Is Flirting Cheating in a Relationship?

Is Flirting Cheating in a Relationship?

If you decide to ask a set of people what they think about flirting with someone other than their spouse and whether they consider it cheating, there is a very high likelihood that you’ll get an array of responses. The answers could range anywhere from a big fat “Yes” to “No” to “It depends” and so on. 

It is common for couples in a relationship to discover differing views on what constitutes flirting and whether or not it’s synonymous with cheating. Why do these responses vary so much from person to person? Many factors could be at play; however, you and your spouse need to be on the same page to avoid conflict and hurt feelings. 

What is flirting?

Flirting is a social and sexual behavior. It involves body language or spoken or written communication. It suggests interest in a sexual relationship with another person and for amusement. So, whether consciously or subconsciously, flirting is intended to elicit sexual emotions, often without serious intention.

Studies show that flirting is not restricted to fun parties, bars, and offices. Flirting is quite universal and essential to human interaction everywhere. Anthropological research has discovered that flirting exists across cultures, societies, and ages. The research also reveals that flirting, like dancing, is a basic instinct of human nature and courtship behavior. Every relationship or marriage begins with flirting at some point (You should not stop flirting with your partner). If we did not express interest in people through flirtation, reproduction would not be able to progress, and the human species would go extinct. 

Flirting can be physical or emotional. It could be those subtle touches, the extra smiles, or the delayed hugs. It can also be personal stories, nonstop texts, etc. When you’re attracted to a person, flirting is how you subtly communicate that interest to them.


It may be how you adjust your hair, slightly change the pitch of your voice, or adjust your posture. Some of these cues are subliminal, and some may be conscious. So, how and at what point do you determine if it’s just flirting or cheating?

When is flirting OK?

Truly there might be points when flirting crosses the line and might constitute cheating. Mutual consent and intention are crucial when deciding whether flirting is cheating. 

Every relationship is different, without a doubt. What may seem unacceptable to you and your partner may be acceptable to another couple. How do you know what is OK with your partner? – openly discuss your expectations. 

It might be alright to flirt with other people when you and your partner have an open, clear agreement that this is acceptable in your relationship. Behaving in a way your partner wouldn’t approve of can indicate that your flirting behavior is approaching troubled waters. Flirting is not always cheating, but flirting can be cheating. Ultimately, you need to be consistently transparent with your partner to avoid the pitfall of crossing the line.

When does flirting cross the line? 

Cheating, as well as flirting, is extremely subjective, and you must both define those behaviors that won’t be accepted. However, generally cheating is acting against agreed expectations or mutual promises behind your partner’s back. In many cases, flirting becomes cheating when your partner does not approve of your actions, or you deliberately try hiding your actions from your partner. Here are 5 signs you are crossing the line;

1. Flirting That Includes Physical Contact

For many people, physical contact beyond hugs and handshakes is a breach of relationship trust. Casual touching, such as an arm brush, lingering contact, and prolonged tight hugs, may cross a line if it conveys sexual interest. Touch, no matter how subtle, is a powerful tool in flirting. Research from 2023 found that the impact of lingering touch was significantly more influential when it was paired with a pretty face.

2. Hiding or Lying About Flirting

Do you see yourself shying away from a hug with that friend because your partner is present? (A hug you don’t find uncomfortable when your partner is absent). Secrecy is a warning sign of cheating. If you find yourself hiding your phone, or wiping previous messages, for example, because you’re worried your partner would be angered by messages or pictures you’ve exchanged with another person. Turning off notifications, hiding chat applications, meeting someone privately, etc., are telltale signs that you are crossing the line. 

3. Flirting to Establish Intimacy

Physical Intimacy is expected of a relationship. This also includes emotional and spiritual Intimacy. Sharing sensitive details about yourself with people other than your partner can create a sense of intimacy with the person on a level where your partner no longer feels special. This can also create a feeling of inadequacy for your partner.

4. Putting your Partner Second to the person you’re Flirting with

Another instance where flirting may transition to cheating is when you start neglecting your partner’s needs to cater to the person you’re flirting with. It might seem like skipping movie night with your partner because you want to stay longer at the office to chat with that cute co-worker is not a big deal, but it is. Not being affectionate to your partner when you’re in front of the person you’re flirting with could also indicate that you are nearing the cheating line.

5. Complimenting and Trying to Elicit Feelings

There is nothing wrong with congratulating someone on an achievement. This is quite different from complimenting their physical appearance, sexual appeal, mannerisms, and qualities that make them attractive. Even acknowledging that a person is attractive can make many partners uncomfortable. Let alone consistent compliments.

Is there a thing as innocent flirting?

Yes, flirting can be innocent. You may not even realize you’re giving off flirtatious cues. Ultimately, the intent behind flirting determines if it’s cheating. 

We all know that one friendly person easily talks to anyone and has a way of leaving an interaction with the other person feeling extra good about themselves — this is an example of innocent flirtation. Even if you find yourself flirting while in a relationship with another person, it can’t hurt to figure out if it’s innocent talk or if there is a deeper, more personal reason. Talking to someone who understands such confusing issues could be very beneficial. 

Does flirting always lead to cheating?

Flirting does not always lead to cheating. Even though flirting is a natural response to attraction, the outcome is within your control. If flirting with others, even via text, hurts your partner, you should make a calculated effort to curb it. This is the case even if you feel you didn’t do anything wrong.

Open communication and clear expectations can help you maintain the boundaries in your relationship. If you’re feeling guilty, engaging in secrecy, or feeling less connected to your partner in favor of another, flirting may have crossed into cheating territory, and you might need to spice up your relationship.


Written by Autumn Seave