Everyone is different and that’s what makes all relationships unique. Everyone has different lines drawn and boundaries that make them feel safe, loved, and secure. People will also have different definitions and ideas of what their relationship should look like. This can cause a lot of tension, especially when you differ on what you consider cheating – especially micro-cheating.
What is Micro-cheating?
Microcheating is the act of encouraging intimate connections outside of your relationships through small actions and words. Microcheating may not entail physical intimacy, but it may be through emotional connections. It goes against the couple’s agreements and understandings about romantic exclusivity. Microcheating is like the little sibling of emotional affairs. Similar to emotional affairs, micro-cheating may not be considered cheating by many people, but it’s the secrecy and betrayal of trust that damages the relationship the most. The difference is, people who are having emotional affairs are usually aware of the treachery of their actions.
What can be considered Micro-cheating?
As we mentioned earlier, you may or may not be aware of micro-cheating. Here are some actions that are generally considered micro-cheating and can create tension between you and your partner. Just because you aren’t doing it consciously, doesn’t mean it hurts your partner any less.
1Encouraging erotic energy.
Prolonged eye contact with the new co-worker, a little graze of the fingertips with the barista at your regular cafe, or perhaps some flirty comments with the bartender at the pub you frequent after work. All these sexually charged encounters count as micro-cheating. It doesn’t matter that you have no intention of actually sleeping with any of them.
2Fantasizing about emotional connections.
If you catch yourself constantly recalling the great connection you had with your exes, or imagining what a relationship with your best friend could have been like. That’s dangerous territory for your relationship. Having those fantasies can be a slippery slope. Idealizing emotional connections because you feel like something is missing in your current relationship hurts both you and your partner.
3Seeking repeated intimate interactions with exes or other people you are attracted to.
Sometimes you may do things out of habit. Calling up your ex for lunch dates on a significant date, running to your attractive co-worker every time you want to have a fun night out, or always talking to your best friend about your relationship problems instead of your partner. These can drive a wedge between you and your significant other. You should not be seeking that kind of intimacy with other people when you’re in a couple.
4Reconnecting with people when you are upset in your current relationship.
‘People’ doesn’t necessarily mean your exes. It could be someone you used to like or someone that liked you. Maybe even friends that you cut off because they were unhealthy for you or your relationship. You’re looking for a connection that your partner hasn’t been able to give you, but instead of talking to your partner about it – you’re seeking fulfillment elsewhere.
5Creating an intimacy drought.
As a form of punishment or just because you aren’t feeling connected to your partner, you may start to pull away. You become withdrawn from your partner physically, mentally, and emotionally. You create a disconnect in your relationship that closes you off from the person you’re meant to feel closest to.
Signs Someone is Micro-Cheating
We know what can be considered micro-cheating, but what are the signs that someone is micro-cheating? Here are a few things to watch out for to determine if you should be concerned.
1They are more focused on their phone than they usually are.
If someone that only used their phone when they absolutely needed to becomes a screen slave, it can raise a few red flags. Given, it can be because they have to be on-call at work for a specific project, but they probably would have mentioned that. They’re on alert for a phone call or a text message that they discreetly respond to. These can be signs of someone planning a surprise, or that they’re talking to someone that they know will make you uncomfortable.
2They are indifferent when you try to have heart-to-heart talks with them.
You’ve been noticing the distance, so you sit them down and talk to them about your concerns, what you’ve observed, and how your recent reactions have made you feel. Their response? Indifference. They brush you off, or they don’t even really pay attention to you while you share your concerns with them. This reaction could be because they’re preoccupied with other things, other people, or are purposefully creating a divide in your relationship. This is unfair to you because while you’re trying to mend your relationship, they are sabotaging it.
3They flirt with your friends, and your friends will tell you about it.
Whether or not they do it in front of you is not the point. They might see it as an innocent interaction, but when it comes to the point that your friends are going out of their way to tell you that your partner has been flirting with them, it might be time to have a conversation with your partner. Their actions are starting to make others feel uncomfortable, and causing your loved ones to question your relationship – maybe even making you doubt your own relationship.
4They are defensive when asked about social media interactions.
It’s the fact that they always seem to be the first to like this specific user’s post, or that they have a ton of streaks ongoing with a ton of people you’ve never heard of. When you ask them about it they get all up in arms, saying that it’s none of your business or that they’re nobodies. Worse still, they deny the interactions when you can clearly see them. Innocent interactions don’t elicit defensive responses, so if they’re turning the tables on you when you ask a simple question, that’s suspicious.
5Their friends didn’t know you were dating.
You’ve been dating for a couple of weeks, maybe even a few months. You’ve told your friends about this person that you’re seeing that makes you happy. Their friends? Until this moment, they had no idea their buddy was even seeing anyone. In the early stages of talking and getting to know each other, it’s totally understandable to not tell your friends. But when you’ve already been officially dating for a while, it’s strange for them to not want to share that part of their life with the people they care about.
6They talk about their attraction to others but won’t tell you directly what they need and feel.
It’s not the first time they’ve told you in no uncertain terms that they found someone attractive. They’ll tell you that they’re drawn to their co-worker, or that they feel this chemistry with their neighbor. Your partner won’t specify why they feel that pull towards someone that isn’t you, so that leaves you hurt and confused. You’re given a puzzle to solve without all the pieces which makes the situation frustrating and angering.
7They tell you about big life events, but can’t wait to tell their “friend” too.
Your partner rushes home bursting with excitement about their promotion, they got the grants for the programs they’ve applied to, or one of your friends has gotten engaged. You celebrate and congratulate them upon hearing the great news. But in the middle of your celebration, they utter the words “I can’t wait to tell [insert “friend’s” name here].” It isn’t the first time they’ve felt the need to share big announcements with this specific friend before you’ve settled down from their announcement. Their need to rush to this friend whenever something big happens in their life can be bothersome, especially when there are times when that friend finds things out before you do. In a relationship, you’re supposed to be the first person they want to share the news with, so knowing that the friend sometimes takes that spot can become a sore point.
8They take forever to text you back, but are always on their phone when you’re together.
Whenever you’re together their fingers seem to be tapping on their phone endlessly. They’re replying to a ceaseless barrage of texts. Snickers and small smiles appear as they have the online exchange. But when you text them, it takes them forever to respond. More than anything, it makes you wonder who they’ve been texting and why responding to them is more important than focusing on time with you… and why responding to your texts doesn’t strike the same urgency.
9They become closed off for long stretches.
It can be difficult enough when you try to communicate with each other but don’t seem to be able to get on the same page. Relationships get even harder when one of you becomes closed off for any reason. The withdrawal is happening for a reason. What reason in particular? It can be because they’re able to find the fulfillment they usually find in your relationship with someone else. And when they feel fulfilled, they’re able to open back up in your relationship. These gaps in your relationship that causes them to turn to other people should be discussed between the people involved in the relationship instead of turning to someone else.
10They always keep their phone face down.
They’re keeping off their phone for the most part, but every now and then you’ll see them pick it up and purposefully place it face down when they’re done with it. Just that conscious effort to obscure the screen from you can ring the alarm bells in your head. The incessant dig at your security in your relationship is painful enough. But if you add that when you ask them about it, they become cagey then there might be more things going on than you initially suspected.
11They’re always mentioning this ‘incredible’ person they just became friends with.
Maintaining and creating friendships outside of your relationship is good. In fact, it’s a sign of a healthy partnership. It can get uncomfortable when your significant other has a new friend they can’t seem to stop gushing about. They barrage you with complimentary stories and admiration about this person while in conversations with you. You can’t help but feel like you’re being compared to this new person. It can bring up or create some insecurities.
12They save someone’s number under the wrong name.
Finding out your partner has a number saved under the wrong name can make anyone a bit suspicious. It doesn’t matter what they talk about or if they even communicate at all. Keeping someone secret from their partner is hurtful, and it begs the question why? Why make such an effort to conceal someone’s existence? Innocent friendships mean that you are willing to introduce them to your significant other. In fact, you should be more than excited to have someone they deem a friend get along with the person they love. So the fact they’ll keep a person a secret is more often than not, micro-cheating.
13They delete entire text conversations.
Guilty individuals will do what they can to clear all evidence of wrongdoing. Whether we’re talking about petty theft or micro-cheating, this holds true. If there’s nothing to get them in trouble, then there should be no reason to be deleting entire conversations from their phone history.
What to Do Now That You’ve Found Them Micro-Cheating?
Now that you’ve determined that micro-cheating is present in the relationship, there are a couple of things you can do to mend your relationship and avoid more incidents of micro-cheating. Micro-cheating is a sign of a breakdown in a relationship, but still totally mendable. Leaving the micro-cheating unaddressed can lead to full-on cheating that will likely cause the end of your relationship.
1Have an honest conversation.
It’s time to have a sit-down and talk to your partner about how you’ve been feeling about the relationship. If you’ve noticed that you’ve been micro-cheating or that your partner has been, address that. Try to get to the cause of those actions and maybe you can figure out why you’re seeking comfort and fulfilling interactions outside of your partnership. Listen and try to understand each other instead of being accusatory. You may not have noticed the micro-cheating had someone not mentioned it to you, so it’s quite possible that they didn’t realize that was what they were doing as well. Make your concerns known and talk about what you can each do to make your relationship more fulfilling for both of you.
2Strengthen your relationship.
Now that you’ve talked about your feelings, take active steps to not only mend your relationship but make it stronger. Think about attending relationship therapy, taking weekends away to reconnect, or even just setting aside an actual date night every week so that you consciously make time for each other and make an active effort to keep the romance alive. Work on the issues that led to the micro-cheating in the first place. Work on your responses and reactions, how you show affection, and your communication.
3Define what constitutes cheating and micro-cheating.
Having clear definitions of what you each consider as cheating and micro-cheating will help you to avoid such misunderstandings in the future. Clarify and agree on your definitions and respect what each other deems to be disloyal or hurtful. What may seem innocent to you may bring up ill feelings in your partner, and vice-versa. Have clear boundaries that you can rely upon when you are unsure if your partner would feel uncomfortable with certain interactions. Also, knowing what constitutes micro-cheating can signal to yourself when there is a gap in your relationship that you can address before it becomes a problem.
4Check up on each other.
Ask each other how you’re feeling about the relationship, and about life in general. Doing regular check-ups will allow you to adjust your response and how you care for your partner. There will be points in the relationship when different kind of expressions of love and affection is required. Being open to frequent communication with your beau makes it easier for both of you to open up to your partner. It will prevent disconnects in your relationship, and it will make your partnership much stronger in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
1Are these the only acts of micro-cheating?
Not necessarily. Lines and boundaries are defined by you and your partner. That’s why we suggest that you and your partner clearly define what you regard as micro-cheating and cheating. In open relationships, for example, sexual activities may not be considered cheating while an emotional connection is. There’s no hard and fast rule. Communicate with your partner and make sure that you’re both comfortable with the boundaries of your relationship.
2Is micro-cheating forgivable?
Offenses in a relationship are seen as forgivable or unforgivable only by the people involved in the relationship. Micro-cheating is usually a symptom of a bigger problem that you can resolve before it gets out of hand. So if the relationship is worth it, micro-cheating can be forgivable, and even be a catalyst for creating a stronger connection with your significant other.
3Has social media made micro-cheating more common?
There are no studies to determine factual numbers on this, so we don’t actually know. However, it has probably made micro-cheating a bit more accessible. While most people will scoff at the idea of flirting with people outright when they’re in a relationship, liking a post on social media or always waiting for the little notification bell for activity on their pages. It gives people more courage, the anonymity of online interactions, so even individuals in relationships can forget themselves.
4Is micro-cheating a red flag?
If your partner repeatedly does so despite you having voiced your concerns, yes. The fact that they disregard your discomfort at their actions is a sign of their respect for you and your boundaries. That in itself is the red flag. However, if it’s the first time they’ve micro-cheated, it may just be a sign of a gap in your relationship that can easily be remedied. And in remedying that disconnect, they may not micro-cheat again. Long answer short, micro-cheating as a standalone incident is not a red flag.
5Does micro-cheating always lead to a full-blown affair?
When left on its own, it can. This is why you must address the micro-cheating to stop the infidelity or the thoughts of infidelity in its tracks. But no, micro-cheating does not always lead to a full-blown affair as long as you address the causes of the micro-cheating.
Micro-cheating can hurt a relationship, but it does not mean the end of it. Communicating is key to any healthy relationship, and ensuring that you are talking to your partner about your needs will help keep the micro-cheating (on purpose or accidental) away. Determine your and your partner’s boundaries so that you each know what they’ll consider as a betrayal of their trust and disloyal to your relationship. Being aware of micro-cheating can make you more aware of your actions and more sensitive to how your partner may perceive them.