Does flirting matter?

17 November 2016

Locking eyes with someone and letting the moment linger – does that count as flirting? How about exchanging compliments on each other’s Instagram photos?

And if flirting is defined as behaviour which suggests you are sexually attracted to someone – but stopping short of saying it outright – is it a form of cheating if you are spoken for?

In an age of social media, that’s a question being asked by increasing numbers of people, according to Google Trends.

To some, behaving flirtatiously – in person or on a device – is out-and-out wrong. If you’re invested in your partner, your eyes shouldn’t wander. For others, flirting is healthy and natural as long as it doesn’t lead to anything physical.

Relate relationship counsellor Denise Knowles says: “I would never say flirting is cheating outright. It’s only when it starts to cause harm, or the intention is to harm, or when you’re hiding – that’s when the betrayal happens and that can be very harmful,” she told The Independent. “If you’re having a chat and messing with someone, and it’s understood from your side and their side that it’s just a bit of harmless fun, and your partner also understands that, then you can enjoy it.

“But when you’re flirting and they are not sure of the boundaries, or if your partner is unhappy with how you’re behaving with other men and women, and you continue to behave in that way, it can be very, very harmful. If you’re trying to hide something there’s the element of betrayal.”

Someone worried or upset by their partner apparently flirting should not accuse them, but rather approach the situation with ‘curiosity’, says Denise, as they may not have intended for their actions to be hurtful.

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