Great question @aunt_flo! I’m always keen to hear the spectrum of opinions that invariably come up in this debate.
Personally, I’ve grappled with issues of jealousy and possessiveness for YEARS, ever since my first relationship. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to get comfortable with, and I attribute that to my attachment style (highly recommend reading about this topic, it’s been very illuminating). So to me, flirting with other people would not be okay. I’ve definitely been with people who have disrespected that boundary, whether it ever lead to infidelity, no idea.
I do think I could get to a place where it would be okay if the person I was with proved themselves trustworthy.
That’s so funny – I’ve been reading up on attachment styles as well! I see a lot of myself in the traits of a person with an anxious attachment style. So, in theory, I think a bit of harmless flirting is fine, but I’m not sure how I would feel if I saw a partner flirt with someone else. It’s entirely possible that I would feel quite insecure about it.
I guess the ‘seeing’ aspect of it is kind of the key – if your partner isn’t planning to cheat and isn’t doing anything overtly sexual (sending nudes or straight up sexting, for example), I guess it doesn’t hurt if you do it without your partner knowing. It can probably be considered a bit of fun, or even a way of getting a bit of attention outside of the relationship.
I don’t necessarily think seeking attention via flirting while in a relationship is bad, either. Flirting cam often get a bad rep, but I think there’s a pretty huge gap between flirting, even flirting that is a bit on the sexual side, and cheating.
It’s interesting that you mention the “out of sight, out of mind” element of flirting and the fact that what I don’t know can’t hurt me, but I feel that that sort of benefit of the doubt is a slippery slope. If your partner knows they can get away with a bit of flirting what else would they try to get away with? I do feel like that’s the anxiously attached part of me talking.
I know you’ve been with your partner for a while, have you ever had to navigate a conversation about flirting/desire for other people?
I’ve not had to navigate any conversations around flirting – it’s just not something that’s ever come up and been a problem. But, we have had a pretty frank conversation about imaging what it would be like to date other people. To be honest, I think it relieved us both to admit that while we had no interest in breaking up, it’s interesting to think about what would happen if we weren’t in a long-term relationship.
This is an interesting one @aunt_flo. I would say, think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed and it was your partner flirting with others. If it feels hurtful then that probably answers the question. I think you can tell if something feels honest or if alarm bells are saying that you are crossing a line. Personally I just feel guilty flirting when in relationships but it’s definitely nice to get the attention! I’ve also never had any jealousy issues but I think that would be another layer of consideration around making your partner feel safe and trustworthy.