By: Misty Smith

A friend of mine sent me a text this morning that read: “FLIRTATIONSHIP; More than a friendship less than a relationship.” I thought…WOW! I had no idea there was a word for this…lol, and I just couldn’t resist using this. I mean we are talking about “Gray” areas here, and this is definitely one of them. It is so true today. Be honest—How many of you have had flirtatious texting relationships while married or in a relationship? The texting probably started innocent enough. I’m sure it began as a simple phone number swap for “business” reasons. Let me say that I will not be gender biased in this discussion because men and women do it equally, and they are doing it more and more! But why?

Is it because it is a “rush” to be doing something so risqué and forbidden? Is it because we are just flirty by nature, and it’s hard to put aside those behaviors forever? I mean, come on, how many of us could have been voted “biggest flirt” in our high school yearbooks…LOL (besides me of course)! Do we need the self-esteem boost every once in a while? One person telling us how amazing we are might not be enough to keep us feeling great about ourselves for very long; maybe we need to hear it from multiple people. Is it simply HOTTER when you hear those comments from someone other than your significant other? Relationships often get in ruts, or, as I like to call it “getting comfortable”. We say our “I Love You’s” between cooking, cleaning, jobs…  let’s not forget kids, who can ruin a moment with your sexy someone extremely fast..

There are so many possibilities…which one is applicable to you? I think at this point, I have seen examples of all of these reasons in the people I know. I have other questions though. Does your spouse know that you have flirty-texting friends? Do they care? Do they have one also? Does it somehow add to your relationship, or do you find that is causes more of a strain on your relationship, whether it is a secret or not? The biggest question though is, “When is a “flirtationship” not enough?” I recently had a friend talk with me about this type of behavior because it was the beginning of the end for their marriage, and so the story begins.

It started harmlessly with texting for “business” reasons. There were a few texts back and forth…very innocent ones. Then the individuals began texting a bit more just for some casual friendly conversation. Quite a few days later there was a flirty-text sent, AND, to their surprise, it was not rejected. It actually received a very positive reception. Sooooo….there was another and then another. The relationship quickly went from a “business” relationship to a “flirtationship.” It was that easy!!! Because the “high” of that first experience was just not enough, there was another relationship that became a “flirtationship”. The texting went from flirty to what we will refer to as “sexy” really quickly. It was HOT! It was something, that after years of marriage, was not experienced any more. There was more attention and time spent on this “flirtationship” than on the marriage. I know…it is really sad, but it is what happened. The things that can be said thru a text are so much more extreme than those said in person for many people. Now what happened when the flirty-texting wasn’t enough? The curiosity was beyond control. They met! They have “sexy” texted about all of the things they would do, and it was time to “prove” it. The build-up had been so intense, that when they met, they acted on the feelings. We are all human. This happens with one person, and then another. There was lie after lie told until they were caught. It happens…none of us are infallible. Forgiveness was offered, but they just couldn’t stop. A spouse, kids, a home, stability, friends….GONE…just like that!

Now this is a true story, and for how many of you does this story apply? We all think we are the epitome of self-control. It’s just for fun! It’s enhancing my “intimacy.” I would never let it go that far. And then it does. The questions then change. What do I do? How do I stop? What if someone finds out? What if they tell?

You tell me. Is it worth it? Are there benefits? Are the rewards greater than the risks? Has it cost you or someone you know an important relationship, or EVERYTHING?

About this column: Please be aware that this column potentially addresses sensitive issues that might, at times, be considered offensive. Feel free to send your relationship-related questions to my email: Be aware that email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information so it’s best to keep your questions general. If your question is featured in the column, your name and email will not be published. Submitting a question does not constitute a professional relationship in any way, and this column is not meant to substitute for face-to-face therapy. If you feel you’re doing the best you can and still need help, it may be time to seek counseling services from a professional. You may also join in on the conversations over on her Facebook page.

Misty Smith, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She owns a private practice, Smith Counseling Services, Inc. She obtained her Master’s degree in Counseling from Jacksonville State University, an Educational Specialist degree from The University of Alabama, and her Doctorate in Counselor Education from Mississippi State University. She provides counseling services in the following areas: couples/marriage, family, stress management, employee assistance services, time management, divorce, and other major life changes. She generally focuses on solution-focused brief therapy, as well as, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques, but feels a flexible approach to therapy is necessary because all people are different. She is a wife of 10 years and a mom to a 5 year-old daughter, a 3 year-old son, a 19 year-old step-son, a 16 year-old step-daughter, and a 20 year-old Russian exchange daughter.