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Online Flirting Can Ruin Relationships

Author: Reichman University
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Published: 25th Jul 2022 - Updated: 5th Jan 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: Love and Romance Publications

Summary: A Reichman University study warns that if someone is flirting with you online, beware - it could ruin your relationship.



Flirting (coquetry) is a social and sexual behavior involving spoken or written communication, as well as body language, by one person to another, either to suggest interest in a deeper relationship with the other person or, if done playfully, for amusement. Body language can include flicking the hair, eye contact, brief touching, open stances, proximity, and other gestures. Flirting may be done in an under-exaggerated, shy, or frivolous style.

Main Document

Two new studies by Prof. Gurit Birnbaum of Reichman University's Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology reveal that online interactions, such as flirting over chats, can be destructive to a relationship. The studies' findings show that the potential damage caused by online interactions often occurs on the unconscious level and may result in the perception of your current partner in a less appealing light. These feelings facilitate the release of passionate feelings towards people other than your partner - emotions that you may have been better able to suppress in the past.

Introducing social networks into our lives has posed a significant challenge to monogamy. When people enter a relationship, they define as monogamous; they hope to remain faithful to their partner. However, today, more than ever before, they are flooded with temptations by alternative partners, who lurk in all corners of the web.

People tend to deal with the conflict that these temptations elicit by using relationship-protective strategies, such as ignoring suitors or perceiving them as less attractive than they are. These strategies, however, are not always effective, as the high infidelity rates will testify.

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Prof. Gurit Birnbaum, Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Reichman University.Prof. Gurit Birnbaum, Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Reichman University.


In her latest research, Prof. Birnbaum examines how people deal with the conflict between short-term temptation and long-term plans. In other words, what factors help people be more resistant to temptation, and what factors weaken this resistance.

To assess this, two studies were conducted in which romantically involved participants chatted online with an attractive person who was a research team member. Half of the participants were assigned to a research team member who conducted a chat that was neutral in content and served as a control group, and the other half were assigned to a team member who flirted with them throughout the chat.

In the first study, following the chat with the stranger, the participants of both groups reported the degree of attraction they felt towards their current partner and also took part in a task that examined their unconscious perceptions of their partner. In this study, it was found that the participants who were flirted with perceived their current partner in a more negative light, on both the conscious and unconscious levels, compared to the control group participants.

In the second study, after the chat with the stranger, the participants described the first sexual fantasy that came to their mind in writing. Independent judges analyzed these fantasies and examined the level of desire they expressed towards the current and alternative partners. The findings showed that in the flirty chat condition, the participants fantasized more about the alternative partners and expressed more desire toward them than the participants in the control condition.

Prof. Gurit Birnbaum, Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Reichman University:

"Previous studies that examined factors predicting infidelity focused on partners' personalities or characteristics of the couple's relationship. In the current study, I chose to focus on the behavior of the suitors and to assess whether a suitor who is more active in expressing his interest in an individual who is already in a relationship is better able to penetrate the defense mechanisms; jeopardizing the relationship quality and stability."

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Online Flirting Can Ruin Relationships | Reichman University ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): Reichman University. (2022, July 25). Online Flirting Can Ruin Relationships. Retrieved May 19, 2024 from

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