Illustration for the Bushwick Daily by Jeremy Nguyen Illustration for the Bushwick Daily by Jeremy Nguyen

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Dear Dr. Lisa,

Recently I’ve been in a serious relationship. I’m not used to it, and I really love my boyfriend, but I’m definitely used to flirting to get what I want, whether that’s a free drink at a cafe or some publicity on a project I’m working on. I would never actually do anything though. Is this wrong?

—I do what I have to.

Dear Have To,

In order to answer this question, I referred to the research done by a leading flirting expert, Dr. Henningsen, of Northern Illinois University. He proposed that there are six reasons why we flirt (discussed below). Dr. Henningsen has also found that “men often overestimate the female’s interest and interpret flirtatious behavior as more sexual than intended.”

Just so you know, guys—Dr. Frisby from University of Kentucky, has researched flirting differences between the sexes and found when women flirt in a sexually suggestive way, men find them more attractive. But men who flirt this way are seen as pushy and less attractive. That’s a kind of sexism when it comes to flirting, don’t you think?

Six Different Reasons Why We Flirt

1. People flirt when they want to change a friendship to a romantic relationship or a casual dating scenario to a more serious dating relationship.

2. Flirters are sometimes driven by the exploring motive. Here, a person flirts to gauge the interest of the person he/she is flirting with.

3. It’s fun!

4. Flirting can help achieve a goal.

5. Self-esteem reinforcement; being flirted with makes us feel good about ourselves (unless the person is a creeper).

6. You may honestly just flirt because you want to have sex with this person.

So back to you, Ms. Have To—It seems to me that your particular brand of flirting fits into numbers 4 and 5. I get a feeling that you do what you can to get what you want but you also like that you got da power—who wouldn’t?

I’m not here to judge what’s right for you. It doesn’t seem like it’s hurting your relationship; I’m sure your boyfriend appreciates your fine flirting skills; they worked on him! It’s more about how you feel about your negotiation style. Are you faking people out about your interest in them? How do you feel about getting what you want because of your “communication” abilities? And it’s good to be honest, that it gives you an ego boost—which is fine unless, no matter how much boosting you get it’s never enough.

We all use what’s good about us to get what we want.  It can become a problem when you using what you have becomes a lazy way of not having to make the effort to grow as a person. Also, bear in mind, we all have a beauty expiration date, and it can make aging much more traumatic. Yes! Hard to believe but aging is where old people come from, it does happen. And then there’s a moral issue—are you misleading someone who is going to be hurt when they find out it wasn’t just their charm that got your attention? Of course they may not care, only you can tell in the moment.

Bottom line, IMHO, flirt all you want! Just keep an eye on if it’s a “crutch” factor and let the flirtee know that you have a boyfriend before it goes too far.

I Love You!

Dr. Lisa