I’ve come to realize something in over 20 years of wedded bliss. The one thing that has kept my marriage alive and my interests perked is this mantra. Say it with me: “We’re married. Not dead.”
Is it OK to cheat on your spouse? Of course not. Don’t your spouse’s feelings matter? Absolutely. In fact, being aware of and protecting your spouse’s feelings is the key to successful, harmless flirting. The best kind of flirting outside the relationship is the kind that ultimately makes the relationship stronger. Here are five reasons why.
1. IT KEEPS YOU FROM TAKING EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED
It’s always fun exploring something shiny and new, but it’s wonderful to return to the comfort and safety of something we know and love. It’s like my black pumps. They aren’t super high, and I’ve had them forever. I once tried designer 4-inch heels and felt like a supermodel walking around in them for about the first hour. Then I got blisters and my lower back started hurting, and by the end of the night I’d fallen down twice (sober) and ended up removing my shoes entirely, making myself the shortest, weirdest woman in the room. I was reminded of how much I love my comfy black pumps and how they’ve treated my feet with love for years.
2. IT MAKES YOU FEEL ATTRACTIVE
After two decades of marriage, I can say with certainty that it’s no longer my svelte figure or girlish giggle that keep my husband interested. He loves a lot of things about me, and I love a lot of things about him. But one thing that turns us both off? Insecurity! Confidence is attractive, and when someone flirts with you or responds to your flirting with them, it makes you feel good about yourself. And honestly, there’s simply nothing sexier than confidence.
3. IT GIVES YOU A SENSE OF FREEDOM
With the threat of a midlife crisis hovering, you never want your 40- or 50-something spouse to feel trapped. Yes, marriage is commitment. But committed is different than stuck. It’s important to find little doses of that freewheeling feeling without sacrificing the level of commitment that ultimately keeps you and your spouse true to each other.
4. IT KEEPS BOREDOM AT BAY
At some point, everyone experiences a dull period where it seems the spark may be dimming. Spending a little time trying out your game on someone else makes coming back to your spouse a little more interesting. As long as you can keep it harmless, a little friendly flirting can ultimately bring some spice back home.
5. IT REMINDS YOU TO FLIRT WITH YOUR SPOUSE
Even the most tended-to marriages have moments of extended routine where we go days or weeks without making each other feel sexy. A few moments of flirtatious flatter will remind you to give your spouse more attention when you get home.
Obviously, this can quickly lead to disaster. Flirting outside your relationship is playing with fire: intriguing, until it blows up in your face. A few simple rules can keep you and your partner from getting burnt.
First, don’t lie to your spouse. Once trust is gone, it’s hard to get it back, and then your future flirting goes from being cute to being perceived as a threat. Second, don’t drink and flirt. I know, it’s after that nice glass of wine that you want to flirt (or have the courage to do so!). After all, isn’t it that period between wine and sleep when we stalk our old steadies on Facebook? But try to check in with yourself and make sure you are in control before walking this tightrope.
And finally, the cardinal rule: Do unto others. If you think your behavior would be hurtful to you if your spouse was the one doing the flirting, then cut it back to an acceptable level. Try the Truman Show test: Pretend there are cameras following you and that your spouse has the potential to see everything you are doing. If you’re comfortable with that, go forth and flirt!
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
Sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter every Thursday.