Ask Andrew – Is it OK for my partner to flirt at parties?
I read “I love you but…” and there it stood that sometimes partners are very different and the differences can become a threat that can make a partner controlling or trying to be like the partner wants them to be. I think I have become controlling because I can´t accept that my partner sometimes behaves almost flirty with other women. It seems like he want to make them like him and make them feel special but at the same time this makes me feel that I’m not special for him if he treat other women the same or sometimes even more flirty than he treats me. (Nice words, slight touch on arms or leg…such behaviour that you mentioned in your book that one can use as a love language to show the partner love he uses on other women as well.) I think such behaviour can be like foreplay for women and maybe even for men and that one should only flirt with ones partner if one has a relationship because of respect for the partner but also because the other women can take the flirting seriously and flirt back and that can lead to more than just flirting.) Should a partner really accept such behaviour?
I think he behaved like that even before we met, so it seems to be a part of his personality. He probably likes women in general. I just wish he could just talk to them in the same way as he talks with men, and only flirt with me. If he flirts with others and say it´s just a game, I even start doubting how real his flirting or nice behaviour towards me is. maybe it was his nice behaviour to me that made me like him in the beginning, but I never liked when he behaved flirty to other women. Sometimes I even wonder how much he meant the nice behaviour he showed me in the beginning. but he most have liked me since we have been together for many years. I think he has always been faithful. It´s just that I don´t like his flirty behaviour and it makes me compare myself to other women. I have hard to follow my partner to food-stores because I’m worried he will look after other women or start talking to nice to them. I guess it has to do with my bad self-esteem and my doubts about if my partner loves me or not and not only with his behaviour with other women, but his behaviour doesn’t help me feel more self-esteem or secure about our relationship. What do you think about flirting with others than a partner?
Congratulations on a thoughtful letter. It seems as you’ve put your problems down that you’ve began to realise this is just as much about you (and how you feel about yourself) as it is about him (and his behaviour).
So let me try and unpack this a little. It must be hard to see him being so friendly to other women but as I’m not there to witness, it’s hard to know if he’s overstepped the line between being nice to others (which makes the world a better place) or trying to make everybody like him to boost his self-confidence (which is OK but can lead to problems) and fishing for sexual conquests (definitely not acceptable).
I have one overriding principle: We are responsible for our own self-esteem. We can’t outsource to our partner to constantly big us up. Sure they can help us when we’re down but it’s not their responsibility to to carry us through the world. With this principle in mind, I think is wrong to expect our beloved to see into our heads and understand our twisted interpretations. For example, ‘being nice to someone else means that you never really meant the nice things you said to me.’ That is a big leap in logic! And unfair to ask someone to live their life so they don’t trigger your over-thinking.
I would much rather you worked on your self-esteem (see Learn to love yourself enough) and learn to be more responsible for feeling good about yourself. When you have a more balanced view of yourself, you will be able to make a better judgement of whether your partner’s flirting is overstepping the mark and have a calm discussion about it.