Friendships, romantic relationships and interactions with acquaintances all need to have proper boundaries in place. When it comes to the subject of flirting, tension can arise regarding what is and isn't appropriate behavior and what is or isn't flirting. If you find yourself in a situation where you're unsure whether you or someone else is flirting, there are some guidelines and rules of thumb that you can consider.
Eye Of The Beholder
To a large extent, what is and isn't flirting is in the eye of the beholder. While people are likely to agree that there's a difference between flirting and being friendly and nice, they are also likely to agree that the difference between them is often difficult to discern, according to the GoAskAlice! website. Conflict might even arise based on the differing opinions of different beholders, as would-be flirters, flirtees, significant others and bystanders can all have a different opinion as to what's really occurring. As a general guideline, flirtatious behavior is different from general nice or friendly behavior in that it has a romantic or sexual overtone to it. However, even if that overtone is there, sometimes flirting is just meant as a fun thing in itself, while in other instances, there might be an intent for the flirting to advance to a romantic relationship or fling. Some people may not consider actions to be flirting if the intent is just fun rather than romantic or sexual involvement.
The Attraction Factor
If you're wondering whether your own behavior is flirtatious or not, ask yourself if you're behaving towards someone to whom you're attracted in a manner that you wouldn't behave towards someone you like, but to whom you aren't attracted. Friendly, outgoing behavior that you reserve for those to whom you're attracted is likely to be a form of flirting -- especially if that behavior is in the realm of compliments or suggestive statements and gestures. Also, if you find yourself trying to elicit those same compliments or suggestions from someone else, you're likely flirting.
Sometimes, others may interpret your actions as flirtatious based on either hope or fear. For example, a man who hopes you're flirting with him might convince himself that you are, or try to convince you that you are to persuade you to give him a chance romantically or make you think you somehow promised to give him a chance. At the same time, a jealous partner might convince himself that you're flirting due to his own insecurities. If you honestly self-examine your own motivations and intentions, and know that you were not trying to flirt, stand your ground. There is no universal standard of behavior -- and you have a right to defend yourself based on your intentions.
If you have to navigate comfort zones and rules with your partner as far as flirting, make sure that the rules you set apply equally to both of you and you agree on them. Consider limiting certain behaviors, such as touching or telling off-color jokes. Your ability to stick to a few concrete rules will help build trust and keep you on the same page when it comes to subjective decisions about what is and isn't flirting.