Flirting within a relationship can be incredibly pleasurable. Outside that relationship, there’s potential for trouble. But even inside a couplehood, flirting may mean very different things to each partner, and like any relationship interaction, it can cause confusion in its own way.
Hi, Claire! I have a question for you. My boyfriend and I have been living together for two years now, and (yaaaay!) he recently asked me to marry him! 🙂 But here’s the weird thing. I love to flirt with him all the time, but I get frustrated that he always expects flirting to lead to sex. Does flirting always have to lead to sex? Can’t I flirt without my boyfriend thinking I want to hop in bed? Sometimes I just enjoy the flirting!!! – Janey
Congrats on your engagement, Janey, and thanks for taking time to write. On the one had, you might think that committed couples would hardly need flirting tips, but your question comes up all the time, especially in long-term relationships. The sooner you solve it, the happier the two of you are going to be.
To that end, I talked to Nick, who has answered a couple of questions for me before. He’s always willing to let us women look around inside his head. Plus, I pay him in tacos…
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Claire: Ready to give us some flirting tips and masculine insights?
Nick: Will there be tacos at the end?
Claire: With fresh cilantro from the Farmer’s Market.
Nick: I’m in.
Claire: Is it possible to flirt with the man you love and NOT have it end in bed?
Nick: Well, for that kind of flirting to work well between a committed couple, it’s important that you have an explicit conversation with your partner about the fact that you enjoy flirting with him – even overtly sexual flirting – that does NOT lead directly to sex.
The reason that’s important is because – and this is more true for younger men, but really for all men – there’s a “default” in men’s minds where we assume…
“Hey, if I know she’s interested, why would I stop here? Why NOT take it all the way?”
It helps a guy to KNOW that there’s a good reason to stop before going all the way to the bedroom (or back room, or closet, etc). That good reason is: “She likes to ONLY flirt sometimes.”
Men love to do things their woman likes.
We may not understand the reason WHY a woman likes to stop there, but we can accept it when we know.
Sometimes a woman has a good reason, like she’s too tired, too distracted, whatever.
Claire: Are guys never “too tired, too distracted, whatever” for sex?
Nick: Over the age of 40, sometimes. Under the age of 40, nope.
Claire: But so does a woman have to have that specific “I don’t want this to lead to sex” conversation with a man EVERY DAY?? Because that seems excessive. Even puppies eventually learn not to chew on shoes or jump up on people by default.
Nick: No, you don’t have to say it every day – or every time you flirt – but you have to have it at least once, otherwise he’s confused.
Claire: I think women have LOTS of reasons to flirt with men, and men have ONE reason….
Nick: The only difference for guys is time scale. For a man, if he’s already in a sexual relationship, then he considers flirting to be foreplay, and expects sex to happen tonight. Or as soon as possible.
If he’s not yet in a sexual relationship, then he considers the purpose of flirting to get to that sexual relationship. So it may not be that you jump in the sack TONIGHT, but in a man’s mind, you’ll hopefully be doing that soon.
So what reasons do women have for flirting?
Claire: OMG, tons. We flirt to socialize, to get men to notice us, to exert power, to have fun, to get a guy to do something we want, to show other women our power, to boost our self-confidence… The list goes on and on!
Nick: Oh… I had no idea.
Claire: Yep. Total potential disconnect for a committed couple, huh?
Nick: Well, yeah. I guess I suspected this, but listening to your running list, I’m a little bit floored.
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Claire: So, let’s go back to the conversation that women should have with men that communicates that they don’t expect flirting to end in sex. What does that look like?
“I really love flirting with you. I love that funny grin you get when I lean over at dinner and I know you’re looking down my shirt. And sometimes we end up in bed together and I like that, too. But sometimes I just enjoy flirting with you, then curling up together on the couch with popcorn and an action flick, before we both turn in for the night. I like it when I know our flirting does not always have to lead to sex. What do you think?”
And she should be ready to field his next obvious question: “How will I know which times I should strip you naked, or when I should just flip through our Netflix queue?”
Claire: Yeah, that will probably lead to a longer conversation because there isn’t a simple answer that fits every situation.
What she WANTS is for him to put forth the extra effort to read the situation and to read her and figure out what would be her preference.
Nick: Right. And HE wants her to communicate as clearly as possible, because he knows he sucks at those subtle signals.
But she’s laid the groundwork, so now he’ll be clued in at least.
In a long-term relationship, he’ll get better at reading the signals AND he’ll also learn something really valuable, which is to enjoy ALL the different kinds of flirting she will bring to their relationship. Guys actually do like that, once they get an experience of it. It’s like only ever drinking pilsners, then suddenly learning that there are stouts, lagers, wheat beers, and so on. So much to enjoy!
Claire: There is, isn’t there? Thanks so much for letting us peer into the dark, freaky, and often wonderful recesses of the male mind and heart. You da man. I give you taco.
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