Flirting with danger?

Social media sites and online interaction are pushing this issue to dinner tables across the country, but first things first – What is flirting, actually? According to the Oxford dictionary, it means to behave as though one is sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions. Some say it is just a harmless interaction as there is no physical contact to call it cheating. However, psychiatrist Dr Chinmay Kulkarni explains, “Flirting is actions and behaviours used to convey romantic interest and attraction. The purpose of flirting is to signal interest in the other person in direct or indirect ways. It is driven by emotions and instincts more than thought and logic.” So whether you are locking eyes with someone and letting the moment linger or exchanging compliments on each other’s Instagram photos, it all boils down to sharing a sexual chemistry.

When flirting is cheating

The word flirting has a broad spectrum of meanings. The intention behind flirting is an important factor that could define the line between flirting being considered as cheating or not. “If the intention is to hurt, be secretive about it or lie to your partner then the behaviour borders on cheating,” explains psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria. It also depends from relationship to relationship and the views of the people involved in those relationships. 

“Flirting can be harmless but it does showcase hidden desires. Though not on the same level of cheating, it is breaking a boundary within a committed relationship. If a person is into someone completely, there wouldn’t be any voids to fill and there is an unsaid agreement to give certain part of ourselves or share certain ‘moments’ with the partner only,” believes Charted Accountant Radhika Agrawal.

Healthy or not?

It is said that flirting is healthy and natural as long as it doesn’t lead to anything physical. But one needs to remember what seemed innocent at first can become a slippery slope. “It’s healthy when it’s casual, consensual and where both the people involved are actually adults and when I say adults I mean you know where to draw the line,” states an MBA Yash Parekh. But there always is a line — it may vary from couple to couple — crossing which is definitely cheating, be it physical or emotional.

“It remains healthy when both partners are maintaining the boundaries that they have laid down for their own relationship,” claims psychiatrist Dr Anjali. “Flirting is usually considered a prelude to initiating a romantic relationship, so why do that if you’re already in a committed relationship with someone else?” Yash further adds.

“Sometimes in a practical world, it might just be more complicated than that. “If a person’s partner finds it immoral then even non-physical flirting can be perceived as probable infidelity,” says Dr Chinmay. They may also perceive such flirting as a sign that that their partner is not interested in them or is making a move towards getting physically involved with someone else as flirting is the first step. But when people decide to be committed, the natural instinct to be remotely attracted to others doesn’t disappear. “As long as your own relationship with your partner is respected and s/he doesn’t feel betrayed and is aware, it won’t create trouble in paradise,” Dr Anjali specifies.

A home-maker, Khyati Baid believes, “Flirting is good and healthy but when done with your own partner. In fact, I feel it definitely must be a part of your relationship to keep the spark alive because it’s good to feel attracted and fall in love again and again but with the same person.”

Keeping the partner in the loop

It is all about whether you wish to hide it from your partner. It is better if the partner knows about it and it is even better if the partner doesn’t feel that is wrong. “An honest communication about flirting can also help the partner to be at ease, be forthcoming about any such incidents in their lives and help you to be in check with your lines of flirting,” says Dr Anjali. “We see many couples who end up in a lot of conflicts because more often than not flirting is perceived as infidelity by another partner,” maintains Dr Chinmay. So if the partner finds out that their partner is flirting around with someone else then they start being suspicious that them having an affair with someone else. “These feelings become more intense and they are not completely irrational,” he further adds. Hence, it is important that your partner approves of your flirting with someone else. Otherwise it will lead you to a wrong place where the trust is lost. “One’s innocent behaviour may also be perceived as intentions to get involved with someone,” mentions Dr Chinmay.

How does it all start

Everything has its reasons and nothing just starts out of anywhere. Similarly, if one feels the need to flirt, one might be unhappy or unsatisfied in their own relationship. “Flirting happens when the relationship is going through troubled times, or with an intention of hurting your partner, then it may not be a good idea as it leads to complications,” points out Dr Anjali. So, if you find yourself being unhappy in your relationship then addressing it is essential rather than looking outside the relationship.

On asking couples whether they would flirt just for fun, Radhika opines, “I don’t see any fun in flirting with a person if there is no scope of a commitment.” Whereas MBA Atipriya Sethy shares, “We haven’t tried it yet but it certainly can happen. It depends a lot on whom you are flirting with.” The experts agree that flirting can be done if it’s mutually decided. “It can work out if the partner approves of it and both the partners know the risk factors involved in it,” says Dr Chinmay. It may also reach physical intimacy. “And it is not uncommon to see two people who were not attracted to each other initially getting involved later,” he further adds.

“There are couples in the world, that enjoy flirting outside the relationship, but we both feel that the kind of love, bond and friendship we have, we don’t have to go outside of us for that ‘fun’,” concludes Yash.