Is It Harmless Hugging, Flirting...Or More?

Love, Heartbreak

Sometimes it's hard to tell if he's being friendly...or flirty.

Hi Patsy Rae,

I have questions about a major issue—flirting. My husband has for years behaved in a manner I call flirting. He is overly playful, teases, and jokes with other women to the point that I feel they: a) may think he's romantically interested, b) may think he's fresh, or c) may feel uncomfortable in his presence.

  • I feel hurt and have told him time and time again, but he says he is just being friendly. He says I am just jealous, and I don't trust him.
  • He says he is friendly with everyone and that's true to a point. He's just more playful with women, especially young teens and young adults. I don't think he's sexually interested in them, but his behavior feels so inappropriate to me. I've told him it's okay to be friendly with the opposite sex, to greet them, smile, hug, talk, but he needs to limit his playfulness and not go overboard.
  • What is the difference between flirting behavior and just being friendly with the opposite sex?
  • What consequences can I use if my husband refuses to stop what I feel is flirting behavior?

Thank you for your ministry to women in desperate marriages,


Dear Mary,

First, four questions:

  1. How old is your husband?
  2. Have you had problems with emotional or physical abuse in your marriage?
  3. Is your husband there for you sexually?
  4. Is your husband playful the same way with you?

Dear Patsy,

  1. He is in his mid-50s.
  2. For years I dealt with his verbal abuse and episodes of rage. He stopped this when I started walking away from him each time he started in on me.
  3. He is there sexually…though we are both struggling with a significant decrease in desire and frequency.
  4. I'd not thought about it in a long time, but NO he isn’t playful with me and hasn't been since we got married nearly 40 years ago. He would say he doesn't play with me because I am too sensitive to his jokes which feel to me like sarcasm and insults. This is not the same way that he "plays and jokes" with other women.

Dear Mary,

Your answers are typical for the problem you're facing. Many husbands and wives share your problem with inappropriate behavior by their mates—husbands' hugging ladies and wives' rubbing the backs of men. Trying to stay away from these men and women often doesn't protect the recipients from this unwanted attention. Fortunately, the Bible gives some clear guidelines for dealing with this problem. To cover the improper behavior of both husbands and wives at the same time, I'm going to refer to them as "flirts."

Flirts learn to use weasel words in Sin 101 classes.

  • My husband says I'm just jealous and don't trust him.
  • He doesn't play with me because I am too sensitive to his jokes, which feel to me like sarcasm and insults.

In Sin 101 classes, flirts learn that a good offense is a great defense. Thus, they usually specialize is using weasel-word lines to deflect questioning of their conduct. This lets them bounce suspicions back onto their spouses. Notice some effective weasel-word lines to blame the spouse for even questioning their conduct:

  1. "You're just jealous." or "You don't trust me."

Three thousand years ago, the Shepherd talked about jealousy and trust in the Song of Solomon 8:6:

Put me like a seal over your heart,

Like a seal on your arm.

For love is as strong as death,

Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

The very flame of the LORD.

The Shepherd said married folks enjoy a relationship that they cannot share with others. Each mate has a righteous expectation of emotional faithfulness from the other as obvious as wearing an armband. Emotionally faithful spouses tattoo their hearts with "I belong to my mate in body, mind, and spirit." Keep Reading...

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.