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When Flirting Goes Too Far

At what point are you crossing the line?

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An image of a woman in a flirty pose.
Will Whipple/The Licensing Project
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I’ve always enjoyed flirting. I saw it as a sport. And I *thought* it was harmless. After all, it’s just playful banter. And banter isn’t cheating, right?

But about six months ago, my husband saw some texts that I had sent to an old male friend. Let’s call him Tom.

I’ve never hidden my texts, my emails or any of my accounts. My husband knows my passwords. In fact, they’re all autosaved on our shared computer. I never felt like I had anything to hide. Did I?

I will admit to flirting. Tom sent me a meme of two people having sex. I wrote, “Yum.”

I’ve known Tom for most of my life, and we’ve always flirted. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s just fun and games.

This wasn’t fun for my husband, however. He asked me if I was having an affair. He asked me why I was sending flirtatious texts. I didn’t have an answer. Somehow, “They’re fun” didn’t seem to be sufficient.

He was distraught, he couldn’t sleep or eat. I couldn’t comfort him. Yes, I flirted. No, it didn’t mean anything. To my husband, however, it could have meant an affair. It definitely meant that I was disrespecting our marriage.

Was it? At what point are you crossing the line? Mike Pence announced in 2017 that he won’t eat alone with another woman. When I had heard Pence’s declaration against eating alone with women, I thought it was funny. I eat out with men alone all the time.

But perhaps, for his family, this act was crossing the line. I understand this now because my husband and I spoke about it at length after my flirting fiasco.

For some couples, going out to eat with a potential partner is crossing the line. For others, it’s flirting. Some haven’t crossed that line until they actually have sex. And for others, sex still isn’t cheating (open relationships).

As a couple, you have to decide for yourselves where that line is crossed.

My husband and I had different ideas of that line. For me, the line was crossed only with physical contact (kissing and beyond). Up until then, I didn’t consider anything else to be cheating. He agreed … but seeing those texts was so surprising since I never told him I was flirting (talk about an awkward conversation!) that he felt like I was disrespecting our marriage, which was a form of cheating.

Do I think my husband is being unreasonable?

I did. But now I don’t. Initially, I thought, “Some texts? What’s the big deal?” But anything that I can’t share with him or don’t feel comfortable sharing with him (while he could have checked my text history at any time, I didn’t explicitly show him the texts, as I do others) is crossing the line. We are partners … in everything.

Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. But I’m writing this to save other couples from the same fate (months of arguments and many hurt feelings). Figure out what crossing the line means for your relationship before one of you does it — even if you do it without meaning to do it. We’ve been married for more than a decade, and hadn’t thought to have this conversation, as we both assumed our own definitions of the term — and thought the other person would agree.

Crossing the line is different for every single person. Draw that line and discuss that line before it’s too late.