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Harmless Fun or Crossing the Line: When Does Flirting Become Cheating?

Today I want to discuss the potentially polarising topic of cheating in a relationship, specifically when does flirting cross the line? But first…

I can’t help but wonder whether this admission could lose me some readers… I hope not; I’m trusting that the wonderful people my blog attracts share my view, if not my precise values – that we should be able to agree to disagree. Okay, here goes:

I can’t stand Big Brother.

I watched the first ever series as, having studied Psychology, it intrigued me on an academic level. Alas, the programme quickly descended into a bit of a pantomime, the format being designed more and more for laughs (for the audience), with less and less regard for the wellbeing of the contestants. It makes for uncomfortable viewing in my opinion, and I don’t like or condone it.

What I find particularly odd though is that people are queuing up to be tormented and humiliated in their quest for a slice of fame.

So, yes, you could say they signed up for it, but as far as I’m concerned that’s simply another dimension of its cringe-worthiness.

Okay, so now I’ve written my disclaimer I’ll move on to what this post is actually about. It’s one I’ve been meaning to write for some time but never quite found the time for. On Tuesday both myself and Pixie were unwell so I made a cuppa and tuned into Loose Women, planning to put my feet up for a change while she napped. Alas, as a blogger it doesn’t take much for me to suddenly feel compelled to write

When does flirting become cheating? It's essential that you and your partner have solid boundaries about what constitutes cheating. But are you both on the same page?

The ladies were discussing a situation on Celebrity Big Brother whereby there was some flirtation taking place between two of the contestants (at least one of them was in a relationship). The topic centred around whether it was harmless flirting, or an example of when flirting crosses the line of what is acceptable/appropriate.

(For the record, Big Brother is not a programme I usually watch; did I mention that already?)

When Does Flirting Become Cheating?

What actually constitutes cheating?

Holding hands; a passionate kiss; anything beyond that? Or only when full penetrative sex takes place?

Or, perhaps, is it none of these things, but instead when an emotional connection has been established to someone who is not your significant other? When is flirting crossing the line – when does flirting become cheating?

Is Flirting Cheating?

Perhaps, even, it depends on the circumstances and whether a cheeky but essentially innocent gesture is in public or in private; or – more significantly – in front of a partner or spouse? For some, the humiliation of being forced to observe that behaviour would be too much; for others that very openness would negate any concern of untoward intentions.

Naturally there is no definitive answer to the question because the parameters of what is acceptable will differ for each of us depending on many factors, not only those I’ve outlined above.

My hubby and I have a pretty good protocol which can be applied to every couple and every situation:

If you know it will upset your partner, then you’re cheating. It really is that simple.

Is Flirting Cheating

How so? Because it’s a matter of respect, and if you would willingly go through with something that you know would hurt your beloved, then that is disrespectful.

Of course it could be said that’s rather too simplistic. What of those situations where alcohol or perhaps an argument are involved? What about those occasions when ‘it just happened’; ‘we got carried away’; ‘it went further than intended’? Well, actually, we have an answer for that too… When does flirting become cheating?

When Does Flirting Cross the Line?

There’s always a moment; a ‘safety line’ if you will.

It could be accepting a drink, or a lift, or an inappropriate compliment. The moment itself is innocuous – but crucially, it opens the possibility to any of the lame excuses I mentioned above. We have to be incredibly naïve for that moment to go unnoticed: we know when we’re putting ourselves in harms way – the same way that we know when someone is hitting on us.

So, if you choose to remain faithful – because it is a choice – then the only guaranteed way for us to protect our relationships is to recognise and acknowledge that ‘moment’ – and heed it.

That sometimes means going home before we’re quite ready to, or taking the bus rather than the easy – but perilous – option, or even just refusing to engage in a particular conversation which is edging its way towards dangerous territory.

It’s about putting our relationship before our ego; about making the conscious decision that we will not allow ourselves to enter a threatening situation in spite of the buzz of excitement that may come with it.

Essentially, it’s about cutting that sensation dead before it’s allowed to take hold and turn our common sense away from common decency.

We all have the same choice: the choice to be reckless, mindful of the fact (whether we care to admit it or not) that infidelity may or may not follow;  or we can choose to remain faithful.

Do you agree, or do you think there’s a grey area I’m refusing to acknowledge? When does flirting become cheating in your opinion?

Michael Goldmann

Saturday 19th of September 2020

I agree but...... Having been in a couple situations over the years where I misread the intentions of the other person, we have to ask ourselves the obvious question: When is flirting/teasing/banter harmless? And when is it harmful? Does any ambiguity automatically make it harmful because your intentions can be misread? It's not just your partner that can be hurt, but also the person you are flirting with. And I am notorious for assuming romantic intent when there is only platonic intent. Just as I am notorious for assuming malicious intent when I get led on. (Shame on me I suppose)


Saturday 25th of July 2020

Fab post! I agree, I have the same, similar way of ‘testing’ the situation, basically if you wouldn’t be happy to do something in front of your partner, dont do it away from them x

Kate Tunstall

Saturday 25th of July 2020

Thanks so much Sarah - exactly this! x


Friday 13th of January 2017

This is spot on! I read it on the train this morning but had to come and comment. Everyone knows where that line is and there is definitely a choice there. Being drunk or something is not an excuse! x

Kate Tunstall

Tuesday 31st of January 2017

Thanks Donna, it's something I feel quite strongly about. To clarify, I'm not preaching about where that line is because it will be different for everyone - just that it IS there and we shouldn't cross it out of respect if nothing else. However, I like to think neither party would want to either! Sadly that's not always the case, but that's a different post for a different day! x


Friday 13th of January 2017

I can't tolerate cheating and I don't believe a relationship can ever fully work again once once of you has cheated because the trust is lost and you will always be wondering what if.

When I started reading your post, I thought, shit, I'm quite a flirty person I think. Just in my manner. I think I flirt with anything and everything lol but not in a harmful way. I like to be kind and complimentary to people and I am quite naive as my husband as pointed out and I think it can be construed as flirty. I would never intentionally do anything to embarrass or hurt my husband. And that's where you have hit the nail on the head. You can flirt so long as it's harmless. By the other half of the relationship tolerating some harmless flirting it shows that you trust and respect the other. That's just my view (excuse) lol.

Kate Tunstall

Tuesday 31st of January 2017

Exactly! It's about you both being comfortable. Every couple will set their own parameters for what's acceptable, and it won't be the same for everyone. So long as both partners are on the same page then you're fine! No judgement here x

The Speed Bump

Friday 13th of January 2017

I think you're spot on with this. It doesn't "just happen", people make a conscious choice to cheat and should face up to the consequences of that!

Kate Tunstall

Tuesday 31st of January 2017

I think so. I realise it's sometimes more complicated, but that moment is always there.