Telltale Signs a Harmless Flirtation Is Something More

No matter how committed to that special someone you are, the fact is, flirting feels good. And believe it or not, a little harmless flirting probably won’t hurt your relationship. Just because your heart belongs to your other half doesn’t mean you’re no longer yourself.

That being said, beginning an ongoing flirtation with someone else is risky business, especially if your current relationship feels stagnant. So how can you tell if your “harmless crush” is actually harmless? Typically, when it isn’t, there are signs.

Don’t panic: Some flirting can be healthy (really)

Two friends catch up over drinks.

Someone checking you out? That’s enough to amp up your confidence. | Antonio Guillem/iStock/Getty Images

No one loves the thought of their partner flirting with someone else, even innocently. But playful interactions are human nature, and unless people never leave home, they’re bound to meet people at work, the gym, or social events who they enjoy talking to. Having a charismatic conversation with someone else not only reminds you of how attractive you are, but it can also make you appreciate your current partner more. Most logical people know that the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side, and they’re happy to go home to the one they love.

But how can you tell if you’re crossing a line? Here are five signs you may be headed for relationship trouble:

1. You’re keeping it a secret

A woman holds a smart phone while her boyfriend sneaks a peek.

If you’ve got nothing to hide, then prove it! | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

While you certainly don’t have to tell your partner everything or give an all-access pass to your phone, if you’re keeping your current flirtation a secret from everyone, there may be a reason. If you wouldn’t say anything you’re saying to your flirty friend in front of your partner — or if you’re even uncomfortable telling your best friend — you’re probably crossing the line.

2. It has a sexual agenda

A man looks at his colleague as she puts her arm around his.

Sexual tension is a huge red flag. | JackF/iStock/Getty Images

Feeling attracted to someone other than your partner is perfectly normal. But according to Psych Central, if you notice that your interactions with the other person are feeding your sexual fantasies, you’re in dangerous territory. It’s one thing to leave a flirty conversation feeling flattered and rejuvenated. But if it feels like foreplay and you leave feeling turned on, that’s not a good sign.

3. It’s turning into an emotional affair

A man and a women hold hands across a table.

Your S.O. might consider emotional cheating just as bad as a physical slip up. | Martinina/iStock/Getty Images

If you work with the person you’re flirting with or you have other reasons to be together frequently, be careful. What starts as innocent flirting could turn into an emotional affair, meaning you could be cheating without even realizing it. Are you discussing very personal topics with this person? Are you communicating via text or social media frequently even when you’re together? Do they get to hear your exciting news or juicy gossip first? These are all signs of an emotional affair.

4. It’s becoming a compulsive need

Young woman flirting with a man.

Your playful flirting could be hurting your partner. | UberImages/iStock/Getty Images

Flirting outside of a relationship is supposed to be like sprinkles on a cupcake fun — ┬ánot necessary. But if you feel the need to flirt every time you’re away from your other half, that’s a big red flag. If you constantly seek out those interactions, it may be a sign of a bigger problem.

5. You feel guilty

Stressed woman holds her forehead.

If it’s more than harmless flirting, your conscious will let you know. | SIphotography/iStocks/Getty Images

Your instincts are never wrong, and if you’re feeling guilty over your flirting, ask yourself if there’s a reason for that. You might just feel a little guilty because you enjoyed a one-time flirty conversation more than you think you should have. But if it’s an ongoing thing and you wouldn’t want your partner to read your mind, there’s probably something else going on.

So you’ve crossed the line. Now what?

Couple having coffee together while they talk.

Talk to your partner about your actions. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Did a few of these signs resonate with you? Don’t worry, it’s not too late to save your relationship. Realizing you’ve taken things too far is the first step, and if you want to stay with your current partner, all you have to do is be honest with yourself and move forward accordingly.

Your first step, obviously, is to end any emotional affair that has resulted from the flirtation. While it may be impossible to cut off contact with the other person, especially if you work together, you can always set healthy but firm boundaries — and stick to them. Focus on fulfilling your emotional needs with your partner. Learn to flirt with your significant other again. Surely there was a good amount of flirting in the beginning, and it will feel wonderful to reignite that part of your relationship. And in the future, you’ll know to stop any outside flirtation before you take it too far.