messaging.

What to Do When Your Partner is a Flirt

It’s important to understand that flirting can be innocent and inconsequential. In fact, some people flirt without realizing it! While it might not be intentional, it might make your partner uncomfortable. So what should you do in such instances?

   I.    Have a Sit Down

If your partner is overly focused on another person, consider conversing with them. Ask them how they feel about the situation. If they seem upset, they might be emotionally invested in flirting.

In a related story, it is important to have this conversation about both your feelings and let them know how you want to proceed. . This helps ensure there isn’t any emotional infidelity. Not all partners might be honest about emotions, and it might take time to admit what they really feel. Offering emotional support allows your partner to be honest with themselves and you.

II.    Keep Your Emotions in Check

-The most important thing is, to be honest with yourself. While it is natural to be attracted to other people, it’s wise to know that such emotions are usually short-term. They are not worth ruining your relationship over. If someone is getting too comfortable around your significant other, try not to make a big deal of it until you talk to your partner first.

Set boundaries to emotional affairs

   III.    Have Boundaries

Every relationship has different boundaries that outline the dos and don’ts. Having emotional boundaries will help you define a clear line between flirting and what shall constitute cheating.

For instance, you don’t have to flirt or flirt back at all times and don’t let it get inappropriate. If someone crosses your emotional boundaries, it’s important to have a conversation about it. Be clear and concise, and make sure they understand why that happened and why it is wrong.

If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important to set clear boundaries about flirting with other people. When you do it with someone else, you break trust with your partner. You may hurt them if you don’t intend to cheat on them.

  IV.    Say Something to the Flirt

Some people are very audacious and might flirt with your partner right in front of you. Most people will consider this inappropriate, and it might humiliate the other partner.

“I think that there should be somewhat broad leeway for flirting.”

Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, relationship therapist

According to relationship experts, it’s better to say something about it to other women or men flirting with your lover. Calmly ask the other person to stop flirting with your partner, and try and explain why it’s inappropriate.

However, don’t ignore that your partner might encourage such behaviors because they boost their egos.

V.    Have Constant Emotional Check-In with Your Partner

If your guy is flirting cheating on you with someone else, it could be because you’re both emotionally unavailable. People flirt for different reasons, not just for sexual interest. It could be because they have unresolved emotional issues from a previous relationship or their partner is emotionally unavailable.

  VI.    Seek Professional Help

Suppose this is a persistent matter in your relationship. In that case, you should consider getting the help of a licensed marriage counselor or family therapist. Getting professional help is a strong indicator that both you and your partner care about your relationship.

People flirt all the time, but being on the same page about what constitutes flirting and cheating erases the margin for infidelity. With your counselor’s guidance, you can take a personal interview to determine where each person stands on the matter.

It’s Still a Grey Area, But…

  • If you think these things might happen in your relationship, talk to each other about them! You can work together to ensure that your relationship stays healthy and happy. Avoiding any behavior that may lead one of you down a path of temptation and hurt feelings.
  • Flirting with someone else can be a slippery slope that might lead you to crash and burn your current love life. If your flirty behavior is often fueled by a sexual agenda, you are dangerously close to the cheating territory.
  • It’s no longer innocent flirting when you consciously lead people on. Whether they are a co-worker or someone you met at the coffee shop, it is wrong, especially if you are in a committed relationship.
  • If you’re ever unsure of the boundaries, it’s important to remember that flirting is just a part of human nature. We are all attracted to one another—and while that may not always be healthy or appropriate, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a little fun now and then!

Is Your Partner Flirting and Cheating?

Many behaviors constitute flirting, and some are subconscious acts. A person flirting does not necessarily mean it will end in a sexual relationship. However, it might be inappropriate if one partner in a relationship doesn’t know where to stop. For example, they might lead other people on hoping a relationship might bud from flirting.

With so many gray areas in this topic, it is crucial to have a deep conversation with your partner, especially if you’re in a serious relationship. This way, you’ll always know if your partner’s flirting behaviors are acceptable.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!

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