There's a specific type of pit you get in your stomach when you realize a friend's partner is flirting with you in a way your instincts tell you is crossing a line. In some cases, all your internal alarm bells may be going off, while your head insists you misunderstood or maybe took things the wrong way. The bottom line is it's such a bummer. The question is, now what? Do you brush it off and hope it never happens again? Do you take this information and tell a friend if their partner flirts with you? Or is it best to stay out of it? What's the *good friend* protocol here? You might not even be sure your friend will want to know that their partner's behaving inappropriately. It's all so complicated.
This is why Susan Winter, relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache, says one should handle this kind of situation very thoughtfully. "Discussions like this are always dangerous territory. Diplomacy and tact are essential in this type of communication," she tells Elite Daily. So is knowing when (and if) to bring it up to your friend at all. Here’s what the experts say about how to best navigate this super-complicated situation.
Determine their intentions.
Talking to a friend about their partner's behavior can be a bit tricky, so it's important to be confident about the information you're presenting them with. This starts with determining their partner's intentions. For instance, as Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships tells Elite Daily, some people have a naturally flirtatious nature and don’t even realize they're coming off that way, while others may be tipping their hand about having a crush or even testing the waters to see if you are interested in a fling. “Either way, before you go accusing someone's partner of being out of line, watch to see how they behave around other people. The last thing you want to do is cause a wedge between you and your friend, and your friend and their partner,” Spira says.
Set Your Boundaries
While going to your friend is always an option, especially if their partner has done something that makes you feel unsafe, there's also the option of dealing with the issue directly with their partner. The key here is to make your boundaries clear, says Spira. “If [their] flirtatious activity crosses the line, and you know it would make your friend uncomfortable, the convo needs to start with your friend's flirtatious partner to set appropriate boundaries,” she says. “Let the flirter know you enjoy their friendship but aren't interested in a love triangle or making it uncomfortable for your friend. Be firm that you'd like to stay in the friend zone.”
If they cross the line or behave in ways that are more than suggestive, you should tell them to stop, Spira advises. “Once you let them know their flirtatious behavior is unacceptable, advise them you'll be having a chat with your friend about it. Then follow up with your friend. It's best to let your friend know that you didn't initiate the awkward flirting and that you've asked their partner to stop, so the story doesn't turn around and harm your friendship,” she says.
Consider what your friend would want.
Another thing to keep in mind when dealing with this situation is to reflect on how your friend would want you to react. Ask yourself, have they said anything in the past that would lead you to believe they would want the truth? Or have people confronted them in the past only to have your friend brush off the information? This could be your best road map on how to move forward, says Winter.
If you’re still not sure what to do, Spira says it's best to err on the side of looping them into the situation.
How to tell your friend.
If you’ve concluded that letting your friend know their partner's flirting with you is the best course of action, it's best to be gentle but direct, life coach Nina Rubin tells Elite Daily. “Make sure you’re clear and say that this is a difficult conversation to have but you’ve noticed that their partner flirts with their friends, including you. You’re not trying to tattle, but would like to know if the roles were reversed,” suggests Rubin. “You’re not trying to break them up! You truly want the best for yourself and your friend.“
Winter recommends having your thoughts organized and any evidence of the partner's misbehavior available to show your friend. "Review the facts and sequence of events. Write it out if that helps you stay on point. Be brief and to the point,” she says. “Be clear and concise. Set up the scene and provide the chronology of events and actions.”
Despite your best intentions, Winter says you should be prepared for the possibility that your friend won’t take the news well. “This type of situation isn't black-and-white. There'll be a price to pay for your honesty and it may be the friendship itself. Your friend's first instinct [may] be to protect their partner and defy your information," she explains. "If that happens, let it go. Don't insist they take any action and don't coerce an outcome. You've done what you thought was right.” That's ultimately the best you can do: try and do right by both your friend and yourself. After all, that's what being a good friend is all about.
Nina Rubin, life coach
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships