Ethics of Flirtation
I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.
There is this beautiful woman who I play volleyball with. Let’s call her Rachel. I have become pretty good friends with Rachel over the last year or two. I have always found her incredibly attractive and cool, not just physically, but all of her. She is a wonderful woman. The reasons I think she is beautiful aren’t really relevant to this question though.
You see Rachel is married with a couple wonderful kids. I have always sensed a bit of sexual tension between us, but until recently I thought it was probably mostly on my part. I think she is one of the coolest people I know, I love her. I love her like I love a person I adore, it is not romantic, it is simply immense affection and attraction. It probably could become romantic, but I would never pursue such feelings since she is married.
Flirting is fun. Recently, I sort of escalated my flirting with Rachel, and I thought it was no big deal. I figured she was happily married, and I never really thought she took any of my flirting seriously. But when I escalated the flirtation to little comments about how attractive I found her, jokingly inviting her to go dancing with me, teasing her asking what her husband would think of that…something may have changed. I initially thought she just trusted me and thought it was good fun with a friend. I figured she would draw boundaries wherever she needed them, and I would observe them. For instance, she would never really go dancing with me. I really didn’t think she actually considered acting on her attraction to me.
But still, after that night I escalated the flirting, she seemed really affected by it. She seemed to really respond and the attraction between us became very obvious to me and everyone around us (her husband not being one of the people around us at volleyball).
So during the drive home that night I was chatting with a couple of my friends, both older women, one who was happily married, one recently divorced. They were laughing about how much Rachel and I were flirting, and they were saying how obvious it was she was really enjoying it.
I asked them if they thought I was doing anything wrong by flirting with her? I mean, I figured out I was evoking some strong emotions in her, but I thought it was all harmless fun. As I said, I relied upon Rachel to draw her own boundaries, but I do have boundaries myself. If Rachel actually propositioned me…I would not have an affair with her. I would never take part in a deception like that. I am attracted to her, but I don’t really know her that well. If she was available, I would love to get to know her better…in fact, even unavailable, I cherish the time I get to spend with her. I consider her a dear friend, one of my favorite people in the world.
I now have a girlfriend…and I have just learned that Rachel may be more than a little affected by my flirting. My girlfriend has “suggested” to me that it is highly inappropriate to flirt with a married woman, especially when I know it affects her.
My question is, I know most people will simply react with, “It is wrong to flirt with a married woman.” But, I sort of feel this is overreacting. What IS wrong is to lie to your partner. If you are attracted to a friend, is it better to just repress and hide that, or to have it out in the open, talk about it, and even joke about it?
Could my flirting with Rachel cause the destruction of her marriage? The only way that could happen I think is if her marriage was already in bad shape. To a healthy marriage, a little playful flirtation shouldn’t be a threat…even with a friend to whom one is strongly attracted. If Rachel’s marriage encounters problems, flirting with me may serve a spark to see those problems, but it would not have created them.
But speaking to my girlfriend, has made me think a little differently. But basically it suggests to me that I should not give Rachel, or other people, as much responsibility for their own actions as I am inclined. I know my boundaries, but other people may be enticed by attraction and flirtation to cross boundaries they really don’t want to. Is it my job to try and see that and prevent it?
Ok. So let me have it. What do you think? What are your ethics of flirting with a married person? Yes, no, or it depends…and upon what does it depend.