In my previous blog post, is flirting the same as cheating, we discussed what causes flirtatious behavior. Just because you or your partner are flirting, it doesn’t mean cheating is inevitable. The reasons for flirting outside of a relationship are:
1. Flirting feeds self-esteem.
2. Flirting is a challenge of winning over the other person.
3. Flirting makes the other spouse/partner jealous.
4. Flirting tests the waters before stepping out and actually cheating.
Unchecked flirtatious behavior threatens the health and longevity of a relationship. The solution lies in meeting unfulfilled self-esteem issues. Theses unmet needs in either yourself or your partner are the cause of the flirting in the first place.
Flirting doesn’t mean cheating is inevitable!
You may be the one doing the flirting. You may contemplate cheating because you feel entitled to. But check your premise. By that I mean, what are the reasons you think it’s okay for you to cheat. Are you telling yourself, “My spouse or partner doesn’t value me (unmet self-esteem)? What difference does it make if I find that attention and affirmation from someone else?”
If you’re thinking that, your spouse or partner is probably thinking that too! Unmet self-esteem needs manifest themselves as “the incorrigible flirt”. In working with couples through their relationship problems, I recommend the following four action steps.
1. Step back and assess the situation rationally.
This may be more difficult if the flirting is done blatantly in front of you. “In your face” flirting is likely intentional, whereas actual cheating is usually done on the down low. Once flirting becomes cheating the dynamics of the relationships change. The cheating partner simultaneously has both a fear and need of getting caught. It’s like the child who falls. Before deciding to cry and act hurt, the child first checks to see if his parents saw it.
Emotions will also be more intense the closer the “other person” is to you. If your partner is flirting with someone from your inner circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, the flirting will cause a stronger emotional reaction in you. Take control over the situation. Don’t let it control you. Be rational when it appears your partner is seemingly irrational.
2. Talk to your spouse and address what is going on.
Give your spouse or partner positive attention, not negative. The worst thing that you can do is to ignore your spouse’s inappropriate behavior. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening. Ignorance when it comes to cheating is not bliss. Your partner is flirting to get a response from you. If they don’t get it, they may dramatically increase their flirting. They may cross the line and cheat. Be aware, however, that openly confronting your spouse or partner may trigger denial. It’s a natural defense mechanism against your “attack”. You need to wait for an opportunity when your mind is cool. Then calmly talk about it.
3. Tackle the anger objectively and openly.
Anger, is a natural reaction. What you do with the anger is critical to building a healthier relationship. Use those angry feelings to give you energy to fix what is broken between you. Don’t fight. Tackle the problem rationally. Explain to your spouse or partner, without any harsh words or accusations, how badly the flirting makes you feel. Emphasize it’s especially hurtful when done in front of you. Talk about the feelings driving the negative behavior. When you care about each other, you can forgive.
4. Provide opportunities to increase your spouse’s self-esteem.
Create opportunities for stronger feelings for one another. Build each other’s self-esteem instead of neglecting it. Forgive the behavior and love the person. Assure them, above everything else you still love him or her. This creates feelings of connection and bonding. Your partner or spouse then feels important, unique and special again. This sense of exclusivity to each other gives him or her the feeling of success. The need for flirting is extinguished. And last, but not least, provide your spouse with the opportunity to feel safe and secure in the marriage or relationship.
If you apply the above suggestions, it is very likely that most of the inappropriate flirtatious behavior of your spouse will significantly diminish or completely disappear. Both of your self-esteem needs are met, not neglected, within the relationship, not outside of it. When a safe, secure marriage or relationship is intentionally nurtured, there’s no need for cheating. As Paul Newman, who was never tempted to cheat on his wife, said, “Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”
If you would like a free consultation with me on how to turn your relationship from mediocre to fulfilling again; contact me here.