Being in a committed relationship is a wonderful experience. Two people in a sacred union, sharing love, responsibilities, perhaps children … their lives.
For some, nothing is more important in this life.
But what about attractions to people outside the relationship — from mild flirtations to overt emotional affairs?
Even in the most committed relationships, there inevitably arise questions about the limits and boundaries of these social interactions.
All couples are different, of course, with varied levels of acceptability and tolerance.
Traditionally, sexual fidelity is at the core of solemn vows. But then some couples seek out alternate sexual lifestyles such as “open marriages.” There is no universal definition of the acceptable and reasonable — what crosses the line, perhaps into dangerous and destructive places.
Crossing the line
Some questions to ask yourself:
1. Do I find myself wanting to be with this other person more than my partner? If this is the case, reflect on why. What is it about this relationship that makes it appear to be more fulfilling than your current one?
2. Do I more often share intimate aspects of my life with this other person than with my partner?
3. Do I call or text this person more than my partner? Do I tell myself I do this because it is work related — or make other excuses?
4. Do I feel I’m hiding something when I contact this other person; is there a tinge of guilt or excited feelings of secrecy when making contact?
5. Do I find myself wanting to spend more time at the office in order to be with a co-worker?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, there may well be something more than casual flirting in the air. Your current relationship is not running at optimum speed.
Check your feelings: If there is a sense of euphoria, excitement, guilt, urgency or keen desire, then turn your attention to any dissatisfaction in your primary relationship.
Unacknowledged pain and loneliness may well be at the root of this behavior.
About casual flirting
While some may think that casual flirting is also off limits, engaging in this behavior isn’t necessarily a sign of trouble: It often just speaks to our normal and natural state of being “social creatures.”
Enjoying the company of another person does not herald abandonment of your present relationship. Enjoying the company of others in a light, jovial and flirtatious way can be enjoyable and healthful.
Some examples of casual (and harmless) flirting:
> An exchange in a bank line with a person whom you find attractive (nothing wrong with appreciating beauty). Engaging her in conversation because you are enjoying her presence and company for that moment in your day.
> You’re introduced to your wife’s best friend. They share a way of viewing the world and have similar senses of humor. You appreciate her and it makes sense that she is your wife’s close friend. You take a few minutes each time you encounter the friend to engage her in conversation and share some humorous exchanges. You do not dwell; the interactions are brief but still sprinkled with appreciation. You are clear your wife is the person you love. You move on with your day.
What to do
The key to recognizing the distinction between flirting and cheating is an examination of intent, desire, vulnerability and fear.
Be mindful of the personal line you’ve mutually established in your primary relationship. Take notice when you may be at risk of crossing over. Assess and reflect. Know why you’re heading in that direction.
If we are afraid of intimacy — fearful of being vulnerable — then we are likely to seek a wide range of distractions. If, however, we pursue true intimacy, then time spent with our romantic partners becomes central to our lives.
Opportunities to stray become fewer and less appealing as significant relationships deepen and take on the richness of time.
More about fidelity & infidelity:
- When cheating signals larger truths
- What a one-night stand can tell you
- Flirting with disaster: emotional affairs
Photo: Rene Asmussenfoto