Imagine being on Instagram and seeing a certain post that your partner liked and commented on. The comment is something along the lines of  ‘Beautiful (heart emoji)’. You confront your partner and they don’t see anything wrong with what they did, to them it was just harmless flirting with a friend.

Was it harmless flirting or was it cheating? Flirtations are slippery slopes, and what one person may consider cheating, another person may see differently. This is why “flirting” has been so hard to define.

 The urban dictionary defines flirting as behaving sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions. Can it really just be seen as friendly banter, or does it cross the line into something more serious? 

We asked some young people whether they personally thought cheating was flirting:

“Yes, if you cannot flirt with someone in my presence, that means you know it’s disrespectful,” said Tim, 19.

“Yes, because you are crossing a boundary. Why do you like random pics of girls? Why are you commenting on their posts on social media? All these questions tell you when your partner is wilding, and you should never create situations that can be misinterpreted,” said Raquel, 17.

“No. If you think your partner being nice to other people is cheating, then maybe you have trust issues.” Zoe, 22

“If it crosses the line, I don’t believe people can emotionally cheat, and I don’t think by flirting, they are cheating as well. To me, cheating is all physical; flirting is harmless fun when you talk to someone interesting, but it doesn’t mean you want to sleep with them. I can appreciate an attractive person even if I am in a relationship.” Sikelela, 22.

“Cheating is anything that the people in the relationship decide it to be. When you date someone, there are certain boundaries that both parties establish. They may decide flirting is okay, or they may decide it’s not. They may decide to have an open relationship/not, as long as they agree with their expectations, whether by societal standards it is cheating or not, it’s sorely dependent on the parties involved. So we can’t let social constructs determine how we should be in our relationships unless it directly affects society.” Nangamso, 24

When it comes to flirting, it can take a lot of work and communication with your partner to know where the line is. So we have some things to consider when you’re in a relationship:

-Are you keeping your flirtations a secret from your partner? If so, that’s a red flag.

-Do you fantasise about being with someone other than your partner? Again, this is a red flag.

-Is flirting with others making you feel guilty or like you’re betraying your partner somehow? If so, it’s probably time to reevaluate your actions.

Boundaries can decide if what you’re doing is crossing the line. If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you would feel if your partner was doing the same thing. If the answer makes you uncomfortable, it’s best to back off.

If you enjoyed this article, check out how to be single on Valentine’s.

Tell us: Is flirting cheating, and if so, how should you approach your partner/s?