Belfast Telegraph

Everyone loves to flirt, but it’s such a fine line

By Cathy Martin

There is much to be said for a girls’ night out. Or indeed a boys’ night out. Or indeed a weekend away for either gender when in a relationship.

If done properly — that is, with the focus on fun, catching up and having a great time — then as a partner, should you complain? Absolutely not.

As women, we should all remember that it’s positively ok to get dressed up, get our hair done, nails manicured and make-up on when it’s just for a night with gal pals. It’s healthy and uplifting to join female-only friends for a good old gossip, a dance, a chick flick, a book club, a spa treat or a cocktail or two if that’s what you’re into. Chances are your husband or partner might not like partaking in some (or any) of those activities, so why not do what you want to do with people who want to do it too, rather than forcing a potentially resentful partner to compromise and join you? (Bearing in mind that this may also result in you having to sit through rugby or football matches, go camping or reluctantly do whatever his chosen pastime is. And for me, I’m just too time-poor to do this.)

All-girl or all-boy events somehow refuel us and our capacity to have fun and love life — and we can bring this positivity back into our relationships to the benefit of both parties. Personally, my husband is not a seafood fan, so I like nothing better than a seafood restaurant on a weekend away with the girls in the sunshine. And when he’s with me, we eat differently — it works.

There’s definitely a simple cost-benefit-analysis approach when considering a partner’s weekend away, as it can be mutually beneficial and not just a concession to make in a relationship. Without sounding too tit-for-tat, my partner’s enjoyment usually translates into huge advantages and a bit of payback for me, which, like many women, I love.

Take gossip, for example, which many of my chums love. A night full of celebrity or fashion gossip and sounding off — even if it does involve a teeny bit of man-bashing — will get things out of any woman’s system so their partner doesn’t have to listen to it. Plus, having offloaded her woes on a night out, a woman is more likely to come home chilled and relaxed.

And then there’s flirting. As naughty as it seems, it can have benefits — as long as boundaries are respected and no-one takes the biscuit. Flirting with the opposite sex (within reason, of course) can make us feel sexy and desirable. And while this might initially sound unacceptable, remember that most people don't actually want to go home with a person they flirt with in a bar or a club. Instead, nine times out of ten, your partner will come home to you. And when they do, their appetite for affection will be revved up, and you will reap the benefits of others’ efforts.

There are, of course, nights out or weekends away that are cover-ups for infidelities and more than mischievous behaviour. These, I do not endorse. But for those who engage in this kind of behaviour, it’s their own choice, and after all, who knows people’s real reasons? Complaints and jealousy are definitely warranted if your partner becomes mysteriously uncontactable, does not return home the same night or comes back smelling of strange cologne or perfume. But most likely, your partner just wants an innocent night of fun with his or her posse, so stalking should be avoided and a tacit agreement to live and let live respected.

So if a flirtatious stranger offers you a drink in the spirit of Christmas this month, accept it gracefully — have a laugh with them even, but think wisely where the line should be drawn and remember the benefits of the good old self-esteem-boosting flirt as opposed to the more dangerous (and guilt-ridden) kiss. It’s where affairs start and relationships end.

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