Playful bantering or gentle flirting with someone outside of marriage or a relationship has mostly been considered the natural expression of a usually attractive personality and may even be harmless if proper boundaries remain intact. However, what was constituted occasional indulgences now stands to become serial flirting, thanks to the invasion of social networking sites into people’s bedroom. In fact, text messaging has emerged as one of the most widespread tools of cheating and has the potential to wreck a relationship.
Is flirting a big deal? At the outset, it is best to keep in mind that being in a relationship does not mean that you own the other person. Everyone has the right to look around and appreciate the beautiful things in life. However, if you are just beginning to date this person and feel that his/her ‘appreciation’ goes a little further, it is best to re-examine your own priorities in a relationship. Are you comfortable with the popularity your partner enjoys with members of the opposite sex or would you rather he/she not flirt at all? You have a right to decide what means most to you just as the other person has a right to look where he/she pleases.
Then again for many, flirting is an expression of an outgoing and self-confident personality. To them it is just a part of their social behaviour – a way of announcing themselves to the world and revelling in the general recognition as popular, attractive people. Sometimes though flirting is not merely an expression of an exuberant personality but a sign of a compulsive behaviour.
It may be that a person is willy-nilly drawn to attractive people around and, no matter how uncomfortable his/her partner feels, sees nothing wrong in that. However, being attracted to others does not automatically mean that a person is going to cheat. He/she may be appreciative of another person’s looks, intelligence or a quality and stop at that. Attraction does not necessarily create a temptation to cheat.
Flirting through text messaging. Flirting in the context of text messaging takes on a unique form. If earlier flirting was restricted to social occasions, now it can be continued 24/7, thanks to technology. More importantly, the fact that this form of flirting is carried through a device gives it the illusion of merely communicating and not really cheating. A person does not actually recognize that he/she is growing closer to someone of the opposite sex by texting because it just looks like they’re having a conversation, and that’s why it could be really seductive in some ways.
Keeping secrets. So what are clues that text message flirting has crossed the line from innocent bantering to dangerous dialogue? The first is, of course, the shroud of secrecy. If a person feels the need to keep such text messages a secret from a partner, then it is practically a certain sign that he/she is indulging in something he/she should not. If this person was comfortable sharing various things about his/her life with a partner earlier, but now seems to have developed a sudden need for privacy, it could be because he/she has a secret to keep, one that involves a lover. Other behaviours that imply increased secrecy are using several passwords to prevent the partner from knowing his/her computer activity or hiding his/her cell phone and credit card bills from the partner’s view.
Lengthy hours. Again excessive long hours on the phone wherein he/she indulges in text messaging to another person indicates that he/she is letting the online connection take over the primary relationship – the basic premise of an affair. Less emotional investment in the relationship, increasing emotional distance from the partner and waning physical intimacy are all signs that the flirting is taking on the colours of cheating even though there may be no physical dimension to the affair.
Sexually suggestive content. Another sign that text message flirting is treading dangerous water is when a person’s correspondence with a man/woman begins to feed his/her sexual fantasies. If the communications consist of subtle sexual overtones, involves exchange of suggestive photos, sexting and feels like foreplay in anyway, that’s a sure sign as any that it has translated into an affair.
Running down a partner. Sharing intimate details about a marriage or a spouse, and especially in a discourteous manner or with a flip attitude, is another clue that text-messaging flirting is no longer harmless but is taking on the shades of an affair. Around this time the person may also feel a need to rationalize. “He/She is just a friend” is a statement that a person wouldn’t need to emphasize when he/she is involved in innocent communication. However, the individual may very well be investing in an unsafe friendship if he/she is constantly wrestling with guilt or feel the need to rationalize.
Emotional investment. Above all, if text messaging with another is meeting the emotional needs of a person, then it has definitely gone beyond casual conversation or playful banter into the sphere of a relationship. A definite red flag is when the person is sharing intimate sentiments with a texting partner that he/she doesn’t share with the spouse or primary partner or if there is a feeling like the texting companion understands him/her in a way that your spouse doesn’t. If a person is getting fed in any way by another that does not happen at home, then he/she almost certainly engaged in an affair.
Obvious to others. Finally, the surest sign that text message flirting has taken the contours of cheating is when the spouse or primary partner raises objections to such conversations or other people who have the individual’s well-being at heart like true friends and close relatives think this is a bad idea. Such disapproval, because it usually means that either the content of the correspondence or the amount of it is somehow ‘off’, shows that the interaction isn’t totally appropriate, or the time spent talking with the person is distracting from family life.
Flirting is generally not seen as dangerous as cheating. But when Skyping easily bridges spatial distances and chatting, affairs can be possible even without any physical connection. And while the lack of sexual component may make such an affair appear less a threat, the effects can be equally damaging to a committed relationship.
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