Flirt Alert: One Surprising Solution Could Revive Romance

January 19, 2024 By Anna Svetchnikov, LMFT

Flirting: Turning everyday moments into connections with a spark.


  • Flirting can rekindle intimacy and reignite the spark in long-term relationships.
  • Far from being shallow, flirtation, paired with playfulness, acts as a relief valve for life’s stresses.
  • Genuine flirtation reaffirms admiration, expressing that a partner remains exciting even after years together.


How purposeful flirtation and playful interactions can strengthen the connection between a couple, reignite passion, and enhance resilience in long-term relationships.

Due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and missed opportunities, many couples find themselves gradually drifting apart. Yet, when the seemingly simple solution to reintroduce flirting into the relationship is delicately proposed, it’s met with a mixture of surprised looks and raised eyebrows.

Yes, flirting. Often thought to be reserved for the initial rush of a new relationship or secret romances—is, in fact, a potential tool for couples looking to reignite passion and rekindle connection.

Why Flirting Matters

At the core of every human being is the craving to feel desired and significant.6 Flirting is an affirmation of that desire. It’s a subtle dance of words, gestures, and lingering glances that say, “I see you, and I desire you.” Such simple acts can turn everyday routines into moments of connection and thrill.

The concept of the chemistry behind romantic love and its effects on our well-being is explored in Helen Fisher’s “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love” and suggests that couples who engage in playful flirtation report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. More interestingly, couples also exhibited signs of improved stress coping mechanisms. This effect is likely due to the act of flirting boosting endorphin levels, which serve as the body’s natural stress-relievers.4

But Isn’t Flirtation Superficial?

This is a misconception. True flirtation isn’t about manipulation or seeking external validation. As research shows, playful flirtation creates a private world of intimacy between partners, conveying admiration and desire.5 It’s a heartfelt expression with meaningful social goals, which reduces uncertainty, and plays an important role in pair-bonding.7 Through affectionate smiles and compliments, couples relay “After all this time, you still excite me” – a profound intimacy-booster expressed through flirtation.

Rediscovering Playfulness

The act of flirting goes hand in hand with being playful. When couples can be silly together, tease each other harmlessly, or share private jokes, it fosters a sense of partnership. Such moments of levity are essential, especially in navigating the challenges that life throws at us. Research has found that playfulness in relationships correlates with increased positive emotions between partners.2 In turn, these feel-good emotions are associated with higher relationship satisfaction.

Playfulness allows partners to be vulnerable while maintaining mutual care and respect. Partners can expose their goofy, quirky sides in a judgment-free zone. Inside jokes and smirks become symbols of the one-of-a-kind friendship that couples develop. But it requires letting go of ego and self-consciousness and tapping into childlike fun. When sustained over time, playful flirtation provides an outlet for stress while securing the bond between partners for the long haul.3

The Research Behind Flirting

While flirting may come naturally to some and may be crucial for attracting a partner, its role should not be overlooked as the relationship evolves and matures. Research provides insight into the effectiveness of various characteristics1 below, that not only initiate, but can also enrich long-term relationships. These characteristics, in order of importance, can be crucial for maintaining the romantic connection.

  1. Non-Verbal Behaviors: Initially critical in signaling romantic interest, these behaviors continue to play a vital role but become more nuanced, reflecting a deeper understanding and connection.
    Intelligence: Can manifest as witty banter or thoughtful conversations that keep the mental spark alive.
  2. Gentle Approach: Being gentle and tactful can grow to foster a positive and supportive environment for the relationship.
  3. Cheerfulness: Is essential in creating an atmosphere of warmth and safety where playful flirtation can thrive.
  4. Strong Interest and Romance: Continuously showing that you are invested in and captivated by your partner.
  5. Courage and Determination: The willingness to initiate flirtation and keep the romantic energy alive, even through the ups and downs of a relationship.
  6. Common Characteristics: Shared interests and values can be a foundation for flirtatious conversations and activities.
  7. Good Looks: Physical attraction is important, and in the context of long-term relationships, it’s about continuing to appreciate and affirm each other’s physical appearance through compliments.
  8. Mystery: An element of intrigue or mystery can stimulate curiosity and interest, driving a desire to know more about the person.

Sustaining the Connection

As amazing as this list of characteristics seem, it can also be overwhelming to imagine giving full attention to each one. Over time, primary factors in a relationship, such as non-verbal communication, often evolve. Others might be more subtle, like intelligence, or seem like common sense, such as a gentle approach. Similarly, some attributes like cheerfulness can vary day-to-day. However, two factors stand out as foundational in sustaining the romantic connection:

Courage and Determination:

The courage to initiate flirtation and the perseverance to continue, even when initial attempts falter, can show a deep and continued level of interest and commitment to keeping the romantic spark alive. This ongoing effort shows a willingness to invest in the relationship’s continued growth.

Strong Interest and Romance:

The gestures that helped initiate the connection can evolve to express genuine and continued wanting to deepen the emotional and romantic bond. It’s about showing your partner that your interest in them is as strong as ever.

Long-term relationships may need to focus on more than idealistic traits and may call for a more realistic and proactive approach. With this in mind, flirtation homework helps couples rediscover the joy of romantic flirtation and playfulness:

  • HINT: Send a flirty text to make your partner’s day and remind them of your initial attraction. A simple “I miss you,” is a great start.

  • SUGGEST: Wink across a crowded room, even with the chance of getting caught. A secret message just for the two of you.

  • ADMIRE: Use nicknames and gentle teasing when interacting to increase closeness and affection.2

  • REMIND: Exchange notes with inside jokes or compliments. Playful language keeps the connection alive.

  • FLATTER: Compliment each other’s appearance flirtatiously. Remind them that they are still desired.

Reigniting and maintaining connection do not always require grand gestures or elaborate plans. Sometimes, it’s as simple as returning to those initial feelings of butterflies and anticipation, as a reminder of why you fell for each other in the first place. Remember, it’s often the small and simple acts that add up to make the biggest impact. And if you find yourself on the receiving end of these, don’t forget to return the favor.


  1. Apostolou, M., & Christoforou, C. (2020). The art of flirting: What are the traits that make it effective? Personality and Individual Differences, 158, 109866.
  2. Aune, K.S. & Wong, N.C.H. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of adult play in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 9(3), 279-286.
  3. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D. J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7(2), 88-98.
  4. Fisher, H. E. (2004). Why we love: the nature and chemistry of romantic love. Henry Holt and Co.
  5. Frisby, Brandi & Booth-Butterfield, Melanie. (2012). The “How” and “Why” of Flirtatious Communication Between Marital Partners. Communication Quarterly. 60. 10.1080/01463373.2012.704568.
  6. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–96.
  7. Wade, J. A. (2018). (I Think) You Are Pretty: A Behavior Analytic Conceptualization of Flirtation. Perspectives on Behavioral Science, 41(2), 615-636.