Intimate love — 11 December 2008
For a more passionate connection – flirt with your partner

Flirting, a communication behavior intended to attract attention and/or sexual interest is welcomed under some circumstances and frowned upon in others. It is accepted in courtship initiation, discouraged in the workplace and under-emphasized within committed relationships. Yet, flirting can be very helpful in charging couples’ intensity by expressing their joyful appreciation for and attraction to each other.

With the exception of single people being flirtatious during dating, flirting has been discouraged in most other circumstances. Being labeled a flirt is often associated with being deemed not serious, perhaps inappropriate, disrespectful, immature or even unfaithful.

Research by Dr. Yarab and associates found that both men and women expect high levels of jealousy, if their partner’s were to engage in extra-dyadic (out of the couple’s relationship) flirting. Extra dyadic flirting was also considered unfaithful behavior.

Dr. David Dryden Henningsen’s research yielded six motivations for flirting: Sex motivation, relational motivation to increase intimacy in existing relationship, exploring motivation for starting a romantic relationship, fun motivation, esteem motivation to enhance one’s own self-esteem, and instrumental motivation to gain rewards from another.

Most people have participating in at least one of those forms of flirting, though some people claim that they are either aversed to, unschooled in or principally avoid being flirtatious. Others describe themselves “just friendly” when they hope to receive better services or products at a reduced cost in situations where flexibility exists. Some openly state that they enjoy harmless, non-sexual flirting as a fun communication method. Research by Drs. Lee and Guerrero supports these claims that flirting tends to also emerge as a unique factor independent of romantic attraction. Dr Scheflen coined the term quasi-courtship to describe the same flirting behavior seen in courtship initiation behavior, but with no sexual intent.

Even non-sexual flirting can cause difficulties to one or both parties. Office sexual harassment cases, for example, may be initiated by a poor delivery by a fun intentioned and less socially aware individual or by misread quasi-courtship intent, among others.

Flirting is partially instinctual and women often initiate the contact. Dr. Monica Moore, who spent more than 1000 hours observing singles and cataloguing fifty-two behaviors defined as flirtatious, such as: hair flipping, lip licking, pouting and smiling coyly concluded that when a man approaches a woman for a first dance, it is not bravery, but a response to a behavior pre-approved by the woman. David Givens, author of Love Signals concurs, ”A man rarely approaches a strange woman without receiving some indication beforehand-almost always a nonverbal cue.”

When two people in a loving committed relationship elect to be flirtatious with each other they are safe to do so without the threats and complications of flirting in other situations. Not only can couples feel freer to playfully flirt with each other – it is a wonderful way to recharge their personal, emotional and sexual spark.

• Remember your courtship and you will be reminded of how to flirt. Begin with loving, sexual, playful thoughts about your partner.
• Use your eyes to convey your love, stare intently and smile. Hug, touch tenderly, and initiate dancing and playful acts.
• Tell your mate what of his/her physical and sensual attributes you most admire.
• Remind your partner what he/she used to do in courtship that aroused you.
• Play your song/s and reminisce of your earlier days, even if you have been together only a short time.
• If you are the female, remember that you are the “signal” giver. Your mate will respond. If you are the man, read her cues carefully.
• Be bold in creating romantic environment that is arousing for you. When you feel good about yourself, you convey the enticement to your mate.
• Flirting affirms your lover’s desirability, reduces stress and facilitates emotional and physical intimacy of a much higher intensity for both of you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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