"You're such a flirt."
There's a reason this phrase is so common. For some people, flirting is how they relate to others. They laugh, they make eyes, they touch arms, and they shower people with compliments. They're naturally flirty, and that part of their personality doesn't go away once they're in a monogamous relationship or marriage. Yet, many people may consider their partner's flirting as a form of cheating, or at least a red flag that they aren't all-in on the relationship.
Commonly, people understand flirting as something people only do when they're trying to get an attractive person into their bed, or into a relationship. But there's so much more to it. And if you're flirting outside of your monogamous relationship, or have a crush on someone, that doesn't necessarily mean you're not interested in your partner anymore. “There’s very little to do with flirting that is about you being unhappy with a relationship — that is a construct,” Esther Perel, MA, LMFT, a psychotherapist and relationship coach, previously told Refinery29. Sometimes, flirting is just fun.
Of course, context matters, says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City. If you're flirting with someone in an effort to make your partner jealous or because you don't feel happy in your relationship anymore, then that's a problem. And if your partner flirts with other people in front of you, that can be a sign of disrespect, Perel said. It all depends on the "rules" of your relationship. Flirting is totally fine as long as you're doing it with your partner's permission, and not in a deceptive way. So, if you know you're a naturally flirty person, make that clear to your partner. You can say something like, "Hey, I just want you to know that I'm a flirty person, but my flirting with other people doesn't mean I'm not 100% committed to you," Dr. Fleming says.
If your flirtatiousness makes your partner jealous, that requires another conversation. "If your partner is unnecessarily jealous of your flirting, you might want to ask them why they feel that way," Dr. Fleming said. That kind of jealousy can indicate insecurity in your relationship that goes way beyond a little harmless flirting. It might take some explaining if your partner can't separate flirting from sexual attraction, but if they trust that you want them and only them, they should understand. “The essence of flirting is that there is genuinely an innocence to it," Perel said. "It only becomes a problem when there is no innocence to it.”