An American who asked French women about successful marriages learned a surprising tip: Flirt with other people
- "How to be Married" by Jo Piazza includes a section on marriage in France.
- Piazza writes that French people see flirting outside their marriage - even in front of their spouse - as healthy.
- But not everyone is comfortable with this idea.
While researching her book "How to Be Married," Jo Piazza arranged a makeshift focus group of Frenchwomen to discuss their views on love and relationships.
"Flirt with your husband," one woman who'd been married for 15 years told Piazza.So far, not so crazy. Research suggests that flirting with your partner can help increase intimacy between you, and relationship experts often tout the benefits of sweet-talking your spouse.
But the woman went on: "Flirt with everyone. You Americans are such prudes about flirting."
Another woman added: "It releases some of the tension, and men think it is sexy to see that another man wants your wife."
Piazza, who spent one year after her own wedding traveling the world and soliciting marriage advice, shares her own, general observations of French culture: "Both members of French couples tend to be flirtatious with members of the opposite sex, particularly when their spouse is around" (emphasis mine).
It's hard to find much research on the relative benefits of flirting outside your relationship, especially when you do it in front of your partner. Some of the articles I came across (on American publications) focused on how to figure out whether your flirtation has crossed the line into cheating territory.
On Elle.com, Eve Aldana confesses to being confused as to why she continues to flirt with other men, even though she's married.Aldana writes: "There's something so strange about being a married woman who no longer needs to solicit attention or validation from other men, but who accepts the offering anyway. What does that make me? An attention seeker? An intimacy junkie? Or someone who just can't break an old habit?"
Piazza says it's helpful for your spouse to recognize that other people still find you attractive
After her book was published, Piazza was interviewed on the site Signature Reads and explained what she took away from the French approach to extramarital flirting: "We love jealousy in America, and I think it's nice for your spouse to recognize that other people still find you attractive and interesting. One of the hardest things about marriage is that you're together so often, you sometimes forget that your spouse is attractive and interesting, and it's nice to see that people recognize that."
The reality, though, is that while you might agree on the theoretical benefits of flirting outside a relationship, the actual experience might make you feel differently.
On the subreddit "AskWomen," people (presumably not just from the US) shared their thoughts on how flirting outside their relationship has affected their dynamic with their partner.
One redditor, who has since deleted their username, left a very French-sounding comment: "It actually improves it. I love when he flirts with people when we are out together. He enjoys watching me flirt. We also co flirt with people. It's really fun, and brings us closer together."
Another redditor, panda_burrr, wrote something slightly more conservative: "I don't really think either of us has really flirted outside our relationship. I think our general rule is something along the lines of 'if I was right next to you, would you do it? yes? then go for it. but if not, then don't.'"
Bottom line: If it bothers you when your partner flirts with other people (or vice versa), that's something to explore - and maybe do less of. But learning about how other cultures approach relationships gives you new options for keeping the romance alive in yours.