5 Things That Happen When You Stop Flirting in Your Marriage, Experts Say
It’s more than meets than eye when it comes to keeping the spark alive.
It’s true that after people get married, they stop dating. Sure, you may do a ‘dinner and the movies’ night once a month, or the occasional show or sporting event. But what about all the other things that come with dating, and that initial love-bombing phase when you can’t keep your hands off each other?
Studies show that flirting is just important for couples as it is for singles. While as a single, you may flirt to try and create sexual chemistry, married couples do it to “create a private world with their spouse.”
This could be as simple as a provocative post-it note, or a sexy snap sent via smartphone. “Start to make an effort to compliment your partner’s appearance regularly, send them texts that they look sexy or beautiful, prioritize consistent date nights when you can both dress up and be flirtatious with each other, and tell them how good it feels when your partner pays attention to you in a flirtatious way,” suggests Justine Carino, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor in New York, and host of the Thoughts From the Couch podcast.
Little things can be big things, when it comes to keeping the spark alive. “When was the last time you touched your partner when you didn’t need to, like a little shoulder brush as you pass by them in the kitchen? How about the last time you tried to learn something new to impress them? Hold their hand while you walk the dog or make them a surprise coffee?,” asks Bonnie Scott, MA, LPC-S, therapist and owner of Mindful Kindness Counseling in San Antonio, TX.
“These are things that make us feel taken care of, make us feel special and prioritized. There was a time you believed the person you chose was the most interesting, sexy, fun person in your life; flirting helps you remember those feelings and it’s a reliable way to connect to your partner.”
While we know all the simple ways we can flirt (and some of it should just come naturally), we get into the rigamarole of life and suddenly it just stops.
“Things happen when you stop flirting in a marriage that are detrimental to the relationship,” states Jenn Mann, M.D., author and star of VH1’s Couples Therapy.
Basically, flirting keeps that relationship flame burning. “When we stop flirting, we can give the impression to our partner that we aren’t interested. It can seem we take them for granted, or we aren’t attracted, or we are bored,” explains Scott.
“When you first meet a potential partner, going on dates and feeling that energy, it’s fueled by flirting. We try so hard to be fun and interesting and witty, and all of that leads to desire and connection. When you stop being really purposeful about flirting, the desire starts to drop off and we settle into routines and ruts. Flirting keeps things interesting and keeps that flame of fun going.”
Here are 5 things that happen when you stop flirting in your marriage.
1. You lose sexual chemistry.
When you stop flirting, you lose the sexual energy and tension in the relationship— and that could land you both squarely in the friend zone. “Over time, especially without flirting, it’s easy to feel too familiar and familial. When your partner starts to feel too much like family, it starts to feel weird to be sexual with them. Flirting keeps the sexual vibe in the relationship,” says Dr. Jenn.
Your marriage may start to feel more like a friendship or platonic relationship, instead of a healthy marriage with both sexual and emotional intimacy, our experts say.
2. You seek validation elsewhere.
“This is a slippery slope that can make one or both partners more vulnerable to an affair,” says Dr. Jenn. “They are more vulnerable to the flirtations of other people because it will make them feel sexy, excited and alive,” she adds.
This is exactly the situation that happens when that former high-school friend suddenly slides into their DMs. “Your partner could start to feel less sexually desired by you and possibly look for reassurance or attention that they are still desirable outside of the marriage such as on social media, with co-workers or when out with friends,” says Carino.
3. It can make disagreements more stressful.
It’s hard to get worked up about a towel on the floor when you feel like your partner really appreciates and adores you. But when you’re not feeling that way? That dirty towel on the floor is enough to send you spiraling. “When flirting disappears, tension, stress and conflict tend to go up,” says Dr. Jenn.
Flirting is also a bid for attention and the more those are met in positive ways, the more connected we feel, explains Scott. “When we miss those bids, partners are more likely to start to nag or criticize because a missed bid is really damaging to our bonds.”
4. It’s harder to stay connected post-kids.
A few years into a marriage, especially once kids arrive, you don’t always have the energy to do the deed. “Flirting is a good way to stay sexually connected even when you don’t have the energy for the full on gymnastics of the event. If you lose the flirt and the sex, it is extremely hard to stay connected emotionally,” explains Dr. Jenn.
5. You’re never in the mood.
The order of desire sometimes changes as we get older or when we are in a long-term relationship, and flirting is essentially foreplay. “We don’t always feel hot and horny and then run and go have sex. Sometimes we get in the mood once we’re already in the act. Flirting can help get us warmed up even if we’re not full on there, sometimes that comes once the balls are in motion, so to speak. If we don’t flirt at all, sex, can feel like a chore if we’re not totally in the mood,” says Dr. Jenn.
Moral of the story? Get your flirting on. Your relationship will reap all the benefits.