When one spouse is flirting with another person – whether it’s right in front of their own spouse, or not – it can justifiably provoke intense arguments in a marriage. This destructive impulse can come from a number of motivations, but one I’ve found to be frequently true is that it allows the flirtatious spouse to raise their own self-esteem by winning over the person with whom they flirt. Flirting also increases self-esteem by making the other spouse jealous, gaining the flirting spouse negative attention. As the kids say, it’s an “ego thing.”
While those are often the reasons behind flirting, the root cause is often not feeling desirable in the marital relationship. I recommend two very effective steps to handle this situation:
1. Don’t feed your spouse’s need for negative attention.
The worst thing you can do is ignore your spouse’s behavior, but you also should not enter into an immediate and impassioned argument. Both approaches will make the situation worse. Instead, when you’re calm, explain to your spouse (without harsh words or accusatory language) how badly you feel when he or she flirts with other people.
2. Acknowledge the flirting and raise your spouse’s self-esteem.
Give your spouse opportunities to feel connected and bonded to you, and let him or her know you still love them. Help them feel important, unique and special in your marriage, because sometimes a person flirts just to feel desirable again. Give your spouse the opportunity to feel successful in your marriage by setting tasks that are new or different in your marriage, adding variety and novelty. Last, but not least, allow your spouse to feel secure in your marriage – reassuring them that you’re not going anywhere.
If this advice sounds suspiciously like The Four Drivers, that’s because it is designed to appeal to all of them. If you apply these suggestions in your marriage, I believe it’s likely that the inappropriate flirtations will diminish, or disappear altogether.
If you’re looking for more in-depth information on how to have a happy and successful marriage, schedule a FREE 30-minute personal consultation with Dr. Gomez.