I think flirting is totally harmless and I smile and joke around with just about everyone I come in contact with, male or female. But my husband has a real problem with my behaviour. Last week he got really uptight when I told a waiter at a restaurant we visit frequently that I liked the new staff uniforms. That seems like an over-reaction to me. I don’t want to have to be on guard whenever I’m out with him and stop behaving naturally. How do I convince him flirting is a normal part of life?
Answer:You’re right that flirting is a normal, and enjoyable, part of life. It is most obvious of course when you are single. You are most free then to be seductive, engaging and fun with anyone who crosses your path. Flirtation doesn’t have to be sexual so of course many people accept a degree of flirting in their daily lives, whether single or coupled. Expressing who we are in a flirty way makes us feel good about ourselves, increases our self esteem, body image, sense of attractiveness and helps us feel connected to others in a (usually) positive way.
However there are degrees of flirting and they are a reflection of our values. Not everyone holds the same values, even those in a relationship, so it’s important to be aware of your own values and boundaries and learn those of the one you love and have committed your faith and trust to. Some people believe light flirting with no sexual over or undertones is acceptable. Such as being warmly polite verbally, and engagingly funny or sweet without any touching. When people cross into touching it can more easily make people uncomfortable as they interpret what that touch means, and whether it is sexual or “harmless flirting”. However some couples accept some touching with others because perhaps they are both flirtatious people, or they both understand and believe that touch can be “harmless” too, meaning devoid of any intention to cross a line and hurt their partner’s feelings.
This is not the case in your relationship however as it seems clear you and your husband hold differing values when it comes to flirting and engaging with others. What you may perceive as simply friendly or neutral, he perceives as beyond acceptable and perhaps a betrayal of trust and loyalty. Like with many things in a relationship, when you differ you must negotiate with one another so that you both can feel happy. For your part, you need to understand where he is coming from rather than dismiss his attitude as conservative or uptight. Ask him to explain why he is bothered by your flirting, and ask him if he can elaborate on what flirtations bother him most or break his boundary. Then explain your beliefs about flirting and explain why you think it’s “harmless”or at least not ill intentioned. It isn’t harmless of course if it hurts your partner, but with open communication you can each learn more about one another and find some common ground which feels comfortable to you both.
It may require you both change a little, which you might resist, but really, what’s more important: flirting or not flirting exactly the way you and only you please, or being flexible with your partner, understanding one another and having a stronger, healthier relationship? You should be one another’s first priority, even if it means your partner has to lighten up a tad, and you have a little less flirty fun with anyone you would like. Then when you both feel undoubtedly each other’s best and most loyal partner, you’ll both find it easier to relate and connect, and you’ll want to flirt more with each other too!