Tag Archives: flirtship

File No. 7 Flirting When You’re Committed

7 Dec

You’re cozy in your relationship. You love him; he loves you. You probably share a house or a flat together, and you’ve gotten used to splitting food costs, gas bills and rent. You have a routine: he cooks; you put away dishes. He watches sports while you work on your jewelry making and you both take turns cleaning the bathroom. Everything seems to have fallen into place and before you fully realized, you’ve committed to living in an adult relationship. Suddenly, all those things you were afraid of taking on are a part of your normal life and you can’t imagine anything else.

So, why is it that when you see that tall coworker of yours poised near the copy machine, flashing his toothpaste ad smile you get weak at the knees? Why is it that when he comes over to ask you to help him with his latest project, your mind darts and you get a Sex and the City type scene of the two of your pressed up against the back wall in the break room? Why do you want to spend most of your work day talking with him?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different response. Some people say flirting while committed is wrong. Others say its natural. Some partners will take offense and even suggest that flirting with someone other than them is cheating. Others will say that they are glad that you are still attracted to other people and that other people still find you attractive. Of course, with all the important and confusing points in life, there is no right or wrong answer.

As you know, we flirt for a million different reasons. Because we enjoy the attention. Because it’s our nature. Because he just looks damn good in those jeans. Whatever. I tend to have a flirty personality. I’m always creating quick intimacies, touching arms, leaning in … doing all those things relationship coaches tell guys to look for to tell if a girl’s interested in them. Sure, sometimes it’s because I am interested in them, but mostly it’s because that’s my personality. If I’m talking to you, I want to give you my full attention. Touching you, leaning in lets you know that I’m listening to you and focused on you and no one else.

I have discovered, this type of attention to men other than my SO can cause tension. Why? Are they not confident that I’m with them? In the quickest answer, no, they weren’t. It’s a bit … sad, really. Still, the fact of the matter is, to someone cheating can be as innocent as exchanging Facebook details. To others, it’s not cheating until there’s been intercourse. I’m somewhere in between, I think. Luckily, my current partner is as well. Even more lucky, he doesn’t get jealous if I strike up a conversation with a guy and he’s around.

I guess, you just have to assess. You have to say to your partner, “What is cheating to you?” and you have to work from there. This was my biggest problem with my last serious relationship before my current one. I didn’t know his boundaries and he didn’t know mine beforehand. So when either of us crossed them, the other person defensively started a fight. Not out of spite, but out of defense.

As a result, we both strayed and we both pushed each other into the red zone and ended up cheating on one another, by anyone’s definition of the word: he slept with someone else (on my birthday, the douche) and I allowed myself to make out and engage in heavy petting with someone else. His cheating happened because his boundaries for himself were non-existent. My cheating happened because when I needed him during a particularly tough time, he put me on the back burner to attend to someone else. (This, sadly, was common in our relationship and at the time, I didn’t think I deserved more.)

Long story short, you have to know what the other person views as cheating. You have to know what type of friendship they consider inappropriate and you have to decide for yourself if flirting while you’re in a committed relationship is okay or a big no-no.

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File No. 2: Dating a Married Man

16 Nov

So you’ve fallen for a married man. Okay, maybe you haven’t, but you have a girlfriend who has. What’s that all about? People may not always be willing to admit it, but being in love with or even just having a relationship with a married man is complicated. You can’t just turn feelings off. You know that by now. That’s why it took you so long to get over the last jerk who broke your heart. If we could simply switch off our emotions and shut down, we’d be PCs, not people. Falling for and being in a relationship with a married man isn’t easy, but it could be a signal that you, or your BFF, needs to do some soul-searching.

What makes me the married man expert? Well, nothing; I’m by no means an expert, but I do have personal experience. The baggage, the stares of shock when I confessed to people that I was in fact in a happy relationship with someone who was committed to someone else. I also have the pain that resulted from my experience as TOW, the other woman.

Being a TOW carried with it a laundry list of stigmas and connotations. Typically, TOW’s are young and thin, vivacious, carefree and most often students or just beginning the corporate ladder ascent, et cetera et cetera. True, when I was a TOW I was a young, vivacious and carefree student. I was never thin. (Oh no, I hold it down for the curvaceous women with the hourglass shapes all over the world, baby.) Still, I became a TOW. Initiated into the club after becoming smitten with a fella who started off being just a friend. Thanks to movies and magazines my biggest relationship fear was calling up my married man and having his wife pick up the phone. By nature, I shy away from confrontation. In my worst nightmares, this woman would answer the phone and berate me with all manner of insult and abuse. Luckily, that was never the case.

It still took me a while to come to grips with being a TOW. As I mentioned, I was a student, doing my BA, actually and just exploring feminism and gender roles and such and wondering how I could look my fellow sisters in the eye and uphold notions of equality and sisterhood and solidarity when I was involved with someone who had promised to love honor, cherish and obey … someone else. I’m not sure I ever fully came to grips with it, to be honest. It took a lot of reassuring from him, though, that he was comfortable with us and that what we had was what he wanted. At that time in my life, that was enough of a reason to continue helping someone shit all over the marriage vows.

The one thing all my girlfriends (who knew about the situation) asked me was, “Is he going to leave her for you?” That’s the one question that everyone asks, and it’s the one thing that everyone says. With their index fingers pointing at you in accusation they all but spit it in your face, implying that you should end the relationship because he won’t be divorcing her and giving you a ring. It’s true, some men do end up leaving their wife to begin something official with their mistress. It doesn’t happen all the time, though, and it certainly didn’t happen in my situation. Which is good; I was never expecting that, neither did I want it. Women don’t date married men just because they think it’ll be an easy way for them to get married. From the beginning, he made it very clear that he wouldn’t leave his wife. Not that he didn’t love me but in his mind it would be abandonment of her and his kid. In my mind, the last thing I wanted was for him to leave his wife. If the two of them weren’t happy and as a result we were in a relationship, that’s fine. I could handle that. If he broke her heart and left her to be with me, I wouldn’t have been able to cope.

So, why was I okay sharing a man? Well, I wasn’t really; not toward the end. In the beginning, it worked out for us mainly because I didn’t really believe in monogamy. I couldn’t understand what would motivate two people to spend their entire lives together or to devote solely to each other. Running from these confusions and wanting to explore other alternatives, I began having open relationships. (Yes, during my relationship with the married guy, I was still seeing other guys.) Towards the end, it all became too much. I had begun to get jealous of the time he spent with his wife. They had gone on some type of romantic retreat and had basically fallen in love with each other. This jealousy and resentment helped fuel my need to get away for a bit. I left the country for half a year and fell in love with Michael. While abroad, I began to feel differently about relationships. Suddenly, an open relationship didn’t appeal to me and I just wanted it to be me and Michael. Of course, that was my prerogative. When I mentioned this to the married man, he didn’t take it too well. In fact, we stopped speaking for a while and he accused me of cheating on him and being insensitive. My relationship with Michael progressed and eventually, things tapered to an end with the married man.

We, the married guy and I, maintain a friendship that sometimes borders on being a flirtship. Things have really  been watered down over the last three years; he now respects my happy relationship and I respect that he’s rekindled love for his wife. Of course, we still flirt, but there are boundaries. We’ll never again have what he had and we’ll never have the opportunity to have an authentic relationship. If the chance arose; I wouldn’t take it.

For me, so many factors went into why I knowingly maintained a relationship with a married man. I know it was just a passing phase because of these things. While it was fun, easy living, I knew it was time to reevaluate when I began to get possessive and wanted it to be just the two of us. I knew he couldn’t commit to me alone from the beginning when he told me he’d never leave his wife. Since he wouldn’t go, and since I was fed up with sharing, I became the one to go. I’ll never do it again, not because of the potential for ruining a home, not for the stigma associated with being a TOW, but because, for me, it was a sign that I thought I was worthless. Now I know what I deserve and I have the confidence to demand it in my relationships and not to settle. Furthermore, I don’t want to think that I’m helping someone be dishonest to someone they promised to love and do right by.

For me, my morals mean more to me than arbitrary views of love and commitment. It doesn’t really matter what definition other people give commitment. For me, I will no longer be a part of someone being dishonest in a relationship or a marriage. I hope that if a guy I was married to was ever looking to have an affair the woman would be open and honest and send him home. I hope that she would understand that a commitment is a commitment and until it is officially broken, it should be honored.

I can’t go back and undo my relationship with my married guy. If I could tell the 18 year old me anything, it would be those words: a commitment is a commitment.

File No. 1: Wows and Woes of the Flirtatious Friendship

9 Nov

So I have this friend who is a boy.

Our friendship is brilliant–substantial and interesting, casual and intimate. We’ve never kissed,  never have been any more intimate than a hug, an occasional hand-holding and an inadvertent snuggle in his bed once, when I was having a really shit day. Our friendship means the world to me, it always has, but there was a while when it was touch-and-go. Not because we had fallen out, but because we had both secretly fallen for each other.

To use a dated analogy, he was Luke to my Lorelai. He was always there, always coming around to help me out with things. We’d even go on casual dates and it was clear that we were both harboring feelings for one another, although those words never escaped either of our lips. We flirted, mostly, and confessed that we loved one another without qualifying if we meant “in that way” or not. But, there were things holding us back. He’s celibate. I’m not. He wants to wait until he’s married and at the time when he and I were at the apex of flirtship, we were both doing undergraduate degrees. Marriage was nowhere in the cards. Still, the flirting persisted, to this day, although I’m in a stable, live-in relationship and completely content, we maintain an element of our flirtship. Of course, it’s not as heavy as it once was, but it’s still there.

These types of situations, for me, are the worst. You’ve found someone whom you completely click with. Whom you love being around, and who makes you a better person. There are the wows.

The woes? That age-old fear that initiating something more than a friendship will ruin what you have. There’s nothing worse than losing a friend to the pincers of failed love. Of course, there’s nothing to say that the two of you won’t have a happy relationship. There’s nothing to say you will, either.

It’s the worst type of catch twenty-two there is. What do you risk? If anything?

I’m not going to lie, our friendship is different. The dynamics have changed, as they should have. This guy, Andrew, and I have been friends since I was a freshmen in college. That’s five years ago. Two years into our friendship, it became a flirtship and about three years in, we were on the brink of needing to have “The Talk”. Except, I moved out of the country for a spell and during my stint away fell in love with my current partner. When I came back,  mine and Andrew’s flirtship was nearly dehydrated. He was so cautious about breaching my current love. He put up walls and was difficult and I knew and all my girlfriends knew why.

Things maybe would have been different if either of us had gotten the kahunas to say, “I love you, you idiot” and see what developed. But, for whatever reason, we didn’t. Are we better off? I’m not sure. I’m content, I’m ecstatic about my love life and I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else and I would never trade Michael for anyone. Still, one of the biggest woes is the nagging thought I have from time to time: What would have happened if … ?