7 Rules of Flirting in When You’re In a Relationship

STYLECASTER | How to Handle Partner Flirting
Photo: STYLECASTER/Tory Rust

Dating someone who’s naturally flirtatious can trigger feelings of jealousy and insecurity. But flirting is so subjective that it can be tough to define and draw boundaries. Do you consider smiling and complimenting strangers flirting? Or does flirting usually involve touching and being sexually suggestive to friends, coworkers, or acquaintances?

The boundaries around flirting outside of a monogamous relationship need to be discussed and decided by the people in the relationship, because some may see their partner’s kindness and charm as flirtation, whereas others may be totally fine with that stuff. Setting standards around flirting and communicating on the subject is key—especially if you or your partner is a flirt.

To get the conversation started, here are seven rules suggested by experts about think about flirting when you’re in an exclusive relationship.

Don’t Touch or Over-Compliment

It’s okay to hug and say nice things to people. Behaving warmly and affectionately is a personality trait, not necessarily being flirtatious. But matchmaker and CEO of Lasting Connections Sameera Sullivan says to be careful with whom you’re doing this. “It’s wrong when you get touchy with the opposite sex, commenting on their physical attributes or beauty. Being too touchy-feely and over-complimenting is going overboard. Try to walk that fine line.”

Be Self-Aware of Your Flirting

If you’re a flirty person, try to make a point of reserving your flirtations for friends, not eligible singles who may possibly feel seduced by the flirtation or take it to mean something more. Even if they know you’re taken, they might start to think you’re interested in cheating. “All flirtation should be playful and in good fun without any suggestive connotations to invite the other party to pursue or act on said flirtation,” says relationship expert Margaux Cassuto.

MORE: 9 Body Language Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Relationship

Skip Flirting That Could Hurt Your S.O.

“There should be absolutely no flirtation with anybody who you feel even mildly attracted to or have been romantically linked with, whether in rumor or reality,” says Cassuto. There’s a fine line between trust and disrespect, and one that needs to be drawn before it’s crossed. Regardless of whether you or your partner is the bigger flirt, you both need to ultimately show each other that the relationship is most important—both to each other and to the world.

Be Careful With Texts and Emails

Lines tend to blur when it comes to technology. A playful text can be interpreted sexually, especially with someone you actually do have a slight attraction to. “We all text and email colleagues and acquaintances, but when you start getting too suggestive or sexual via text or email, that’s crossing a flirting line,” says Sullivan. Ask yourself if you would send a text or email that you wouldn’t want your partner to see. If you wouldn’t, that’s a sign you definitely shouldn’t do it.

Voice Your Concerns

If your partner’s the flirtier one, be clear about what you do and don’t feel comfortable with. Cassuto says that you should never be so permissive and overly “cool” about your partner’s behavior that you end up feeling insecure in your own relationship. So make sure you are clear from the start. If you hold back from saying anything, your partner will think you don’t have a problem and continue to do it.

Respect Your Partner’s Feelings

If you’re the flirt and your partner says something about it, listen to them. You don’t have to become cold and aloof, but you may want to tone down blatant suggestiveness or being overly friendly, suggests Lisa Concepcion, relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching. “Never flirt just to push buttons, either,” she says. “Revenge flirting is passive-aggressive and starts drama. Be an adult and discuss any issues openly with your partner.”

Be Ready to Leave the Relationship

If setting boundaries and voicing your concerns doesn’t work, then it may be that you and your partner see flirting differently and aren’t able to get on the same page, in which case, you could be better off single. “Oftentimes people who flirt accuse the offended partner of being jealous or insecure,” says Concepcion. “If you’re not liking what you see and feel disrespected, love yourself enough to leave the relationship. You don’t have to hate the person, you just have a different standard and style.”