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I’m 75 years old, married, and I want to learn how to stop flirting with women. Do you have any suggestions you can give me?
Flirting may seem like harmless behavior, but when you’re married, it’s a betrayal to your spouse. Flirting sends a signal to the other person that you are available for romantic connection. It communicates that you’re engaging in a special relationship with them that you don’t share with other people. I’m glad you want to set boundaries around flirting and protect your marriage. Your wife needs to know that you’re only there for her.
I don’t know how long you’ve been married to your wife, but I’m guessing that you don’t flirt with her anymore. I think flirting with your spouse is a small part of what makes marriage so special. It sends a signal to your wife that she is still desirable, that you only have eyes for her, and that you want to get closer to her. These are important signals that cue your wife that she is secure and stable with you. When you’re freely giving these signals to other women, it devalues marriage and leaves your wife feeling rejected.
Flirting and friendliness are not the same thing. We should be warm and friendly with everyone. That’s just good manners. Flirting, on the other hand, is about trying to direct the relationship to somewhere more intimate. This can be communicated with body language, sharing personal details, spending private time together, touch, special favors, and favoritism. Again, these are all signals that should be reserved for your wife.
Most married people who flirt are usually craving the stimulation of knowing that someone sees them and is responding to them. Flirting doesn’t have to end in a sexual affair to be damaging to a marriage. The infatuation, preoccupation, and energy that is given toward the other person is all about getting something from someone else. It’s not genuine, but, instead, strategic.
You can stop flirting before you completely understand why you’re doing it. Knowledge isn’t the same as understanding, so it’s important for you to work on living faithful to your wife while you figure out your motives for flirting. Here are six ways you can begin setting limits on flirting:
- Be honest with your wife about your flirting problem, sincerely apologize to her, and commit to her that you will do everything in your power to eliminate this from your life. Chances are your wife already knows you have a problem with this and is deeply hurt by it. Don’t make excuses and don’t pretend that your behaviors are harmless for a man your age. Give your wife full confidence that she’s the only one and you’ll make this right.
- Get professional help if this has been a problem for much of your life. You may have deeper emotional or attachment issues that make it hard for you to be completely faithful to your wife. Invite a professional into your life who can ask good questions, hold you accountable, and help you understand yourself better.
- Talk about your wife in a positive way with other people, especially other women. Always make sure to include something positive about your marriage, something you love about her, and any other indicators that you are happily married.
- Do not share personal things with other women. Don’t talk about personal or home problems or seek advice about these things from other women. Confiding is something that creates intimacy.
- Pay attention to your body language and make sure it’s more closed than open. Don’t make prolonged eye contact, touch other women anywhere on their body, and position yourself to lean away and be more closed. You can still be warm and professional. You can show someone that you’re interested in what they’re saying without inviting more closeness.
- Avoid any situations where you are alone with the opposite sex. If flirting is a problem for you, then never put yourself in a situation where you’re alone with another woman. Make sure you have a friend, or even better, your wife around. You don’t need to have individual friendships with women. Any woman you want to befriend should be a friend to your marriage.
Even though you might set these boundaries around your behaviors, your flirting problem won’t end if you don’t develop some insight into what you need from flirting. Remember that flirting with someone who is not your spouse is more about what you can get from the other person than what you’re giving to her. As you set these limits, it will free you up to give your full love and attention to your wife
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.