Humans are social creatures. We’re programmed to meet other people and develop new connections, and being in an exclusive relationship doesn’t change that. However, there are some courtesy lines drawn once you’ve made things official with an S.O. — for many people, this means things like deactivating your Tinder profile and actively fighting the temptation to cheat with someone else. There are no definitive lines in terms of how far is too far when it comes to making moves on other people while in a relationship, but Mark Sharp from the Aiki Relationship Institute, a licensed clinical psychologist with a PhD in clinical psychology, tells us that conversations to establish boundaries are essential when it comes to flirting outside your relationship.
“What is important is that couples be honest with each other about their feelings around flirting and are attentive and responsive to each other’s feelings,” Sharp asserts. “If flirting makes a partner uncomfortable, it should probably be toned down, otherwise it is going to have an impact on the relationship.” The tricky part of this conversation is that everyone has a different definition of flirting. One person could be okay with their partner asking someone else to dance, while another might cringe at the idea of their significant other even trading some sexy banter with someone of a gender they’re attracted to. A wink, for example, carries different significance for different people.
“Sometimes understanding the different meanings each person attributes to certain behavior can make it easier for a partner to accept some behavior from their partner,” suggests Sharp. “When they realize that a wink doesn’t mean the same thing to their partner as it does to them, they might be more comfortable with seeing their partner do that with other people.”
Since these definitions of different behaviors are so subjective, it’s important to maintain continual conversation with your partner about what you are and are not comfortable with. Sharp says this conversation should be respectful: It doesn’t help to judge each other for feeling a certain way about a certain behavior. Instead, try to understand where your partner is coming from. And, as always, you want to ensure any criticism — whether yours or bae’s — is coming from a healthy place and not about trying to control the other person’s behavior in an abusive way.
If you approach flirting with this attitude of respect and communication, you and your partner are much more likely to navigate sticky situations gracefully. And besides, since you already agree on your favorite person to flirt with (each other!), you’re off to the right start.
How do you and your boo approach the topic of flirting? Let us know @BritandCo!
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