When Does Flirting Become Emotional Cheating?

Have you ever wondered if the seemingly harmless flirting you’re engaging in with your attractive work colleague is harmful to your relationship?

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Or what about that icky, uncomfortable feeling when, say, a specialist makes flirty and super-flattering comments to you in a completely unethical, power-imbalance environment? Then there’s your local butcher who (this one applies to me: true story) makes suggestive comments and innuendoes whenever you order your weekly meat?

Flirting scenarios, while extremely varied, can be fun, ego-boosting and sexy, but when it’s with a third party, when does it become damaging for your relationship? And what about emotional cheating – does flirting fit in this category and does it necessarily even lead to extramarital affairs? So many questions… For answers, I approached a clinical psychologist who wishes to remain anonymous. Her answers are sobering indeed, for those of us who love a good flirt.

flirting, emotional cheating, relationships

Q: When does harmless flirting turn into more? Is it about a power imbalance?  

A: Flirting can be fun, it can make you feel good, but it can also be problematic. One sure sign that it’s time to stop flirting with someone is when your partner becomes upset.

It’s also not okay if it’s not mutual and consensual. So, if someone is flirting with you, but it makes you feel uncomfortable because it seems inappropriate, perhaps because it’s your boss or more senior person in the workplace or your friend’s partner, bring it to a stop.

You can give a clear signal that you don’t welcome the sexual innuendo by being brisk and impersonal in your interactions with the person doing the flirting. Flirting isn’t just about what’s said, body language is just as revealing. Body language includes the admiring glance, the sexy smile and the lingering touch.

flirting, emotional cheating, relationships

Q: Is ongoing flirting with someone you find attractive a form of emotional cheating?

A: If you are single, then flirting with someone you find attractive can be exciting and fun. It might even be the start of a great relationship. But if you are already in a relationship, flirting with a third party can be a form of emotional cheating.

To test out whether the flirty exchange is harmless fun or something that would upset your partner, imagine he/she is able to hear what’s being said – as well as see your body language. If that thought makes you uncomfortable and you realise that the flirting could be harmful to your relationship, then it’s time to get back to being business-like.

If you love to flirt, my best advice is to try having those sexy exchanges with your partner –  he/she is bound to enjoy it!

Images via Sydney Morning Herald, The Brunette Diaries and Eharmony

Love in the office

If you’re single and searching for love, you are more likely to find it during your work day than after hours. Although many employers have tried to ban office romances, they are fighting a battle they can never win. With estimates that more than 50% of people meet their partners through their work, it’s likely that at some time you will be faced with the challenge of a relationship at work. When you meet someone in your work environment it’s somewhere you feel comfortable. You are in non-threatening, familiar surroundings and chances are you’ve already experienced each other in a more real, unaffected, every day way, than if you met at a party or in a bar.We spend more time at work than anywhere else so it seems a natural place to meet. You already have something in common and probably share some interests as well. Another advantage of meeting someone at work, is that you know more about them and their habits, before you commit to dating, than you do if you meet socially. You’ve had the chance to see how they behave in all sorts of situations.Dating someone at work can be good, bad or downright ugly. If you don’t want it to ruin your career prospects or alienate your work colleagues you need to be both smart and discreet. Most large companies have policies regarding inter-office romances and it makes sense to know your company’s policy. Until the sexual harassment laws kicked in, employers didn’t worry too much as long as work capacity and performance was not effected by the couple spending time courting over the water cooler or steaming up the bathroom mirrors. It was more a case of office gossip taking up too much time rather than the threat of compensation pay outs that made employers wary.The most successful work place relationships I know have started out as friendships and developed slowly and naturally. One couple had dated for a year and been living together for another two years before their work mates knew they were together. It only came out when they both resigned from their jobs to live overseas. Another couple who still work together don’t act like lovers in the office and this is the secret to making an office romance work for everyone, including your boss and your work mates.

Some dos & don’ts

* Take it slow, develop a friendship first and spend some time together out of work
* Remain separate at work, resist the urge to steal a kiss at the photocopier or meet in the fire escape for a quick cuddle
* Be discreet and don’t confide in other work mates unless you are happy for the whole office to know
* Leave your private life at home and never bring personal arguments to work
* Don’t show favouritism, it will be noticed and can undermine your position at work
* Be prepared to deal with other work colleagues flirting or seeming to flirt with your partner, don’t get jealous, it’s usually just innocent fun
* Make time for yourself, some alone time is necessary when you are dating someone you work with

Consider the consequences

* It’s likely there will be some difficult times. Can you keep your cool and be professional?
* If things don’t work out can you behave professionally, be polite and don’t dump on him?
* If the relationship ends what is the career fallout?

By Michelle Lewis
Michelle has been one of Australia’s leading matchmakers and as a relationship expert is the founder of Her first book The Street Guide to Flirting is out now.

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