Everyone flirts, but how much is too much in a marriage?
I received a viewer question from Fox 26 “Mind, body, soul with Mary Jo” last week. The question is a familiar one that many couples struggle with:
Dear Mary Jo, I married my husband young and have been married almost 4 yrs. We have had many ups and downs. I have just noticed he flirts a lot with other girls. I ask him why and he has no answer. What should I do? I am hurt and confused. Thank you, Diane
Dear Diane, flirting is a way to interact and get attention. I have never known anyone who doesn’t flirt even when they are married. People everywhere dress, talk, laugh, play, and engage, all in an effort to get the attention they need. Babies flirt by flashing a smile or giving direct eye contact. However, when couples get married, sexual flirting is not advised. Sexual flirting is different than the normal, playful flirting the majority of people engage in. My guess is that the sexual flirting in which your husband is participating is the one that has you most upset.
When a marriage has ups and downs it is common for one or both parties to begin feeling unstable. Securing another potential partner is a form of self survival for some. It sounds like your husband is not getting the amount or type of attention he needs to feel secure. When a partner answers a direct question with, “I don’t know,” it means they don’t know (don’t read into it). They may not have given it thought or reflected upon it. He may feel the feelings but not be able to identify the source. If he feels unloved, rather than sitting down and talking to you, he opts for flirting with someone new. What he is most likely seeking is the attention from a woman to feel desired and special.
There is so much in your letter I don’t know, so I am going to try and help you in a broad sense. If you confront him directly and tell him that his behavior makes you feel sad and unloved, it may be enough for him to discontinue using flirting as a way to get attention. However, you will have better success and help the marriage more if you take a look at what you are doing to communicate your love and respect for him. You can begin this by asking yourself questions such as these:
1. How do I satisfy my need for attention? For example, to meet your needs are you reaching out to other men, working longer hours for warm fuzzies, spending more time and emotional intimacy with friends, eating more, drinking more, smoking more, or letting yourself go?
2. How are you communicating your love and attention to your spouse? Are most of your interactions with him critical, blaming, yelling, cold, rejecting, or loveless?
3. Does my partner feel rejected by my avoiding intimacy or sex with him? If you don’t know, you better ask him.
Once you are able to ascertain the answers to these questions, you can go to him, and tell him you have reflected on some of your feelings lately and have a better understanding of what is going on in the marriage. You can tell him that you have a part also. This will minimize feelings of defensiveness and anger. When you both are able to see your part in this problem, you can begin making changes.
Some people flirt because it is a learning style they learned from their family of origin and they achieve success by using this tactic. In a marriage however, when you suddenly notice flirting, it is a warning sign. See the red flag and before you attack, take a look at your own part in the relationship. It is always easier to project blame onto a partner; however, the marriages with the most contentment are the ones that identify their part in the relationship and work to change the dynamics if it is causing their partner distress.
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