Should I Tell My Spouse Every Time Someone Flirts With Me?

Everyone encounters unwanted flirtation from time to time, whether married or single. Some of us may find it dismaying when, as a married person, we receive that kind of attention from another individual. Having someone flirt with you can be particularly upsetting when it’s someone you know, such as a coworker or friend.

So, should you tell your spouse every time someone flirts with you? The answer really depends on the situation. Let’s talk about it.

Take Stock of Your Spouse First

Before you decide how to handle a situation that involves unwanted flirtation, consider how your spouse may respond to it. Using their personality and past experiences as a litmus test will help you make clearer decisions on how to approach each situation as it comes.

Generally speaking, most people feel safer and more comfortable when they’re able to share these experiences with their spouse, and vice versa. Being able to easily communicate about a flirty coworker and how the encounter made you feel, for example, could help your spouse feel reassured. Open communication tends to deepen trust between the two of you. Most people have deeper trust for one another, the more they know.

On the other hand, your spouse may be the type of person who reacts in jealousy or anger. If that’s the case, you may want to tread lightly when it comes to how much you disclose. Let’s say you have a flirtatious coworker, for example. These are some of the questions you could ask before you decide whether to disclose the interaction:

  • How will my spouse react to this information? Will they be jealous or angry?
  • Will they react in a reasonable manner or become irrational?
  • Are they likely to respond in a way that harms my work situation or puts my job at risk?
  • Is there any possibility that my coworker has done, or will do, something that could make my spouse believe I returned the flirtation?
  • How will my disclosing or withholding of this information affect the relationship between me and my spouse?
  • Will my spouse respond with grace and understanding, leading to deeper trust?

You can apply similar questions to any scenario before you decide. That said, each situation will require its own unique considerations. So let’s look at how you might potentially handle a few common scenarios.

When It’s a Complete Stranger

Sometimes, strangers are flirtatious. Maybe it’s someone you cross paths with at the store or the airport. These encounters can occasionally be inappropriate and may make you feel uncomfortable.

As long as you didn’t feel endangered or threatened by the individual in any way, it’s probably safe to let the situation go. If it makes you feel better to tell your spouse, that’s okay, too. But if your spouse is more prone to jealousy, it might be best not to recount the tale and tell a trusted friend instead.

When It’s a Coworker

It can be incredibly unnerving to have a coworker flirt with you. Based on your assessment of your spouse’s reaction and the individual situation, it’s time to get this handled. You don’t want an uncomfortable situation at work to drag out.

If possible, you might want to consider dealing with the situation at work and keeping it there, rather than bringing your spouse into it or taking it home with you. Here are a few approaches you could take:

  • Firmly, but kindly, remind your coworker that you are happily married and are not comfortable with flirting (they may not realize they’ve made you uncomfortable!)
  • Set healthy boundaries with this coworker; for example, don’t go to lunch with them solo–take another colleague along if you can
  • Take the issue to your supervisor (and up the chain, if need be) if it continues or escalates in any way
  • Consider changing jobs if the situation becomes too uncomfortable (we hope it doesn’t come to this)

When It’s a Friend

Dealing with a flirtatious friend is an entirely different–and more complicated–issue. While you might be able to dismiss a random stranger’s flirtation or contain a flirty coworker situation in the workplace, your friend is a part of your personal life. While we can’t speak to your unique situation, if a friend is flirting with you, you’ll need to take some steps to deter it quickly because it could create a serious breach of trust in your marriage and extended relationships.

If you can, attempt to deter the flirtation through direct discouragement (i.e., “That made me feel uncomfortable. Please don’t do it again.”), then set boundaries for your future interactions with them. If it’s a family friend or a friend of your spouse, the situation becomes more complex. A licensed therapist can give you additional tools to help you navigate the situation more effectively, both with your spouse and your friend.

Conclusion

Deciding whether to tell your spouse every time someone flirts with you is really a personal decision and should be made on a case-by-case basis. There are some scenarios where it might not be necessary, and others where it will be. Either way, if you need solid guidance on your unique situation, speaking with a licensed therapist is your best bet.

Do you tell your spouse every time someone flirts with you? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop us a comment and let us know.

4 Comments

  • Larry Compter says:

    Generally good advice, although I lean toward telling couples to be totally open and honest about such things, especially early in the marriage. Assuming the couple has not had problems with jealousy before the wedding, it’s important to begin building trust early on, and direct communication is the best way to do that. If you make a habit of being transparent as newlyweds, it makes it much easier to build that trusting relationship over time. “Ignore it and maybe it will go away” is generally not a wise road to follow.
    That said, I agree that if there is a history of jealousy, or any hint of potential for domestic violence (whether verbal, sexual, emotional or physical) it is definitely time to see a therapist, even if there has NOT been a flirting incident. Very often, a thorough premarital preparation program such as PREPARE-ENRICH, FOCCUS or SYMBIS will uncover such tendencies and they can be dealt with before there is any lasting damage to the relationship. Pre-engagement preparation is even better, since it is easier to break off a dangerous relationship before wedding plans begin rather than after. [Larry Compter, retired Executive Director of Compass Marriage and Relationship Services in Lynchburg VA]

  • Michael Van Dyke says:

    My wife and I have been married 40 years. The first time I did it my wife reacted complete opposite of what I had expected. I told her because I loved her and had no thought whatsoever of being unfaithful. I thought being open about it protected both of us. Well I found out that we had to have many discussions on boundaries and how this would look and play out for us. As we have talked over the years we have resolved that we both do this to build that bond of trust. Since then we find safety in each other as a long term result. Our relationship became stronger for the effort. I for one am good with that.

  • Larry the S says:

    First off, what is defined as flirting? If the two people are familiar to each other, being co-workers or friends, can everyday, non worked related banter be considered flirting? If someone is wearing a new outfit, has lost weight or has a new hairstyle, and is complimented on the new look, is that considered flirting? So is flirting solely interpreted as such in the ears of the receptor?

    • Alan G. says:

      I second Larry’s questions here. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so goes flirting. One person’s kind conversation can be another person’s flirtatious actions.

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