Many people in long term relationships find themselves having to deal with questions about what counts as harmless flirtation and what gets too close to a very fine line that crosses over into dangerous territory.
My friend has what she calls a Sid James (he of the Carry On Film series, if you remember those) style banter with her greengrocer. She’ll hurl herself into his shop, saying, ‘I’ve come for your soft fruits’ and he’ll respond, ‘That’s all I’ve got these days’ with lots of laughter on both sides and no harm done.
Then there is the slightly murkier exchange – the chats via text or facebook with someone outside the relationship that one partner wouldn’t want the other to see.
To a certain degree, it all boils down to intention and the energy behind a communication. That’s something that is so subtle that it can be hard to put an uncomfortable feeling into words – especially the kind where you feel hurt but you suspect that what you might have to say if you decide to talk about it will be brushed aside with a breezy, ‘You’re just being paranoid’.
How could you explain to a Martian the amazing amount of different meanings that can be put across with the simple sentence ‘You look nice today’?
I’ve been thinking about what’s going on from a spiritual point of view as social media is often blamed for flirtations that turn into affairs these days. It all started with people reconnecting with old flames through Friends Reunited and has now turned into facebook being cited in a huge number of divorces in America.
There is something about the gap technology can put between people and the consequences of their behaviour. It’s too easy to click a ‘send’ button with a slightly risqué message that you might think several times about actually saying face to face. Social media seems to be eroding our boundaries in dubious as well as good ways.
But you could also say that social media is just a neutral channel and actually mirrors who we are inside at the point where we use it.
From a spiritual perspective, we are all one, and social media is just a technology that mirrors the connection that already exists between us.
Love, desire and attraction are all feelings that only exist at the point where we give them away. They have to flow through us so that we can feel them.
Long term relationships have so many different focuses that it’s easy to misplace the passion that brought you together under a pile of bills, chores and obligations.
When people flirt, what they are really grasping for is a more exciting them. They do it so that they can feel that frisson of attraction by bouncing off another human being and seeing the sparks they can create.
That’s why it’s so important to nurture intimacy, connection and passionate playfulness in long term relationships. If you’re feeling snowed under by life, it can be feel like just another thing you have to get done, but it’s vital to keep that spark going. It’s also important to be mindful of what flames we might be igniting with what we do or say.
Ultimately, it’s down to every couple to decide for themselves where any boundaries and lines lie when it comes to flirtation. Some people feel fine with full blown infidelity. Others find that they are constantly tugging backwards and forwards between two very different sets of needs and rules.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how it might look or seem, there is no such thing as a relationship that stands still. They are constantly in motion, moving this way and that, drifting towards boredom and taking each other for granted and then being dramatically turned around to the full on energy of the early days in the blink of an eye. In my mind a simple test is to ask yourself ‘would I be happy to for my partner to see what I am writing or saying now?’ ‘If my partner said or did this how would I feel?” We all have our own moral code and ultimately we only have ourselves to answer to but being honest with ourselves is essential if we don’t want to fall into a lack of boundaries that takes harmless to destructive.
Flirting in social media can become a distraction and addiction, an avoidance of looking at our problems or self esteem issues. It can also keep you in emotional limbo as all options are open. You might find yourself flirting with someone online who has a fantastic witty warm personality, yet some online flirts have a fear of intimacy and find it difficult to get close to people in the real world. Always pay attention to your gut feelings and intuition about not only others but your own behaviour when enjoying a flirt.
But what do you think? What counts as harmless flirtation in your book, and what would push you towards a pain that you would struggle to forgive?
Loads of love,
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