It seems that one's perception of an observed action can always become misinterpreted when it comes to flirting. Knowing what is on a persons mind at the time of the encounter is impossible, yet the hurt feeling and mistrust seem very real. It appears that because the rules may have not been clear between a couple we all leave ourselves wide open for disaster.
Apparently the word "perception" provides an "out" for anyone to say "we saw only what we wanted to see." Then when does the flirting action actually become flirting?
Great question. Studying relationships is so interesting because of questions like the one you ask.
Flirting – acting sexually interested in another person can happen several different ways.
In the first case, some people are just naturally more friendly, affectionate, and outgoing and their behavior appears to be flirtatious, even when there is no sexual interest. Non-flirtatious flirting.
Next, sometimes people flirt – act in sexually provocative manner - but people are not aware of their sexual desire or interest. In other words, it is possible for people to hide their true sexual motives from themselves. Spouses are often sexually interested in other people, but are so uncomfortable with the idea that they repress their sexual feelings. Their true feelings, however, come across through their behavior – acting overly friendly, interested, engaged, and so on. Unconscious flirtatious behavior.
In the last case, people are aware of their sexual desires and interest, flirt with others, but then lie about their sexual motives in order to avoid conflict or hurting a partner's feelings. Deceptive flirtatious behavior.
The best way to tell if someone is flirting (displaying sexual interest) is to observe if the behavior is person specific.
Does your partner or spouse act this way with everyone or is their behavior only directed toward specific individuals?
But keep in mind, even though your partner may be motivated by their sexual interest, he or she may not be aware of their true feelings.