Can we flirt within our relationships?

Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014
love

OH HI THERE: Flirtation is a nicety dipped in desire. It suggests 'yes' but says 'no'. So how can we do it with our partner?

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My girlfriend's lover wants her to be more flirtatious. Not with other people - he's not the type to like looking at his lady lapping up attention from other fellows. Some people love that, he says. Just not him. He wants all her attention. He wants her, to flirt more, with himself.

"How?" She asks.  

"You know, flirt with me like you would with other guys," he says.

"What do you mean, 'with other guys'? I don't flirt with other guys. At least not on purpose."

The ensuing squabble over this question's answer is how I came to find out about my mate's dilemma. He sees her flirting, he wants her to flirt with him, she has next to no clue what he's talking about. They fight - forget flirting.

"But I'm your girlfriend," she'll say, rolling her eyes. "I'm sleeping with you. I love you. How could I then go and flirt with some other guy? And, more to the point, how exactly am I supposed to flirt with you instead?"

"Well ... Just ... You know." he replies, exasperated. He's frustrated; it seems so clear in his head.

"I mean, there she is, standing at the bar, waiting to order drinks," he tells me. "There are men all around her. And they're all looking at her."

He can tell they want to buy those drinks for her. He wants to tell these guys that one of those drinks is for him. He wants to tell them that, while he's drinking it, he'll be thinking of her with him. In their bed. Naked. Together.

In fact, he wishes she would say 'thanks, no thanks,' then point to him, and tell them that.

But she doesn't. And instead, he watches. He watches her laugh off their approach. He watches her smile at their words. He watches as she waves them off, with those beautiful hands. But he sees that while she seems to be saying go, she's also suggesting they stick around. She's saying 'no', but also 'yes' - or at least, 'yes, possibly'.

Then he sees that they are keener than ever. So he wonders, why can't she see what she's doing?

And, why won't she do that with him?

"What on earth are you talking about?!"

By now, she's infuriated.

"How does politely refusing the offer of a drink from a stranger constitute flirtation? If I was interested, I'd say yes, and that'd be the end of the matter!"

Herein lies the answer.

Flirtation is a social nicety, dipped in naughty desire, that translates roughly into that sort of  deliberate behaviour which suggests "yes" while saying "no". Call it flirtation, call it coquettishness, anyone who calls themselves a flirt knows exactly what I'm talking about. Anyone who says they don't flirt, or doesn't understand what flirtation is all about, needs to heed this rudimentary equation:

Basically, "yes" + "yes" = "boring". But! When "no" = "yes", then "no" + "yes" = "interesting".

The trick? Understanding when "no" = "yes", and not being mistaken when "no" = "no". Lacking literacy in this regard = trouble. Indeed, complete ignorance, or determined disregard, can lead to very big, serious trouble. I choose to think readers of this missive are civilised enough to comprehend this point.

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Of course, that's not the position my girlfriend is in. She is saying "no", and meaning it, to the random male strangers. It's her boyfriend - her "yes" - who sees it differently. By his calculation, she seems to be saying "no" = "yes". Therefore she is "interested", therefore she is flirting, therefore he has a problem.

"But I'm not!" She protests she is just being friendly and polite. As she said, she doesn't want to be with anyone else but him. But he's convinced she wants to be with other people.

So she asks, "How can I convince him I just want to be with him? And how can I flirt with someone who I have nothing to say to but yes, yes, yes = bloody YES!?"

Well, her first question is tricky. Perhaps he has some insecurities preventing him from accepting her love. Perhaps they could begin with an exploration of such issues. Perhaps he needs to address an inferiority complex, or at least chill-out, deal with his lack of social sophistication, and take her at her word.

As for the next notion - turning a committed relationship into a risque flirtation-ship - well. Well that's also quite hard, especially if you're not someone who - like my girl's guy - is not so au fait with l'art de la belle tourment.

But is it possible? Can you really flirt within a relationship?

I believe you can. Simply, it's about remembering that, while you've said "yes", there's an "n" and an "o", and an "i" and "u" in 'innuendo, and innuendo - like the in jokes you share with your oldest and dearest friends - has a real place in loving relationships. Though, because it's shared with your lover, it's far more provocative. Flirtatiously so. Double the entendre! Do something that suggests "no", while meaning "yes", and put the affair back into your love.

But what do you think? Is flirtation possible between two parties who agree they want to be with each other? And if it is, is that a good or a bad sign?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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