Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — created by Gabrielle Kassel on October 28, 2019

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Besides maybe duration sex and who the finest “Friends” personality is, no subject is as hotly disputed as whether or no flirting counts as cheating.

That’s since every partnership has various rules, for this reason there’s no one-size-fits-all meaning of cheating, says mental health experienced Jor-El Caraballo M.Ed, a relationship expert and also co-creator that Viva Wellness.

You are watching: Flirting with others while in a relationship

“Cheating is any type of behavior that a human being takes that crosses and betrays a border of that particular relationship,” he says. For part folks that consists of flirting, for part it doesn’t.


First points first: What constitutes together flirting?

The swoony eyes and sustained eye contact. The eight graze and also the body swivel. The discovering laugh and suggestive smirk. Most of us recognize a flirt when we watch one (or are the one initiating).

What’s crucial to understand, according to Dr. Seth Meyers, licensed clinical psychologist and resident relationship expert for eharmony, is that not all flirts are produced equal.

“They don’t every share the same an inspiration and emotional an answer to that flirting,” the says. Meaning, part flirt through the on purpose of more happening. Others carry out it simply for fun, or as a type of self-expression.

It’s likewise important to recognize what flirting isn’t.

Being nice to someone, offering someone rather a compliment, or teasing them isn’t necessarily flirting.


Where does society media come right into play?

Cue Yo Gotti’s “Down In the DM” due to the fact that often that really go go down in the DMs. “Social media enables us to bring on a flirtationship or affairs indigenous the lull of your own couch,” claims Caraballo.

But flirty DMs aren’t the just sign that cheating.

According to Caraballo, these instances may overcome the limits of your relationship, and therefore qualify together cheating:

following someone you discover attractivecommenting on that person’s postscommenting or responding with details emojis engaging v frequencywatching someone’s breaks or Insta storiessending someone self
How carry out you recognize if you’ve crossed the line?

Some indicators are obvious, others much less so.

Your relationship is experiencing negative consequences

Whether virtual or offline, if your actions are affecting her relationship, it might be cheating.

Think: Your companion is emotion insecure in the relationship, or you’re going to someone else for emotional support instead of your partner.

You’re hiding the you have a partner

… or merely failing to cite it.

“If the person you’re flirting v doesn’t know you’re in a relationship, the tricky territory,” claims Dr. Meyers. “It argues that you could be open up to something an ext substantial taking place in the future.”

Which isn’t just flirting. The flirting through the intention come cheat.

You’re exhilaration or feeling favor you have actually something to hide

“If you’re acting like you’ve acquired something come hide, you probably do,” states Caraballo.

Deleting texts or muting someone’s messages so your partner won’t view them? You’ve more than likely crossed the line.

The following feelings are likewise symptomatic of cheating behavior, Dr. Meyers says:

guiltyashamedsecretive upset at you yourself (or the third party)afraidanxioussad

If flirting is explicitly allowed in your relationship so long as it remains playful (and no emotional or physical), that kosher.

Key word: allowed. And also the only way to recognize if flirting is allowed, or not? A conversation.

“It’s not as simple as asking someone if they desire to be monogamous or polyamorous,” states Dr. Meyers. “You must talk around what you each consider cheating — and whether flirting renders that list.”

So, if you and also your partner establish that flirting is cheating, and also you flirt, it is cheating.

Likewise, if she in a polyamorous relationship and also you and also your companion agree that any type of flirting or physical command is ok as long as it’s not v anyone in your immediate friend group, and also you flirt with someone in that group, that’s likewise cheating.


Start through being moral with yourself around what happened, and also why.

If your flirting was premeditated or is indicative the a depth dissatisfaction in your relationship, it may be time to reduced ties.

If her flirting was simply “you gift you” (AKA you have a flirty personality), it might mean she not all set for the form of appointment your partner expects.

Or, you might need to establish new boundaries within your partnership that patent this behavior.

But if that was just an “oops” and your companion would feeling betrayed if they had been over there or checked out your flirty messages, the time to talk to them.

Telling your companion you flirted with someone else can be nerve wracking, says Jenni Skyler, PhD, LMFT, license is granted marriage and also family therapist because that AdamEve.com.

“It’s the ultimate check of the strength of a relationship and your capacity to communicate and also compromise.”

Emphasize the you’re sorry, and also explain exactly how you will avoid making the mistake again, she says.

You may likewise have a conversation with the human being you flirted with, or closeup of the door it under the following time it starts earlier up.

Some methods to speak to the human being you flirted with:

“I want to apologize because I crossed a line during our last conversation. I desire to let you recognize that while I reap your friendship, i’m in a committed partnership with who I treatment for and won’t be flirty relocating forward.”“I recognize flirty banter has constantly been component of ours dynamic, yet I newly started seeing someone monogamously, so moving forward I’m no going to be flirty.” “Hi! I had a great time talking through you top top Friday, but I just want come let you know that i’m in a relationship and I’m i m really sorry if mine flirty behavior indicated otherwise. That won’t take place again.”

If the flirting occurred on the web, an apology might need to it is in accompanied by hitting the block or mute button. Her — and your partner’s — call.


Have an ethical conversation. No necessarily around the flirting you may or may not have actually done, claims Caraballo, “but around what the limits of your connection are.”

Avoiding this conversation will only bring about future feel of guilt, confusion, uncertainty, or worse.

Bring it increase in a neutral environment (AKA part place exterior the bedroom at part time the isn’t right after you had actually sex).

And know that her partner can have any selection of reaction — including being OK v flirting external of the relationship and also wanting to be able to flirt too, to wanting to finish the relationship.

Some ways to carry it up:

“I yes, really love safety time together and because i respect you and also where this relationship is going. I’d love to talk around whether or not flirting with, kissing, or see other civilization is miscellaneous we desire to be able to do.” “Yesterday, a barista in ~ the coffee shop and also I exchanged part flirty banter. And I’ve been emotion guilty because I’m not sure whether that’s allowed in our present relationship. Would you be open to having a conversation around boundaries?” “We’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks, and also we’ve never ever talked around what we’re looking for in a relationship. Are you in search of something exclusive?”

Bottom line: If you don’t understand what the borders of your connection are and also you’re not certain what does and doesn’t constitute cheating, it’s time to create them.


Here are some procedures you deserve to take to develop boundaries around what does and does no constitute cheating.

Do that early. Timing will vary, but usually somewhere between three and also six months right into the connection is ideal.

Get specific. Is DM’ing someone socially that you’re attracted to OK? What around having a coffee alone through a coworker? Is it different if that dinner? Is texting an ex allowed?

Prepare come compromise.

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Different people have various personalities. If one partner’s personality is bubbly or charming, they may need to tune right into where castle directing that energy. If one companion is an especially jealous, they might need to do some self-work to course-correct the jealousy.

Plan because that future check-ins. One convo commonly isn’t enough, so do time a few months under the heat to reconvene.