Do I Give My Boyfriend A Mulligan For Flirting While Drunk?

Mulligan or not acceptable? I read your blog daily, have sent it to numerous of my friends and even bought your online book. I have read tons of self help books and since reading yours, my dating life has changed drastically. I now feel in control of my own happiness and not the needy, clingy, over analyzer I use to be.

I’ve been dating this guy for a month and “mirroring” him, which has worked out great. Everything has been amazing so far! He takes me on real dates, follows up right away and is always consistent. For the first time in my life I have been able to just relax and let things flow with out putting a timeline on when things should happen according to me.

Anyways, he asked me to come out with him and all of his friends last night because everyone was in town for New Year’s. I was super excited and thought, “wow, he must really like me.” Dumb, right? Got to the bar with a few of my girlfriends and he was beyond drunk. I was my happy self, said hello, grabbed a drink and proceeded to chat with his friends. He hopped around from person to person and was quite close with all of the girls…. I assumed they were all old college friends. However, I was wrong. My girlfriend overheard the girl say she just met him last week at a bar down the road. He then started to chat a girl right near me and rub her back (quite sexually) right in front of me and my friend. I was beyond embarrassed and humiliated when my three girlfriends asked me “what is he doing?”

Why would he invite me there if he wasn’t going to talk to me and have other girls all over him/vice versa? When he realized I was upset, he came over to explain they were “just old friends.” I simply said it wasn’t cool, I didn’t understand why I was there and especially when I brought my friends to meet him. Let’s just say he called me “dramatic” and then another not very nice word through slurring. I asked my girlfriends if we could leave without making a scene. His friends kept telling me “oh, he’s just drunk and trying to show off…he really likes you… we have heard so much about you!” Now he is profusely apologizing, saying he was wasted. I use to have a drinking problem and it reminded me of something I would have done two years ago: wake up regretting what I did and realize I meant nothing by it other then my own personal “daddy” issues.

Desperately wishing the person I liked would understand, forgive me and hand me a mulligan because I didn’t mean it. Do I give a mulligan??? Or is this not acceptable??? There has to be a fine line between the two and right now its super blurry to me. Please help!


Dear Natalie,

This is a GREAT question, and you deserve a lot of credit for one thing: realizing that this reminded you of something you would have done two years ago and didn’t mean it.

…step out of your own shoes, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and see if you can understand the logic behind his behavior.

Because truly, that is the essence of dating coaching — step out of your own shoes, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, and see if you can understand the logic behind his behavior. The people who are best in relationships are the ones who understand and forgive men for their transgressions. My wife — and her mulligan policy — is just the easiest example that I can use to illustrate this.

(By the way, my wife’s been very cool with all of the fat jokes I’ve been making at her expense in the past few weeks. Why? Because a) she knows I love her more than life itself, b) she has a great sense of humor and c) she’s 8 months pregnant and looks like she ate a volleyball. Why should she be insulted? She also hears every day that I think she’s beautiful and has a GREAT body for a pregnant woman. Moving on…)

As I pointed out in a recent blog post, when it comes to basic things like kindness, self-awareness, and avoiding dispiriting embarrassment, alcohol is usually going to be the culprit. From there, your dilemma becomes as clear as answering these two questions:

  • Is his drinking a problem that is indicative of a larger issue around alcohol, anger management or a loss of control?
  • Was this isolated incident that seems like an aberration from all the rest of his behavior?

I can’t claim to know your new guy’s state of mind. I can tell you, however, that ALL of us have done things while inebriated that we come to regret. And while it’s easy to make the case that booze only lets you do the things you really want to do — and acts as a truth lamp for inhibited people — it also has a tendency to bring out the worst in people.

ALL of us have done things while inebriated that we come to regret.

If you’re emotional, you’ll start crying when you’re drunk.

If you’re depressed, you’ll be more depressed when you’re drunk.

And, finally, if you’re a flirt, you’re insatiable when you’re drunk.

Literally, the last time I had a fistfight — 15 years ago — I got beat up for flirting with a woman too aggressively. Did it matter that I had 8 vodka tonics in the previous hour? Not to the guy who was punching me in the face. But the next day, when I went to work with a sore jaw (and literally NO memory of what happened the night before), and I learned what I did at my friend’s party, I was consumed with regret for weeks. I beat myself up emotionally. I apologized to everyone involved in the event. I quit drinking for 3 months. I tried to do my penance for one embarrassing moment that I couldn’t take back.

So while there’s no defending the guy who drunkenly hit on other women on the very night he invited you to join him for New Years, it is entirely possible that his behavior was out of character and that, given the opportunity to redeem himself, he does just that.

Kudos to you for understanding when to give a guy a mulligan and for having the power to walk away from this situation if he ever pulls that crap again.

Join our conversation (63 Comments).
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  1. 41

    Run girl run! I was married to an abusive man for 21 years. Any man who will call you names and tell you that you are dramatic when you express concern over his actions is trouble! This is only the first or second month you have been dating him! I shudder to wonder what he will do next drunk or not! Drinking does NOT excuse ANY bad behavior. If this is the way he is trying to impress you, it is NOT working. Find a man who can impress you with his maturity and not his  immaturity! By the way Evan, calling your wife fat while she is pregnant is funny for awhile but, in the end it can get real old real fast!

  2. 42


    I know you don’t get it, but yes, one CAN rub another’s back “quite sexually.” It is not just the receiver perceiving it as such, either.

    There is also *intent*  All kinds of unspoken body language  can go along with a back-rub that make it obvious to the receiver and those watching that sexual intent is involved.  Since the OP  said he was flirting it up with everyone, I’m sure there were flirtatious gestures  included in that back rub to make it obvious it was not  simply two body parts meeting  like that of a paid massage therapist.  

    There are subtlties and nuances to human behavior that communicate intent. A woman usually KNOWS when she is being touched with a brotherly affection verses sexual intent. I appreciate you are playing devil’s advocate, but give the girl some credit, she was there.

  3. 43
    Christie Hartman

    I’m with Selena and Jamie on this one. NO MULLIGAN! Not for this guy. Yes, you should be on the lookout for red flags, and yes, not all of them turn out bad and sometimes you have to see what happens. But drunk + chicks + massage + flirting + calling her dramatic + calling her some other name = JERK. Alcohol only brings out who we really are deep down. Not a chance should you trust this guy. Walk away, woman!

  4. 44

    That’s the thing Christie, there was alot more to this incident than just “flirting while drunk” as it has been trivialized.

  5. 45
    Karl R

    Gem said: (#44)
    “the OP  said he was flirting it up with everyone,”

    Evan has previously said that he is a flirt. I’m a flirt. My girlfriend is a flirt. We exhibit this flirtatious behavior even with people we’re not interested in having a relationship with  (or even sex with).

    Gem said: (#44)
    “There is also *intent*”
    “I’m sure there were flirtatious gestures  included in that back rub to make it obvious”

    I can watch my girlfriend talk to men whom I know she turned down multiple times when she was single, and I can see why they would have thought (and still might think) that she was interested in them.

    Similarly, I’ve had numerous people get confused regarding which woman is my girlfriend when we’re out at one of our normal dancing hangouts. I might chat with, flirt with, dance with, hug or otherwise have some physical contact with a couple dozen women. The one I passionately kiss is my girlfriend.

    Short of reading the man’s mind, how do you know his intent?

    Natalie said: (original post)
    “He then started to chat a girl right near me and rub her back (quite sexually)”

    Why is everyone convinced this was a back-rub/massage?

    If I’m chatting with a woman -and- rubbing her back, I’m standing  beside her (where I can hear her and make eye contact), my forearm is across her back, and my hand is moving up and down a few inches (or back and forth a few inches).

    And having given/received more back-rubs in bars than I can conveniently count (probably because I don’t expect sex to be part of the exchange), I can point out a few of the logistical issues. Typically both people are seated, one behind the other. That’s not conducive to chatting in a noisy environment. If both people are standing, then Newtonian physics become an issue: I apply pressure to the other person’s back, they take a step forward, and I take a step back. If I’m giving a backrub to someone who is standing, I’ll have one forearm across the person’s collarbones so I can counter the pressure I’m applying to his/her back. Since balance is an issue, I wouldn’t try to give a standing back-rub while drunk.

    Steve said: (#26)
    “These threads are almost like a legal workshop.     The facilitator gives us a mostly complete story.   People conjecture and interpolate.”

    And the phrase: “Objection. Assuming facts not in evidence,” keeps coming to my mind.

    We already know this man behaved like a jerk in this instance. We don’t have assume things that might or might not be true.

    Evan’s initial advice holds true.  Natalie can give the guy one mulligan if she wants to. If she doesn’t want to, it’s a moot point. If he blows it again, he’s established a pattern of behavior.

  6. 46


    Natalie asks, “Do I give him a Mulligan??? Or is this unacceptable???”

    Ofcourse she can give him one if she wants too. But some of us believe it is unacceptable. That’s what comes from having a comment section – if someone asks questions they will get opinions   besides EMK’s.

  7. 47

    Oh, and whatever anyone has to say, including you Karl, is moot anyway. Six weeks have passed, Natalie already resolved the situation one way or another  without any input from this blog.

  8. 48

    “We already know this man behaved like a jerk in this instance.”

    In what way do you think this man behaved like a jerk?

    You’ve defended  flirtatious behavior because it doesn’t necessarily mean the flirt wants  to take it  farther. Therefore, without reading this guy’s mind, the OP cannot KNOW if he had any nefarious intent.

    You’ve also said his infamous back-rub may  have been completely innocent like when you touch a dance partner and just because it LOOKED  sexy and flirtatious to the OP, it doesn’t mean he meant it that way.  

    “We don’t have assume things that might or might not be true.”

    Apparently, we do, because as you say, “Short of reading the man’s mind, how do you know his intent?”

    And therfore, you  make it sound like while his behavior made the OP uncomfortable, it may be her assumptions and over-reactions to his drunk,  but completely  innocent behavior.

    It doesn’t matter that the dude  probably had no intention of going home and nailing another woman,  what he  did in front of her eyes was  disrespectful enough.  The OP doesn’t need to be a  mind reader to know that he DID flirt and behave suggestively to other women and  he DID make himself look untrustworthy.    

  9. 49


    #36, that’s a very interesting story- I have to say that kind of behavior would literally have scared me off- I’m not even talking respect issues anymore, but actual fear. So- it’s pretty amazing that he’s turned out to be the way he is. I don’t think that this is the norm by any means, though.

  10. 50
    Karl R

    Gem asked: (#50)
    “In what way do you think this man behaved like a jerk?”
    Natalie said: (original post)
    “I simply said it wasn’t cool, I didn’t understand why I was there and especially when I brought my friends to meet him. Let’s just say he called me ‘dramatic’ and then another not very nice word through slurring.”

    Given human nature, I’d say that it’s extremely likely that the boyfriend called Natalies a “dramatic [not very nice word]”, and he  said it in public.  And that behavior made him a jerk (and potentially crossed the line into verbal abuse)  …
    … even if she was being dramatic.
    … even if she was being uptight.
    … even though he was drunk.
    … even if she had  said something equally inappropriate immediately preceding his statement.

    If your partner is upset, you should  immediately defuse the situation, then discuss  the situation  later, in private, when everyone is calmer and sober.

    Gem asked: (#50)
    “you  make it sound like while his behavior made the OP uncomfortable, it may be her assumptions and over-reactions to his drunk,  but completely  innocent behavior.”

    Which is entirely possible. And if that is the case, I would feel that he would be  completely justified in dumping  Natalie for that reason. But he wasn’t justified in saying what he said.

    Selena said: (#49)
    “and whatever anyone has to say, including you Karl, is moot anyway. Six weeks have passed,”

    This may still be relevant and current to Natalie. She may have decided to give her boyfriend a mulligan six weeks ago. How often does he get drunk? If he gets drunk again and behaves badly, then people  have been perfectly clear that she should immediately  dump him. He shouldn’t get a second mulligan.

    That could still be a future event.

    Selena said: (#48)
    “some of us believe it is unacceptable.”

    Having that belief is fine … unless it gets in the way of finding a relationship.

    A lot of women on this blog are drawn to the charismatic men with whom they have chemistry. If you study that group of men carefully, I supsect that you’ll discover that most of them are very good (and frequent) flirts.

    What happens to  a woman’s  love life if  she’s initially  drawn to the same behavior that  she finds unacceptable one month later?

  11. 51

    I still cannot get my head around Annie’s comment #36.
    “I don’t know what I’d put up with, I do know however that I can’t create some kind of litmis test for a relationship. You can’t be scared of everything.”
    I see it a little differently. To me, it’s not as much being scared as being practical. I have to ask myself, at the end of my day after work, would I rather come to an empty home, or would I rather come home to a man that may call me a bitch if he’s drunk? In my case, I’ve been called that in the past, so I know from experience that I dislike it A LOT, so for myself, I’d probably go with the empty home. It’s more enjoyable, to me.
    Also, in my particular case, I’ve got to ask myself this as well – do I want my children coming home to a random (to them) guy that calls their mother a bitch when he’s drunk? Um, NO. It’s logic. No assumptions, no projections, just logical reasoning.
    Agree with the next comment about the not keeping score part, though. Lance, I really enjoy reading your comments, but your suggestion in #17 is pretty PA. And I don’t take PA very well. If something I did made my partner feel bad, he should just say so.

  12. 52

    @51 and 53.

    I will admit, her behaviour really did confuse me for a while, and I couldn’t understand how she put up with it. Bottom line was though, she was absolutely right. When he was sober, he was completely lovely and a very funny guy. When he drank beer, he was just a big goof-ball. When he drank spirits, he was Dr Hyde..

    I will never completely understand my friend, but she makes the best out of every situation. I might go to the bank with her, and there’s a line for at least 30 minutues. By the end of it, she will know everyone’s names in the line, she will have everyone rolling around in stiches,a few phone numbers will have been swapped  and one time(if you can believe it), she got a pile of dour faced adults in a bankline, to join in a sing-a-long of row-row your boat.

    Honestly, she was zany and full of life and one of the most amazing people. I probably wouldn’t have taken her approach with his drinking either, but I learnt so much for her extrodinary capacity to accept everyone for who they were, and still keep herself safe from any kind of harm.

    She definately taught me, that you just can’t keep score, and you must be able to accept everything about some-one else to be with them, but you can still have the self-confidence to ask for what you want or need from some-one(IE start drinking beer instead of spirits) and believe that you are worthy of a response.

  13. 53

    First off, when do we give mulligans and what is appropriate? Evan says that men like women who say YES to them, but at the same time they want nice girls with boundaries? I keep saying yes, but I feel like a doormat. If I set boundaries, I seem to be saying NO to them.  

    I give mulligans, but it seems that men are getting away with bad behaviors and they lose respect for you. He only meets me on the weekend, Ive met his friends, weve slept together as Ive said yes to him, he offers things and I say yes, I am nice, I try to not be unreasonable….but it seems that he is still keeping me at arms length. Its only been 2 months.

    He still has his online dating profile up? DO I give him a mulligan or not? He only texts me once a week and thats to set up a weekend date? Do I give him a mulligan or not?  

    Evan says men fall in love with women who dont resist them, so I keep saying yes to the date, I say yes, yes, yes, YES, YES! But I dont get what I want. Do I walk away?! I try to be forgiving, reasonable, empathetic, but it seems that I am still the ‘weekend girl’.  

    He just asked for another date and finally I said NO. I find that if you give men what they want TOO early, they lose respect. I cant keep saying YES…when in reality I am becoming the easy girl and men dont want easy girls. They want to chase you!

    Everything is contradictory. Do this, DO that, I think I am not going to do anything anymore. I say yes in hopes that he will be more committed, but it seems that I am only letting poor behavior slide. When I forgive and give mulligans, it seems that he thinks its acceptable.  

    Aghhhh….I am just going to avoid him now. I am not going to say YES anymore. I am going to say nothing.

  14. 54

    People can be flirty when they drink too much and more so if they normally have the tendency to be flirty on a daily basis. If you date someone who is flirty, you know what you are getting yourself into. If you can agree to disagree (he flirts but he is my boyfriend) then you have already come to terms with it.   Flirting is one thing. Being the captain at the bar with a whole group of crew-women is another.
    I think she was excited and proud to introduce her new guy to her friends. I also think this side of him shocked her…more than she could have expected. And if it were my friend this happened to, we would have left and chilled out somewhere to diffuse all the emotions.   Name-calling hurts whether its said in a drunken state or not.  
    Had this New Year’s “meet-up” been a traditional date where they arrived together and he introduced her to everyone and was then an ultra-flirty man leaving her with friends to “man the ship and the crew, ” I would be confused as to why he brought me. But, this is not the case; they met at the bar. This is not an excuse, it’s an observation. I’m the first to admit I am a highly sensitive lady, though I am working on it! It seems the festivities were more of a gathering and she thought he would have been “the man” she was dating. Instead, he was another side of himself who she did not know existed. We all have those sides….some are prettier than others. 🙂
    In my heart, I believe you should accept people as they are. Likewise, there are some things I am not willing to accept in a relationship…so at some point, you decide which imperfections you can accept and which imperfections he will accept from you. I think she needs to get to know is guy a little better….it’s her call whether or not to offer a mulligan. For the first time, I won’t offer an opinion except I can just say, go with your gut; let that be your guide.

  15. 55
    Been There Done That

    Run!   You give one mulligan, you will give many more. I have breaks too. Always made excuses. Always waiting for him to grow up or straighten out. A drunken flirt will always remain a drunken flirt. My husband has brought me so much pain over this one issue throughout our marriage. Looking back, I wish I trusted my instincts at the start and walked away. His flirting has led to many indiscretions and affairs. Save yourself and do not repeat my mistake!!!   A drunk flirt cannot be trusted.  

  16. 56

    Intersting situation.   AFter listening to a few of Mark’s audio’s  this pops up as he states about men.   Judge a guy on his behavior, notice his behavior.   Also girl,   trust your intuition about it all.     

  17. 57
    Aleece Hussey

    There is no excuse…once someone you are dating shows up it is time to be respectful. There will be plenty of time for boys nite out flirting. In my past ,my friend walked into a club and observed my new dating partner walking up to women flirting. I gave him a chance after a long talk..Months later I caught him doing the same..I was sunning on the beach and he went to get me a drink..It was taking him a long time so i checked and he was walking up to & approaching women. I used to behave poorly too and decided a healthy relationship involves respect.. Cut it off ..tell him you are into men that know how to treat a woman and. you deserve no less. Tell him you may be open to reconsider but it will take time. LET HIM KNOW EARLY ON YOU WiLL NOT TOLERATE disrespect and he either swims or sinks. This is about you taking care of yourself not his issues he can fix them on his time not your time!!

  18. 58
    Aleece Hussey

    It is sad that your date is selfish and insecure.   Also I have concerns that if he was behaving absurdly due to drunkeness…why didnt his friend pull him aside and tell him to stop behaving over the top flirting in your presence.   Did any of them come after you to see if you were OK after he called you names? Not a good sign if not one if them stepped up to diffuse this event..Do you want to spend your time with him and his group? Think how you would react if you were not involved and observed this would stay clear and dislike this guy? Your judgement is clouded by your feelings..we have all been there.

    He wasnt showing off but showing his self and no judgement he needs to learn like all of us have the hardway. Cut him no self respecting guy would tolerate it..feel good about YOURSELF and tell him to call you in 6 months to a year when he may have figured things out..You go girl!!



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