Why Does My Husband Flirt With Other Women?

A reader asks, “In all other ways, he is a great husband. He is a good man and doesn’t cheat on me. Also, he is a good father to our children. But when we are at Starbucks or a restaurant, he always flirts with the girls who take our order.”

why does my husband flirt

“I pretend it doesn’t bother me, but it makes me feel like I’m on a date with someone who is always looking for a better catch. It’s humiliating, as I stand there trying to smile. Why does my husband flirt?”

“I have read about standing up to my husband and telling him how I feel, but I know him. I don’t think it would work. He would get angry and call me insecure. Then he would tell me something like, ‘I married you, didn’t I?'”

Our Response

There are biological reasons why your husband might still be looking around that are worth sharing, if that is what he is actually doing. But, he is probably just showing you he is still “cool.” Sometimes, it is that simple.

(I write these articles for people who wish to recapture and build love in their marriage. I will never trash or condemn either spouse – that does not mean I cannot see the errors. But I live by the saying from Gandhi; “hate the sin, not the sinner”)

Many years ago, there was a comedian named Flip Wilson who was famous for saying, “The devil made me do it.” It got a laugh every time. But what really “makes us” do things are our two main biological drives. The first is our drive to survive (which we won’t discuss here). The second is our drive to procreate. It’s not so much “the devil” making us do bad things all the time as it is these pesky drives.

The drive to procreate doesn’t affect men and women the same way, as you well know. It tells women to nurture and protect their children and expresses itself various beautiful ways.

But the drive to procreate in men is simple, though not as kind: S-E-X. The drive screams at men to perform and then move on. If not for inner wisdom, social pressures, and personal restraint, it would still be a jungle out there.

Men override their drive to procreate in order to get along with others. The men who make it look like it’s no sweat to override those urges are either good at hiding it or have a clinical reason for a reduced sex drive. Some wiser men have made it a habit to divert that constant energy to other creative endeavors.

The actual reasons your husband flirts are unknown to him, otherwise he wouldn’t do it. He doesn’t want to hurt you; he just wants you to understand him. His openness about it sends a message of trust. I think he trusts you enough to reveal what we can call his “boyishness.”

Is it okay that he does it?

There is no perfect relationship or perfect behavior in this world. Plus, you describe some qualities he has in very positive ways. He is a great dad and he is a great husband. Also, he clearly is not hiding something. I wouldn’t say a word, nor entertain the desire for him to change. It would be better if he did, but this is far from a marriage buster.

Since you are having difficulties, I have some suggestions that will help put you at ease:

  1. Re-frame his behavior in your own mind. Instead of judging him—which is uncalled for—consider this silly behavior. Refuse to let your mind convince you of feeling threatened. Try to see it as “cute,” so you can smile at him when he is flirting.
  2. Engage right along with him. If you jump into the conversation with your own compliments for the servers, it will change the dynamic from flirtatious to friendly. Your added energy will lighten things up.
  3. Disallow negative thoughts about your husband. It’s your mind, and you can make it think and feel how you want. Your habits are also under your control. You can create all kinds of positive thinking in your mind. This will bring you happiness. That happiness you feel will be a wonderful part of your marriage.

Your husband is a great treasure in life. Love him, show him you love him, and everything will be OK.

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Paul Friedman
Paul Friedman
Founder & Executive Director

Paul has written two books, produced several video programs, regularly speaks on marriage, and continues to guide the growth of The Marriage Foundation to help enrich the marriages of as many couples as possible around the world.


43 thoughts on “Why Does My Husband Flirt With Other Women?

  1. Todd Reply

    I for one find it TOTALLY DISRESPECTFUL for a man to flirt with another woman right there in front of his wife!!! And I don’t care what reasons are given for his doing so because the bottom line is that he’s married and supposed to be FULLY COMMITED to his wife and have eyes for her ONLY!!!!!!!!!!

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      I agree with you Todd; 100%…However, we deal with what is real, not what is imagined to be. None of us are perfect, and acceptance of your spouses flaws, and how THEY deal with them, is essential for happiness.

  2. Debra Reply

    I’m dealing with my 63 yo husband( 12 yrs older than me) being inappropriate with the. Opposite sex also he never compliments me/ Men if you want to be married you wouldn’t be flirting with and complimenting other women and giving your wife zero attention- ladies move on don’t settle for that crap there’s a man who would appreciate you and have eyes only for you or st least enough respect for you to control there eyes and actions in your presence- imagine what he’s doing when your not around- he’s testing the waters and one day opportunity will come knocking snd lets face it his actions show the extent of his loyalty- trust me I’ve been there and I deserve better as do all of you😞

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      So often I hear this kind of think coming from women, but they never tell the other side of the coin. Of course your husband should not be inappropriate with anyone, ever. But are we to trust that you are a loving wife who lures your husband in with love and smiles? Men are no more perfect than women. Unless you learn how to create the love in your home that your husband married you for you will not have it, and you will have him pulling away from you…
      Work on your own behaviors first. Then, when you are perfect, complain about your husband.

  3. Mitch Reply

    When love is true, a spouse doesn’t need to flirt. Both of you are supposed to protect each other from unnecessary hurt.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      That is true. But the same can be said about other “shoulds”..Best to learn how to be married, and avoid the 3 C’s

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      easy to say, Mitch. People need more than you should this, or you should do that

  4. Lynn Reply

    Open flirting only hurts and humiliates, not to mention is embarrassing when your spouse is so immature and insecure that he needs the attention (sometimes not welcomed) from wait staff, friends (sometimes welcomed). It’s not just the spouse who doesn’t flirt with others who feels insecure, it’s that “drive” or need for the flirt to feel like he’s desired. Apparently respect is out the window. I am of the opinion that flirting in front of the spouse is only indicative that it doesn’t stop there. It will lead to other things. Been there, done that.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Your husband should not be flirting, obviously. But you are so hard on him, and although it is easy to measure one flaw against the other, and think it is objective, it is still negatively impacting your husband… as I am sure this is not the only judgment you put on him. If you start to see him as “challenged” in this area, and treat him with love, and change your thoughts to positive ones, you will see big changes.

      • Anita Reply

        Hi Paul,

        I have tried your suggestions, but my husband has a favor restaurant he always goes to after working late for dinner…he flirts we have talked about it, I do think it is for attention….about two weeks ago my husband and I were working at a fundraiser, when the “girls” saw him they came running and they all hugged…meanwhile one of them saw me and looked like a deer in headlights….hence I’m not feeling too good…

        • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

          Anita,
          Respectfully, PLEASE don’t use these suggestions with the hope of everything working itself out!!
          The suggestions are pieces of a puzzle until you get the whole picture. It would help you a great deal to read one of my books… then, if that is not enough (sometimes it is) you can begin the course… which is effective nearly 100% of the time.

  5. Sue Reply

    I have been married for 37 years. I was living a dream until three years ago. I found out my husband was telling lies about me to the women in the offices we worked for. This was for attention. He enjoyed playing the martyr. Because of the treatment I received from the women in the offices I had to stop going. This isn’t just about men it is about women to. What happened to your brain? It is the oldest trick men play. “My wife doesn’t understand me,” or doesn’t appreciate me……. Why would any women feel flattered by a man who is with his wife and is clearly being a party to a hurtful situation they would not want to find themselves in. Women aren’t very nice to women when a husband is acting like a dog. And you men if you know what you are doing is hurting your wife then the pain you cause is intentional. Two yrs of counselling little has changed.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Everything you say is true (in most cases), including you wasting money on counseling..2 years?? Get our program, for God’s sake!

  6. Joan Reply

    When hubby is with you, flirt with the bag boy, paper boy, mechanic, repairer, roadside service guy, etc… At the least you find balance; at best he reforms. But do not fight about it. Whoever is most civil wins and if you act upset he will probably become unfair and punitive.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      No Joan… all you do is start a war. It is better to learn how to be married, and be happy; always!

  7. Mila Reply

    If joan’s husband does not flirt, and she’s the one who flirts with the bag boy in front of the husband, would it start a war? I would have believed you were it not for your reply to joan. Still double standard?

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Mila.. I don’t get the double standard comment. Every person is going to “pay” when they break the laws of morality, so it should not matter what they do from your ‘how does this affect me’ perspective; other than you, as a spouse, should feel loving compassion for them, knowing they will suffer. You see, marriage is not a competition. If you turn it into one both of you lose. if you stay true to your vows both win.

  8. KC Reply

    All of those replies seem to me like “A man can’t help himself, be this or that way to make yourself feel better about it.” Doesn’t jive with me. How funny that in this world a man can’t put in the effort to be in the emotional equivalent of a woman, as we fight to be the societal equivalent of man. Disrespect and lack of concern for your SO’s emotions are nothing other than that.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      The problem is not that a man “should” do this or that. The problem is that women do not understand the biological influences on themselves or their men, so they have unrealistic expectations. The reverse is also true, about men. Our efforts are to explain things scientifically without judgment.
      Of course respect is a vital part of a healthy marriage; vital! But where do people learn that? From parents? Movies? TV sitcoms? Or how about politics?
      Our efforts to teach marital happiness will hopefully have a great benefit on those who read our books and take our courses. Its the best we can do.

  9. Abby Reply

    My husband sends texts to other women. I comb through his phone and always find something inappropriate he’s sent. He says he’s not cheating and that he doesn’t know why he sends them…what should I do?

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Men who are confronted will never fess up; nor will women, for that matter. But, clearly you have problems with your marriage that are underlying his desire to seek “something” elsewhere. I would start by asking what is missing in your marriage.

  10. Wiera ( Vera) Kelly Reply

    Obviously flirting means” still looking!”
    Why does the woman always have to make sure he’s feeling loved?
    If he’s flirting with other women, he’s taking time away from our relationship.
    Maybe if he’d flirt with his wife,”oh sorry all flirted out for the day!” Though you could be my mattress pad for me to work out my desires for others on!
    So “her feelings do not matter?”
    Just as long as his urges are met and you’re loving him at home he has a great life.
    You are alone and will remain alone.
    No, sorry I do not think a man feels anything after immoral behavior except; victory!
    I get everyone is different though the sentiment is the same; if you’re in a committed relationship, then commit. If you want to spread your love juice for the urge of procreation, them hit a sperm bank, not the alter for marriage!

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Yes, you are correct, pretty much all the way. But the problem is that being angry with your husband, or letting him know he is immoral (he already knows) is a non-starter for healing your marriage.
      You have to begin at a place that is not doing more harm than good. That place is self examination. That does not mean its your fault, but if you think a husband is operating like a saint, you have to get into reality.

      Our efforts are to heal marriages, to take advantage of this wake up call, and get couples into a marriage that is joy filled and well oiled. If all you want to do is bash your husband for doing things poorly you might as well already be in divorce court.

  11. Wiera ( Vera) Kelly Reply

    It’s hard not to put one down. When feelings are already hurt and trust destroyed, it naturally comes out of the one that’s hurt. After all, we are only human. Maybe one wants the other to have a little empathy for their feelings. Then, their refusal to acknowledge their part in hurting the other one, makes one even more angry.
    Insecure? Well what has the other done to make them feel secure. Hitting on anything 98.6° sure would not make the other one feel good, eh?
    I can not fathom anyone wanting to just give up.
    Though I can not fathom it being something that can be fixed.
    Maybe one can not get past all the hurt feelings. Feelings of inadequacies, never being good enough.
    Even after vows were stated in front of God and all. That you were the one for the other and they’ll be faithful and devoted.
    Don’t say it unless you mean it. Some of us take our vows seriously and would not fathom even looking. Lead me not into temptation. They are not black letters on white paper. They are to have meaning and consequences.
    To which, making the abuser feel secure and happy after all is said and done, does not seem appropriate to me. It like rewarding bad behavior. Which we all know is to actually encourage it.
    I actually heard one say to the other well you stayed, so you obviously have accepted it. That’s narcissist. No regard for the other.

    Divorce sounds good compared to never being good enough for the one you devoted your life to.
    It’s degrading to the one that has taken their vows seriously.

    Beside if they’re looking, shouldn’t one just let them go?
    If they truly cared for the one they were with, they would have flirted with them and not the new interest?

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      I discovered that dwelling on all you propose, though quite correct, is like wiggling your body in quicksand. All you do is speed up inevitable death to your marriage, and yourself. Unfortunately this kind of thinking is literally promoted. Why? It does no good. Not for you, or for your marriage!

      My thinking is that if you want to save your marriage, which I have proven is realistic, countless times, you need to have a realistic and practical approach that ultimately produces happiness.
      I suggest you look at the website more, maybe read one of my books, or, if you wish, take the course (which is honestly the best course of action for you). Here is an article which I recently wrote.. https://themarriagefoundation.org/differences-between-the-marriage-foundation-and-fake-marriage-professionals/

  12. Carol Channing Reply

    I was with a man who flirted with other women, (smiled openly across the room the entire time we were seated in a restaurant, smiled in passing, touched them in conversation, aggressively sought to make eye contact) in my presence for a year. I told him repeatedly how bad it always made me feel. BUT he claimed that I was insecure and he was just a “friendly” guy. I know that all men “look” looking is fine. You “look” and you’re done. His behavior was something else again. I related to him on five different occasions that his behavior really hurt my feelings, but he continued. Bottom line is he didn’t respect me in the least.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Carol
      In all my years I have never heard of a man responding to his wife’s ‘complaints’ in a positive way (unless he took our program, of course). I would think you would try to reason out why that does not work, as you have been trying and trying. But more important, for your marriage, is to learn what the underlying factors are that makes him so rude to you… I think if you read one of my books your marriage will improve a great deal…

  13. Erica Reply

    Me and my husband has been married for a few weeks.. I still see him as a bf … not so a husband. And we work at the same place, which I absolutely hate because all I see him do is flirt with women.. he’s extra nice to them.. and goes out his way to help them through the door. He’s never that sweet to me. I told him I hate it and he calls me jelly. He still does it no matter what… I find it unattractive we’re 12 years apart. I feel like me saying yes was a huge mistake

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      If you wrote before you married we would have suggested a longer engagement, to see what he is like. Because you have only been married a short time, and see him only as a boyfriend, you still can safely and ethically get un-married. “Divorce” is not what you are doing, though technically it is.

  14. Juvy Reply

    I am on the same situation right now. Always feeling awkward, humiliated and hurt every time my husband is flirting. Worse is, he seems to be enjoying telling me stories of what he’s been doing if i’m not with him. Though i am for saving our marriage, just letting him be won’t do anything to save it. Respect is the issue here. Marriage is for husband and wife to work it out. Not just by the wife alone. I respected him for not embarrasing him in public. He should have respected me for not hurting my felings. It seems I owe something to him because he’s honest? Duhh!

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Juvy
      You have the attitude of one who does not want their marriage to work, or might go for it if her husband does “his part”.
      This kind of thinking puts one nail in the coffin after another. If you hold on to this point of view your marriage was already over.

      I offer solutions that work out for both of you. There is nothing wrong with the wife taking the lead…

      • Jamie Reply

        Juvy I am married to a self proclaimed sex addict. He told me it starts with flirting and then slowly goes from there. In his case he cannot flirt if he wants to avoid the next step. I have stuck by him and worked on our marriage but really there is only one glory for me. What I get out of it is I get to keep the man I fell in love with.

        Clearly he cheated on me, aside from his addiction, because I was not fulfilling certain needs. Are those needs which I can fulfill? I don’t know since he cannot actually put into words what those needs are. He has said that when I disagree with something, like where to live or what to buy etc, he punishes me by cheating. AKA uses it as an excuse. He swears he loves me. I know he has a sickness but do I keep agreeing with all his wants and needs just so he won’t cheat? Is that even possible? We will see.

        One rule is since he was honest (prior to that he was taking me to priests and psychiatrists and putting me on medication because i was delusional. But thank god for the one friend who decided not to cover for him anymore), when he could’ve lied, I should not bring it up and not cry or be upset about it. I need to let it go out of fairness to him for being so honest. So that’s what I do. My needs and feelings are not important right now and if I want our marriage to work I have to respect his wishes. (I guess he forgets that originally he did lie about it).

        Anyway what I am trying to say is that unfortunately it is up to us. If we want to be with them. And the reverse if the wife is the one with the issue of course They can’t help it. It is in their evolutionary make up. So we either support them and work on ourselves (or just ignore it) or we leave.

        • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

          I am so glad you reached out and shared your story (without anyone knowing who you are). You are right in everything but one important thing.
          Your efforts to be the ideal wife are not working because the role models of society do not understand marriage, so we do not learn from them.
          So your efforts are missing the underlying powerful unconditional love to be not only the motivator, but you need to understand how to always manifest your actions to exhibit it. You are on the right track, sort of, but have become fatalistic. Thats not quite right for either of you.
          The changes are only going to be subtle nuances for you, but either of my books and courses will change things for you, and him.

  15. Mia Z Reply

    Do you mean men want children? I am confused. Children are social life enders. Chidlren are money in the bank enders whose little lives need to be selflessly taken care of. I doubt a guy who is interested in flirting or cheating is subconsciously thinking, “Gee, I want to procreate “right now”. What am I missing?

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Good question
      Men are driven by the biological drive, and most men are able to temper the inner drive for moral and social purposes. But, no, men do not consciously connect the dots. Nature, meaning biology, does not “care” about anything but the reproduction aspect.
      Does that clear it up?

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Its funny that you say that… yes, children shift a couples social life dramatically, but they are not “enders”.
      Do they need to be selflessly taken care of? Well, I would like to see more of that attitude!
      But the drive to procreate is not about “thinking” about children. It is a biological drive. If people were able to recognize sensations nd drives for what they are, rather than be slaves to them, the world would not be the way it is today… would it?

  16. Audrey Reply

    If Your married , you should not flirt with other women, it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but on the other hand women should not flirt back with marrried men ,if they didn’t , perhaps that would make men think it’s not fair on their wife’s , and of course the opposite applies

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Audrey
      Marriage is intended to be a venue in which you cherish one another and do all you can to make each other feel special. We don’t take a “I’ll show them” tack, or it undermines the whole ideal… instead we show love as our only response, and that will “show them” we are sincere in our love and loyalty… that goes for both!

  17. Sangeeta Reply

    My husband flirts with most of the girls and women. It hurts me when he does. He loves me but still his does even in front of me. I tried to take it easily but when you see your husband flirting and getting involved I just can’t control.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      Of course it is not right for him to do so. But he is doing it for reasons which reflect his own weaknesses. Those could be anything; from suppressed anger to insecurities about his manliness, to childish acts of showing off. …the point is that it should be seen as his own burden.

      That means that you should seek the ideal of feeling compassion for him, not reacting to his behaviors.

      Further, as his wife, you can help him through this without addressing his lack (it is rude to point out his flaws to him).
      Become such a lover to him (I am not talking about sex) that he would never consider such immodest and self deprecating behavior.

      By all means, read one of my books so you have a validation of what marriage should be like. Then you will see how easy it is to find the joy that is currently veiled by misunderstanding.

  18. Laura Reply

    I wonder if the same advice would be given to a man whose wife was constantly flirting with other men in front of him. Somehow, I expect not.

    • Paul Friedman Post authorReply

      The goal here is to help those who come for help, not pretend men and women are the same, and the cures are the same. Women who marry flirtatious men usually knew it when they got married. The same is true for men who marry flirtatious women… but the cures are not that much different.

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