Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 5:40 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (6)
  • Print

Married and mingling: How much flirtation is too much?

Carolyn Hax answers a question about flirting when married.

Syndicated columnist

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
m5po, who trades recipes in this blog, ever? But I can certainly see Dikek’s... MORE
I am getting out of this blog! Possibly two of the loneliest and/or negative... MORE
@unwashfan- ""...I would rather have a conversation with a pine... MORE

advertising

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: Married people occasionally have little flirtations with friends. I have always thought these things generally aren’t a problem — unless they are, and then you need to walk away from the friendship.

From your perspective, what are the indicators that a friendly flirtation has crossed the line and calls for steps to shut it down?

— Where’s the Line?

DEAR WHERE’S THE LINE?: If you’ve singled out one friend with whom to have “little flirtations,” and it’s new or escalating, then I’d say you’re already at that point. Married people don’t live in sensory-deprivation chambers, sure, but targeted attention outside the marriage is troublesome.

It also matters what your baseline is. Some people flirt only with intent; some flirt each time they draw breath.

I could also say you’ve hit that line when you’re asking yourself or others where the line is. Healthy people in healthy relationships tend not to worry about such things until they’re actually there.

Whenever you get to the point where you’re questioning your actions, it’s also time to pay more and more deliberate attention to your spouse, because chances are you’ve drifted a bit in the time it took you to recognize that you were getting carried away.

RE: THE LINE: Also consider your spouse’s comfort with your behavior. If s/he brings it to your attention (assuming your spouse is a reasonable person), then it’s time to re-evaluate. A little fun is not worth the damage it can do to your marriage. My hubby recently did that for us and I am grateful he did it early and in a calm way before it got too out of hand. (I was the flirter.)

— Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: So much power in one humble parenthetical. Assuming your spouse is a reasonable person. It’s the linchpin that holds your point together, since people too commonly see it as a betrayal to flex one’s charms occasionally.

It’s also an argument for being reasonable — or holding off on committed relationships till you can be. When you have a high threshold for alarm, your objections are rare, serious and effective. When instead your need for a monopoly on someone’s attention is absolute, and you react at the slightest bat of an eye, you unwittingly argue the merits of attracting somebody other than you.

DEAR CAROLYN: Recently, for someone trying to figure out her anger, you suggested a “walk around the neighborhood.” I had similar issues dogging me — anger, general unhappiness when at home, mixed messages from my other half — when an opportunity to housesit for six weeks came up, so I took it. It helped me to clarify my thinking, my relationship and life in general a lot.

— No Longer Wondering

DEAR NO LONGER WONDERING: Great work if you can get it. For people who can’t up and move elsewhere for six weeks, I suggest using a process similar to the one for identifying a food intolerance: You remove things from your emotional diet, one at a time, and see how you feel as a result. With a little planning, it is often possible to take a week away from just about anything (except yourself).

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Seattle Sketcher Book

Seattle Sketcher Book

Take home the Seattle Sketcher's latest book! Available now.

Advertising

Advertising


Advertising