Article by Phylicia Masonheimer
I grew up at the height of purity culture. I Kissed Dating Goodbye had a coming-of-age at the same time I did. Books about purity, dating, courtship, and modesty were everywhere; I read them all. I was part of a girls’ group that went through these books and quickly learned that flirtation, among purity culture trespasses, was one of the greatest.
Flirtation is sinful because it is inherently deceitful (or so was taught). I took this assumption into my dating relationships post-high school, but found it hard to shake after marriage, too. I struggled with awkwardness and shame for my outgoing personality. I felt silly and uncomfortable expressing feelings to my husband. And I found myself asking: “Is what I was taught about flirtation and pursuit biblical at all?”
The flirtation described to me in my girls’ group was framed as seduction and enticement. To flirt was to show inauthentic interest. In other words, flirty girls were self-interested and noncommittal. But what if this isn’t the heart of flirtation at all? When we look at relationships – particularly those in a western context – we usually see fun conversations, mysterious glances, engaging laughter, and little touches to say, “I like you. I want to spend time with you.” Most dating relationships and marriages begin with these little gestures, and the best way to describe them is flirtation.
The Biblical Case for Flirtation
The bible doesn’t speak directly to flirtation, which is why we have to start with a definition. If we define flirting as deceitful, inauthentic, selfish seduction, we can find verses to support that point. But if flirtation can be genuine, pure, and healthy, the Bible might speak to it in ways we didn’t expect. That’s what I discovered when I dug into it myself.
I began my study of flirtation as a mom to two small children. My husband, Josh, worked long hours and we were so, so busy. We felt more like coworkers than covenant partners! Inspired by a movie one night, I decided to do a 30-day “experiment” of flirting with my husband – a little each day. But before I got there, I had to do some serious heartwork on my purity culture baggage. I began by looking at what Scripture said about female pursuit.
That’s right – I started my study of flirting by asking the question, “Can women pursue men?” Maybe the answer feels obvious to you. For me, there was some untangling of Scripture’s truth from legalistic narratives. As I followed the threads of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 7 (“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” 7:3) and Song of Solomon 7 (“Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields.”) it became clear: Scripture never advises against a pursuing woman! Women whose sexual desires are honored (1 Cor. 7), who pursue with intention (Song 7), and whose bold faithfulness is attractive to men (Ruth, Abigail in 1 Sam. 25) are found throughout the biblical account. In the words of the Bible I found a freeing truth different from the teachings of that girls’ group: Pursuit is not a sin. Expressing interest, cultivating mystery, feeling sexy and confident with your husband – these things are not the property of the secular world. They can be part of Christian marriage, too.
My Flirtation Experiment
Inspired by Scripture’s freedom, I made a list of thirty “flirtations”. I began trying them out on Josh. They were simple – just a little extra effort to express my affection, interest, and attraction to him. I was nervous and uncomfortable at first; would he notice I was acting different? Would it be weird? All the self-conscious thoughts crossed my mind.
But by day five I was amazed at the difference – not in him, but in me! I felt more confident. I felt more attractive to Josh. But I also felt like I had a newfound freedom to invest in my marriage in fun, playful and creative ways. Josh wasn’t complaining either, though he didn’t know exactly what I was up to!
My experiments ranged from an extra long kiss before work to a handwritten note detailing ten things I admired about him. Other days I made silly jokes or scheduled a surprise date night. Rather than wait for him to plan things, for him to initiate, for him to show interest, I took the initiative. Would I have liked him to think of it all on his own? Definitely. But rather than wait around and hope he read my mind, I took action. Little by little those action steps added up to a more fulfilling marriage for us both.
One Spark at a Time
A flirtation experiment isn’t intended for abusive or unhealthy marriages. There is much more to be addressed in those circumstances and professional help is advisable. But in the average, healthy, Christian marriage, there are seasons when things feel… Mundane. Repetitive. Ordinary. Ordinary is good; it’s where real life happens. And I want my real life, my real marriage, to be filled with joy! In my effort to celebrate the holiness of marriage, I don’t want to forget the happiness of it.
Cultivating a happy marriage doesn’t happen by accident, though. And while it definitely takes two, I’ve learned I can only control one person in the relationship: myself. That’s why there is empowerment in Scripture’s truth about female pursuit.
The flirtation experiment started out as a fun way to re-engage with my husband. Now it’s almost like a little secret between me and the Lord. He approves of my desire to be desired and how I express that, flirtatiously, with my husband! His Word shows my value and teaches me to value the man to whom I’m committed. I have to think God smiles upon a marriage made happier, made holier, made warmer – one tiny spark at a time.
Encouraging unity with a fun and lighthearted approach, The Flirtation Experiment takes the tangible ideas from the book and allows the wife who wants romance, passion, and heart connection to take action, and notes along the way.
The workbook will validate every woman in every stage of life who wants more than to read about what worked for someone else. It will allow her to conduct her own experiment of finding deeper passion, connection, truth and love in her relationship. All the while, she will chronicle her experiments, the results, and have space for her husband to respond as well.
Poised to serve as an action guide for a “Renew the Romance” movement, The Flirtation Experiment takes the chapters of the book to a personal, participatory level where experience and results can be documented, journaled, referenced, and most importantly serve as an account of biblical growth in a relationship.