What is Micro-Cheating? And How to Avoid It.

03 Sep

Micro-cheating relates to behaviours which are considered inappropriate to the fidelity of your romantic partnership. They are those small actions that by themselves aren’t quite enough to make you end the relationship, but big enough to make you feel hurt or angry and unloved. They ultimately contribute to the erosion of your relationship and that loving feeling.

Shot of a young couple lying in bed and ignoring each other

As many of us appreciate by now, dating in this day and age is more messy and complicated than ever before. Feeling secure, supported and loved in a relationship is possibly the ultimate joy of being in one, and anything that threatens that bond erodes the sense of happiness within the relationship.

Enter micro-cheating. Micro-cheating relates to behaviours which are considered inappropriate to the fidelity of your romantic partnership. They are those small actions that by themselves aren’t quite enough to make you end the relationship, but big enough to make you feel hurt or angry and unloved. They ultimately contribute to the erosion of your relationship and that loving feeling.

Micro-cheating actions are subtle and perhaps even subconscious, that undermine the fidelity and authenticity of your connection with your partner. It is not cheating in the traditional sense where there are sexual encounters or emotional relationships outside of your committed relationship, but more indications that you are actively getting attention or validation from elsewhere. 

Another way of looking at micro cheating is, when you create small opportunities for affectionate behaviors outside of your relationship. The result could be that you end up turning away from your ‘primary’ relationship. So what sort of behaviours are we talking about? The list is not exhaustive, but the following are actions can be considered as micro-cheating: 

  • Virtual flirting (for example adding heart eyes in the comment box of  a sexy Instagram photo)
  • Engaging in flirtatious DMs
  • Constantly revisiting someone’s profile that is not your partner
  • Liking someones old posts or photos (aka ‘deep liking’)
  • Suddenly dressing better for work to impress a particular someone
  • Saving contacts in your phone under a different name
  • Sending late night texts
  • Keeping quiet about a recent budding friendship
  • Keeping your phone ‘hidden’ from your partner
  • Deleting or archiving messages
  • Engaging in secret communications with another person
  • Consistently going out of your way for someone else
  • Being overly flirtatious with a ‘benign contact’ (ie the coffee barristas, because you see them every day, or the married colleague, ‘it’s ok because they are married’)
  • Sudden increase in social activities or going out more than usual
  • Being vague about what you are up to
  • Being reluctant or defensive to tell your partner about your plans
  • Not telling your partner about new friendships
  • Dismissing your partner’s feelings of unease about particular actions
  • Sexting with someone else
  • Keeping old messages from past dates and exes
  • Keeping your online dating accounts
  • Being overly complimentary towards someone
  • Misrepresenting or fudging your relationship status to others
  • Posting inappropriate social media posts (sexy selfies, showing off your body, sexual/ suggestive or provocative poses)
  • Liking or engaging with inappropriate posts
  • Constantly liking and engaging in a particular persons post that is not your partner
  • Giving false hope to someone about your feelings for them
  • Having a very close friend of the opposite sex (for heterosexual couples)
  • Withholding information about who you are hanging out with

However, each of the above actions are not in and of themselves ‘bad’ – micro cheating is subjective. That is to say, not everyone agrees that a certain behaviour falls under the category of micro cheating. It may be OK by me for my partner to flirt with the barista, but not OK if my partner were to send a semi naked selfie to a friend. We have different styles, expectations and sensitivities. To avoid hurt, confusion and drama, it is imperative that couples have a conversation about what they each consider to be micro cheating. Have a discussion about you both think is appropriate and inappropriate actions; and have this conversation sooner rather than later.

You should be able to tell whether you are venturing into the territory of micro-cheating. Generally if you ask yourself the following questions, the answer will become apparent.

  • Would my partner be upset if they knew I was doing X?
  • How would my partner feel about me doing this?
  • Would I be comfortable if my partner was doing the same thing?
  • Am I behaving this way or doing these things to get extra attention?
  • Would I be embarrassed or ashamed if my partner knew what I was up to?

Micro-cheating eventually undermines the trust in the relationship, with a risk that ‘proper’ cheating occurs. If you find yourself doing the micro-cheating, ask yourself why; Are you missing something in your current relationship? Are you doing it to hurt your partner? To cause drama? Because you have lost interest in your relationship?

Consider whether you are being unreasonable in your actions. Are you unnecessarily causing anxiety towards your partner? Do you really have to be available for a particular friend at all times? Is it necessary to like sexy and suggestive insta posts?

If you feel your partner is micro-cheating, have then conversation about your attitudes towards micro-cheating and what each of you consider them to be. Voice your concern about the actions you have observed and explain how they make you feel. Remember the actions in the list are in and of themselves are not ‘bad’ or wrong, posing suggestively is not illegal, unlawful or damaging; it’s how we interpret the actions and how they make us feel. Consider your sensitivity threshold, could you potentially be unreasonable in your interpretations and requests? For example, is it reasonable to ask your partner not to follow a work colleague simply because they are good looking? Talk to your partner about what things they can do to make you feel reassured.

And have this conversation sooner rather than later.

If this article resonates with you, I am here and available to support you in all these points mentioned above so do get in touch for a complimentary consultation with me.

by Madeleine Mason Roantree

Psychologist

Madeleine has over 15 years of experience in psychology, where she is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Applied Positive Psychology. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Counselling Psychology, and is member of the British Psychological Society, the International Positive Psychology Association & Dating Industry Professionals Network.More by this author

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