The Birds, the Bees, and Blended Families
When Is It Cheating?
Dear Dr. Diana,
Unfortunately for my children and me, after ten years of marriage, I found out that my husband finds monogamy boring. He believes that all relationships get stale over time and that it’s only natural to wander. He was a good father and a good provider and he wanted me to look the other way to his indiscretions. We divorced two years ago due to irreconcilable differences.
I’m dating someone and we’ve been going to lots of holiday parties. He’s a gregarious, outgoing guy who is a lot of fun. But I’m uncomfortable with the way he flirts with other women right in front of me. He says that I’m too sensitive and just being insecure. He says that everyone flirts but not everyone cheats. He thinks that I’m letting my experience in my marriage get in the way of ‘the health of our relationship.’ My friends have mixed opinions and I don’t know what’s reasonable anymore. I only know that I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Where are the lines? And when is it cheating?
- Confused divorcee
Dear Confused,
Healthy relationships require couples to feel safe with each other. They trust that their partner has their best interest at heart and will not intentionally hurt them. Your boyfriend is right; not everyone who flirts has affairs. But every couple has their own lines for what’s okay and what’s not. And it’s important to be with someone who cares and respects where your comfort zone is or is not. Flirting can be a slippery slope; at its hottest it can give off the vibe of availability in a way that suggests that cheating is indeed an option.
There are different temperatures of flirting. There are couples in which both find flirting natural and think nothing of it. Sometimes it’s purely social and an attempt to flatter or connect. For some people it’s a style of relating; but push come to shove they would never act on a flirtation. And then there is highly sexualized flirting where people are letting others know that they find them attractive and may even be available. Most people faced with watching their partner communicate with another person in that fashion would feel uncomfortable.
Bottom line, every couple has a unique lock and key fit. In healthy, happy relationships, knowing how to help your partner feel emotionally safe is a critical component. There is nothing wrong with altering one’s flirting behavior if the other partner is uncomfortable. Sometimes, all that is needed is a small alteration but it can go a long way toward gaining trust. It’s great that you and your boyfriend are talking about what your preferences are because you never know what the other person is going to come up with unless you ask. Just like the little boy whose pregnant mom asked him if he’d prefer a baby sister or a baby brother? And he said, “If it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable Mom, I’d rather have a pony.”

Author's Bio: 

Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist psy#12476 in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California, 92067. She can be reached at (858) 259-0146 or