With good reason, we tend to focus on broader, more black-and-white moral questions when it comes to dating. Whether or not it’s ever okay to ghost? (sometimes it’s okay!), whether or not cheating is okay (no, it’s not, but non-monogamy isn’t inherently bad), you know, things that are easily answerable. But what about things that are a bit more, gray. I found this question on the dating advice subreddit, and it piqued my interest:
Okay so I have feelings for this girl but she is dating someone. We have been talking in an amicable way for quite some time and I haven’t flirted or made any moves because I respect relationships. But I’ve gotten some flirtatious vibes from her and I think she has feelings for me too. Her boyfriend is an acquaintance of mine and a nice kid. Is it wrong of me to keep talking to her if (based on my predictions) she might leave him for me?
Let’s lay out the question in a very succinct way, so that I can address each point:
- You have feelings for someone who is in a relationship, but you have respected their relationship
- There’s been a flirty vibe and you think she might be into you too
- You know the boyfriend, though not well
- Is it wrong to talk to her?
There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to someone who is in a relationship, your behavior toward them is what determines what is right or wrong. Think of people who you don’t know personally, but who you find attractive. Whether it’s someone on the street, or a celebrity, or a friend of a friend, odds are good that someone you’ve been attracted to was in a relationship at the time. Nothing wrong there, what would make it wrong is any sort of shady behavior on your part, or the acceptance of shady behavior on their par. If you like someone who is in a relationship, but are generally respectful of their relationship, I would say that you’re morally in the right, whatever that means.
Okay, this is where I might differ from some people. There are just some people who no matter what, you’ll always have a flirty vibe with. Okay, maybe that doesn’t apply to everyone, but I know that for me, it holds true. There are some people who, even if they’re in a relationship, even if I’m not really purposefully trying to, I still have a flirty vibe with because I’m generally a flirty person. There is a difference between having a flirty vibe, compared to actively flirting with someone and not respecting their boundaries, or their partner’s boundaries. If the vibe is generally flirty, that’s probably because there is some attraction there. You’d be wrong if you were actively trying to flirt in the hopes that it will lead somewhere, but if you’re just generally flirty, and the vibe between you and someone else is flirty, but mostly chaste, I think you’re okay. It’s a fine line though, and flirty banter can quickly escalate to flirty touching, which would not be cool.
I’d be lying to you if I said that I’ve never flirted with a woman who has a boyfriend I kind of sort of know. Never anyone I’d call a friend, or even a friend of a friend, but still, not the coolest move on my part to be all flirty with some guy’s lady. Curse my inability to turn off all this charm! Seriously though, knowing someone’s partner adds a layer to it being potentially #problematic, but if you’re not actively flirting with someone and just sort of flirty, it’s not the most screwed up thing to do, but not the coolest thing to do either.
Is it wrong to talk her? Well first let me say, very few people leave one partner for someone else simply because there was some flirty banter between them. You might be a catalyst for them leaving their partner, but I think that few people want to jump directly from one relationship to another one with someone they’re flirting with. Flirting is fun precisely because it’s not a commitment. Do you know how many women I flirted with today? I’m seriously asking because I’ve lost count, but let’s say a dozen to be safe. Do you know how many of those women I’d want to be in a relationship with? Not the same number, that’s for sure. It’s not wrong to talk to her for the same reasons that everything else leading up to that final point hasn’t been wrong. You’re not crossing a major boundary, you’re very passively pushing a boundary.
All that said, what it really all comes down to is whether or not you think you’re wrong. Flirting with someone who is attached is a gray area. Some people will say it’s wrong, some will say it’s okay, and some people like me will give you a shrug and say “It depends”. The best thing that you can do is try to figure out how you’d feel if your partner was being flirted with the same way you’re flirting. How would you feel if your partner had a flirty vibe with someone? If you put yourself in their shoes, and you feel like you wouldn’t be okay with your behavior, stop doing what you’re doing. The way that I’m flirty, if I am flirty with a woman who may be attached, is generally harmless and complimentary, so it probably wouldn’t bother me if I knew that someone had that sort of vibe with someone I’m dating. If you want to flirt with anyone I’m dating by telling them that you admire them, be my guest. Want to tell my hypothetical girlfriend that she’s one of the most talented women you’ve ever met? If you flirt with her like that, how can I be mad? She probably is one of the most talented women you’ve ever met! Anything beyond that, I probably wouldn’t be okay with, so I tend not to flirt with attached women in any other way. If you can’t say the same, that you’d be okay with the way you’re currently flirting if someone flirted that same way with your hypothetical partner, change your behavior until you can say that.
Good Luck Out There.