Flirting is one of those relationship issues that can cause all kinds of discomfort, even in a relationship where there’s a healthy amount of trust. When one partner’s behaviors with the opposite sex leave the other partner feeling less than respected or less than trustful, then it’s probably time to explore the issue.
Being able to relate to all kinds of people is a good thing. And that includes people of the opposite sex. The question, of course, has to do with exactly how a person relates to people outside the relationship.
Nearly everyone would agree that it’s fine, and even important, to have friends who are both male and female. Likewise, nearly everyone will acknowledge that it’s possible to go over the line when it comes to flirting with other people.
So what has to be determined is where that line is in your relationship, and how you and your significant other deal with relationships with other people. Here are some suggestions to help you work through the issues together.
Define the Problem
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with your significant other’s flirting, one of the first things you need to do is to get clear on exactly what the problem is for you. In other words, it’s important that you think through what’s getting to you when your partner is interacting with the opposite sex. For example, are certain insecurities within you being tapped into? Is it possible that this has very little to do with your partner, and very much to do with how you view yourself and your own lovability? If so, then that requires one type of response.
On the other hand, if it looks to you as if your partner might not be prioritizing your feelings, and your relationship, then that’s a different issue. In that case, it may be that you need to talk about certain priorities and fundamentals that are important to you when it comes to how you two interact with each other and the people in your lives.
Get Some Perspective
Once you’ve defined the problem, and where your discomfort is coming from, then it’s time to get specific regarding exactly what behaviors are causing problems for you. After all, there’s a good chance that your partner exhibited many of these behaviors before you two were a couple, and they may have even had a lot to do with what you drew you to him or her in the first place.
If that’s the case, that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask that certain behaviors be “toned down” a bit now that you two are together. But it does mean that you need to keep in mind that some of what you’re seeing may just be who your partner is—and that a lot of that may be exactly what attracted you from the beginning. There’s often a thin line that separates “charming” from “flirtatious,” so be careful when you think about asking your significant other to conceal or tamp down some of their best features.
Decide Exactly what you Want to Talk About
If you do decide that it’s important to address the issue with your partner, then make sure you remain focused on exactly what issue you are raising. Don’t go off on tangents or bring up other problems in the relationship. Be as precise and specific as possible, so that your significant other knows what the real issue is for you. If it’s about whether or not you feel respected and cared for when you two are out together, then talk about that. If it’s more about the level of trust in your relationship, then keep that issue at the center of the conversation. As much as you can, maintain a laser-beam focus on the matter at hand.
Decide When you Want to Talk About It
It’s also important that you determine the best time for this particular discussion. For example, you might not want to initiate the dialogue immediately after a party during which the issue came up. If you are upset and feeling hurt and angry, there’s a much stronger chance that you’ll come across with an attacking and accusatory tone.
That’ll put your partner on the defensive, meaning your feelings will be less likely to be heard and considered the way you want. Instead, wait until you’ve calmed down, and bring up the matter at a time when you’ll have much better odds of achieving the results you’re looking for. Then, the next time you two go out, you might even offer a quick and playful reminder: “Hey, at the party tonight, will you make sure you remember that I’m standing right next to you?”
Decide How you Want to Talk About It
As with so many relationship issues, the way you go about having this conversation is crucial. Again, accusation and attack are unlikely to serve anyone very well. So do your best to avoid beginning sentences with the word “you,” as in, “You were all over her!” or “You used your fake laugh every time he made a joke.” Instead, focus on how you, yourself, are feeling, and how your partner’s actions affected you. That means that you’ll use “I statements” that begin with the word “I.”
So you might begin with something like, “I felt a little jealous last night when you danced so close with Kristin,” or, “I felt like you were giving Steve more of your attention than you were giving me last night.” This is a much better way to initiate a conversation that already has great potential to create conflict. The more you can focus on expressing your own feelings, the less likely you’ll be to push the other person away, or to come across as controlling.
So much of this issue comes down to respect. A respect that goes both ways. You deserve to be respected by your partner at all times, including when you two are around others. And your partner deserves the respect, and the benefit of the doubt, that he or she has earned from you. What you two have to do is to talk together about your expectations and desires, and find ways to prioritize this respect so that you both feel good about each other and the way you interact together as a couple.