Depending on who you ask, flirting outside of a relationship can be a fun way to keep things interesting, or hurtful behavior that can undermine trust. Like so many relationship factors, it's up to you and your partner to set boundaries around which behaviors are and aren't OK. So, if your partner flirts with everyone and it's becoming an issue for you, it may be time to speak up. According to licensed psychologist and relationship expert Jennifer B. Rhodes, when it comes to flirting, every culture and relationship is different, so it's important to start a dialogue if their behavior is making you feel uncomfortable.
Knowing if flirting outside of your relationship is or isn't OK has a lot to do with personal and cultural context. "It depends on your culture and the agreed-upon rules of your relationship," Rhodes tells Elite Daily. "Some cultures are naturally flirtatious and others are not. If you are bothered, talk to your partner and decide what is acceptable to you." Rhodes also points out that, in some cases, it's easy to confuse friendliness with flirtatiousness. That's why it may be helpful to consider whether or not your negative feelings are being caused by your partner behaving inappropriately, or if you're being triggered by personal insecurities.
"Highly anxious people with a fear of abandonment may be more attuned to these dynamics [and are more likely to confuse friendliness with flirtation]," explains Rhodes. "Anything that bothers us is always a signal of what we need to work on in ourselves. However, it's also not an excuse for bad behavior, just an opportunity for growth." So, regardless of whether your partner is actually crossing the line or not, talking about your feelings in a non-accusatory way can help you both come to a resolution and establish clearer boundaries. "Learning to voice your boundaries is an important part of being in a relationship," affirms Rhodes. Even though starting a conversation about a partner's flirtatiousness can be tricky, nipping the issue in the bud can help ensure you're on the same page about your boundaries sooner rather than later.
"Be direct and say you are uncomfortable with your partner's flirtatiousness," recommends Rhodes. "If your partner tells you that it is not a big deal or does not take your concern seriously, it is a red flag of someone with a possible avoidant attachment style." Rhodes explains that people with this attachment style may unknowingly exhibit behaviors that destabilize the relationship, like discounting your concerns instead of listening and being open to adjustments. "It is an example of a deactivating strategy aimed at decreasing the emotional connection between the two of you," says Rhodes. "Most people are not aware it is happening, but the reaction to your concerns is most important."
Ultimately, everyone makes mistakes, but it's how someone responds to these situations that can be even more telling. So, if your partner is flirtatious with people in ways that make you feel bad, the best way to address the issue is to bring it to their attention and come up with a solution that you're both comfortable with.