When we’re thinking about cheating, most of us think about our partner being intimate with someone else. However, have you ever been in a situation where your partner’s behavior made you feel uneasy or betrayed, although they were seemingly just spending more time with someone else or chatting with new people online?
Micro cheating is a new term but an old phenomenon. Stick with us and find out what types of behaviors fall under micro cheating, how to recognize the signs in your relationship, and how to deal with it.
What is Micro Cheating?
While there’s no official definition, most therapists and experts describe micro cheating as ‘almost cheating’ in a traditional my-partner-kissed-someone-else way. This means it’s any situation in which there’s more emotional or physical involvement than usual for friendships.
What counts as micro cheating in one relationship may not count as such in another. To avoid hurtful situations, it’s best to have an open conversation early in the relationship and discuss what each of you finds (un)acceptable.
A reliable micro cheating test to determine whether what you or your partner are doing is micro cheating is following your instinct. For example, if you’re doing something that you know your partner wouldn’t like, and you’re keeping it secret, then it’s micro cheating.
In the same way, if your partner’s behavior is making you uncomfortable, it could be micro cheating. If you confront them about it, they might claim that it’s all just harmless fun and that you’re overreacting. However, that’s what micro cheating is: forming seemingly platonic friendships while having deeper feelings at the same time.
Numerous studies show that most couples don’t break up after cheating, but infidelity strains all relationships. Once loyalty and trust are lost, it’s hard for people to go back to where they once were.
Since micro cheating consists of everyday activities, it could prove harder to fix. For example, if there’s been a case of cheating through sexting with other people online, the person who was cheated on will remain suspicious or jealous every time their partner doesn’t answer their call first time around.
Examples of micro cheating
As we’ve mentioned, determining what’s micro cheating isn’t easy, as it varies from person to person. For some people, flirting in the workplace may not be a big deal, while it could be a deal-breaker for others.
Tammy Nelson, a relationship therapist and author, defined micro cheating as purposefully creating ‘small opportunities for affectionate behaviors.’ If you’re still unsure what this means, here are some frequent behaviors that qualify as micro cheating:
- Investing in keeping intimacy with other people. By this, we don’t mean having a best friend or a colleague. If you have an acquaintance you find attractive and keep seeing them pretending to be friends or simply enjoying the attention and the way they look at you, it’s micro cheating—that ‘dinner with a friend’ label doesn’t mean it’s not a date.
- Finding reasons to keep in contact with your ex. One of the most common micro cheating examples is going out of your way to initiate contact or hold a conversation with your ex. It’s one thing to say ‘Happy birthday’ or ‘Merry Christmas,’ but messaging and trying to think of new topics that’ll interest them or sending pics of every little thing that reminds you of them is out of line.
- Going after connecting with new people online. Of course, this doesn’t count if you’re in an open relationship/marriage. However, there are a lot of people who stay active on Tinder and other social media long after they enter committed relationships—they swipe, chat and flirt as if they were single.
- Revisiting old interests as soon as things stop being perfect. We all have people in our lives whom we found attractive and flirted with, but nothing ever developed out of it. Once relationships hit the first bump on the road, or there’s an insignificant fight, some people reach out to these past interests and engage in some ‘meaningless conversation’ or even flirting and sexting with them briefly to feel better.
Micro cheating signs
All relationships, especially long-term ones, have their ups and downs—sometimes we’re exhausted, worried or just need our time alone to recharge. Still, if your partner’s been acting detached or unusual, it could be one of the first signs of micro cheating.
While micro cheating manifests differently for every couple that experiences it, it usually becomes self-evident soon after it starts. We’re all able to tell when our partners are behaving strangely or don’t seem like their usual selves.
Here we’ll give you a list of common signs that indicate your significant other could be engaged in something they’re trying to hide from you. Of course, if you notice changes, don’t try playing detective and stalking them to find proof—it’s best to have an open conversation about your doubts:
- Detachment/indifference — Many people who engage in micro cheating, become detached from the reality of their relationship/marriage. They appear uninterested in any issues or daily nuisances when their opinion is important or provide meaningless answers even when you try to talk to them about a problem you may have.
While there’s no definite answer to what is considered cheating on social media if your partner is spending a lot of time fixated on his phone/pc chatting to someone, it could signify there’s something else.
Spending more and more time chatting with a colleague outside work, confiding in them, and excluding you from the equation is one of the signs it’s not just a colleague. The situation is even more alarming if it’s an entirely new person they just met.
- Sudden interest in other people — Many couples who are in long-term relationships or have been married for a long time find themselves struggling after they get stuck in their everyday routine. This monotony can sometimes be lethal for their relationship because some partners believe meeting new people will bring the excitement back.
Getting to know someone can quickly get out of control because they are new and, thus, exciting. It all seems easier, and they start seeing these people as a way to escape problems they encounter and keep getting back to them as a temporary escape from reality.
Showing a lot of interest in meeting new people and becoming closer to other people from different areas of life is one of the early micro cheating signs. Even more so, if your partner is doing it without including you in any way, it’s one thing to start inviting a colleague over for dinner, but going out to dinner on their own for the third time this month is a separate issue.
- Defensiveness — If your significant other gets angry or irritated and takes a defensive stand every time you try to talk to them about their newly acquired habits, it’s something you shouldn’t disregard. Defensiveness rarely appears when there’s nothing to be defensive about.
This type of behavior may appear even when you’re just trying to have a casual conversation without the intention to find out something more. Instead of feeling guilty in these moments, you need to come to terms with the fact that something may be happening and talk to your partner openly.
Am I micro cheating?
Micro cheating, by definition (as loose as it may be), means going out of your way to hide something and prioritizing someone over your partner. So, if you caught yourself choosing special outfits for meeting a colleague or deleting chats, so your partner doesn’t stumble upon them, it’s time to rethink everything.
Chances are, if you’re doing it, you think it’s not that big of a deal, and that micro cheating is just an exaggeration of socializing. However, ask yourself how you’d feel knowing your partner is doing the same thing every day as he goes to work or texts someone.
If you believe it’s meaningless, you shouldn’t feel the need to hide it and lie to your partner. Knowing that something might upset your partner and still doing it isn’t healthy romantic behavior and represents a major red flag.
How to Deal with Micro Cheating in Marriage and Committed Relationships?
It’s not easy to feel betrayed at any point in your relationship. However, feeling betrayed by a long-term partner can seriously affect our self-esteem and cause emotional trauma. Dealing with the issue at hand and its consequences isn’t easy, but there are some steps you can follow in dealing with micro cheating in your relationship.
1. Understand and accept your feelings
Apart from being hurt, you’ll probably go through various intense feelings when you first get any real proof that your partner engaged in something that qualifies as micro cheating. Understanding and coming to terms with these feelings is the first step towards solving the situation and healing.
These feelings may range from shock and anger to depression and denial. Unfortunately, many people slip into blaming themselves due to suppressing how they feel, which may just deepen the problem at hand.
When it comes to micro cheating, the psychology behind it is the same as with any other form of cheating. This is why you shouldn’t disregard your feelings as overreacting to something silly, but come to terms with the fact that someone you love deceived you and decide how you want to proceed from there.
2. Face your partner
Before you talk to your partner, resist talking to them in the heat of the moment. If you jump to conclusions by yourself and attack them based on your assumptions, you could do more harm than good.
Instead, talk to them when you feel calm enough, but don’t avoid it for too long. Try to remain calm even if they deny doing anything wrong and talk them through the problem. If it’s necessary, initiate the conversation by explaining how they made you feel.
If you already have proof of micro cheating, don’t test them by asking indirect questions or making remarks. Instead, be straightforward, as open as possible, and ready to hear them out and understand their motives, as their behavior may be rooted in dissatisfaction with something you’re unconsciously doing, and you need to be prepared to hear and accept it.
3. Be ready to talk openly
Being honest with your partner is crucial in every aspect of a successful relationship, but it can be hard to do when you’re hurt by their behavior. However, if you want your partner to truly understand how their actions affected you, honesty is the best way to go.
If you’re hoping to solve the root of the problem, being open and ready to listen is key. Give your partner a chance to explain why they did what they did and how they see it. Remember, if they don’t see it as a big deal, don’t allow yourself to get consumed by anger, as that’ll get you nowhere in terms of solving the actual problem.
Some of us get upset by just thinking about cheating, especially if we’ve been through any kind of relationship trauma. In these moments, both sides need to understand that someone’s feelings could be seriously hurt by something we find insignificant.
4. Set clear boundaries for the future
To avoid any misunderstandings or similar situations in the future, you’ll need to compromise. Agreeing on boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed is key to fixing the existing problem since micro cheating mainly happens because partners didn’t discuss these matters initially.
By making sure both partners know what falls under unacceptable behavior, you’re making it easier to steer clear of such situations. Of course, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, but it reduces the chances significantly.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that this will demand work on both sides. Therefore, if you truly want to fix the problem, you have to listen to your partner and consider some of his opinions in the process, as this is a two-way street.
The bottom line is: we all have ideas on how common is cheating in relationships and what behaviors are considered cheating. Micro cheating is a frequent manifestation of deeper problems in the relationship and needs to be taken seriously.
We hope that this article helped you understand and learn more about micro cheating and how to deal with it.
How common is cheating?
Numbers from recent studies indicate that cheating is quite common among couples in the US. Apparently, some 46% of participants who are in a monogamous relationship admitted they cheated. In addition, rates show that men are more likely to cheat, as 23% of men said they cheat, but only 12% of women said the same.
Is cheating normal?
While being monogamous or polygamous is a choice everyone can make for themselves, cheating isn’t ok, nor should it be considered normal. Cheating is more than sleeping with someone else; it’s deception and hurting someone you’ve committed to, and it has nothing to do with our sexual preferences.
What’s micro cheating?
Micro cheating is a term used to describe behaviors that don’t fall under what we traditionally perceive as cheating. For example, flirting online, hiding friends from the partner, dressing extra special for meetings with a colleague may all be signs of micro cheating.
What is considered cheating on social media?
Online affairs and digital cheating are on the rise as people keep spending more and more time on social media. However, it’s hard to determine what is considered cheating on social media, as this may vary from person to person; for some, it may be liking/commenting constantly on one person’s content, while for others, everything is ok until their partner starts sexting with someone else.