Level 3: Intentional FlirtingRisk Level: Medium to HighThis is where ambiguity gets left in the dust, and the flirter willingly goes over the line of 'ambiguous but largely inoffensive social playfulness', and into the territory of 'staking their pole in the ground'. This is the level of flirting where the participants involved get an instinctive sense of its "wrongness", and perhaps also the dark excitement that can be wrapped up along with the awareness of one's own impropriety. This is the flirting that takes place away from prying eyes. It's the "too familiar coworker" constantly finding reasons to touch, sensually provoke, and make teasing passes throughout the shift, and then acting all distant and innocent when the flirtee's boyfriend/girlfriend stops by the workplace. Intentional flirting is indeed dangerous, and a moderately reliable predictor of further escalation to higher levels of flirting, or even to outright cheating. Of course, the *reason* behind this more intentional flirting counts for something, too. Intentional flirting could in certain cases be borne out of a need for attention from the opposite sex in general, or a sign of something lacking in the emotional landscape of their current relationship, or it could even be just straight up boredom combined with an apathy towards; or ignorance of, the non-present partner's boundaries and expectations. Whatever the explanation, this is the first explicit warning signal that should tell you dangerous games are afoot, and you should tread real carefully, whether you're the one complicit in the flirting, or the partner subjected to seeing it play out second-hand.
Level 4: Aggressive/ sexualised flirtingRisk level: High / Very highThis is the escalated form of intentional flirting, in that the intentionality and specificity of the flirting is amplified by the additional signal booster of explicit sexual overtures. If Level 3 flirting were the point of "right I'm putting my foot down", then Level 4 flirting should be the point of "fuck this shit, I'm not gonna wait around while my partner goes off doing so-and-so!" Even if no actual physical sexual activities have happened yet, the behavioral clues all point towards cheating as the inevitable escalation of events. This is also where the innocent bystander-- ironically enough-- is most likely to use self-deception, justifying the sudden and radical shifts in their partner's behavior and priorities as something like "I'm probably just being paranoid, she's entitled to have her own friends, hey as long as she's coming home to me at the night's end then she can say whatever she wants" etc. So this is where you really have to have your eyes open to the red flags indicating an impending disaster, because it's pretty rare that Level 4 flirting will suddenly de-escalate, at least not without some serious relationship intervention. Personally, being "once burnt, twice shy" myself, I would probably assume cheating is a likely outcome the moment Level 2 flirting fails to de-escalate.
Waiting until your partner is flirting with someone else at Level 4 is a real recipe for disaster, but the real tragedy is that because of human cognitive biases and blind spots in our awareness, it's at Level 4 where we're most susceptible to actually believing the lies of "nothing's going on, you don't need to worry about him/her". If anything, the more adamant their protestations of innocence, the more likely it is they've reached at least level 4, if not higher. In functional terms I would consider level 4 flirting as a form of effective cheating -- like a kidnapper who already decided to kill his captive, and is now pacing the room psyching himself up to complete the slaughter itself.
Level 5: Explicit sexual activity and cheatingRisk level: DEFCON 1****KA-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!****That's the Tsar Bomba right there. You saw the warning signs, and now annihilation has come. "Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds", says the cheater who had every opportunity to de-escalate before the nuclear option was deployed.
From your chart... where is very long gazes, holding someone's hand and biting/licking lips while looking at the guy?
Based on that description, I'd probably place it in Level 3 flirting, but the hand holding is an especially intimate act, so on that basis alone the alarm bells should be firing in all directions. If they're indeed in Level 3 at that point, then I suspect they'd imminently escalate to Level 4 and potentially beyond. Maybe in a culture where hand-holding is just a social nicety, it wouldn't mean so much. But if I caught a supposedly monogamous girlfriend holding hands with another guy, even if she wasn't literally cheating, I'd just assume she's escalating towards the nuclear option. So on that basis the hand-holding would arguably raise the stakes right to level 4, especially given the fact that the extended lip biting and deep eye gazing is suggestive of just-barely-implicit sexual overtones.So yeah, I'd say either "level 3 with likely escalation to level 4", or "level 4, period".But this is just my own abstractions, speaking from experience, your gut knows what's going on long before your head catches up. Were I in your shoes, knowing what I know now, there's no way I'd allow myself to remain in a relationship situation where blatant, intentional moves are being made. But that's me, I don't wanna load the chamber in your own gun before you've even figured out if someone needs shooting lol
If not for the hand-holding I would've been *slightly* tempted to say Level 2, but adding the signs all together, Level 3 seems like the absolute baseline, and certainly not the upper ceiling for potential escalation.
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