What is Micro-Cheating?
Relationships are the most rewarding and, at times, the most challenging part of life. To have a successful and long lasting relationship, not only do you have to put work into understanding your chosen partner but you have to know yourself.
Knowing your personal boundaries and the boundaries of your relationship is of the utmost importance! More than love languages, or even attachment styles, it’s vital to become familiar with the issue of “micro-cheating”.
What is micro-cheating? Well, that’s the tough part because there is no one definition, but broadly speaking it’s actions that could be deemed inappropriate but don’t cross the line into clear physical cheating. It takes mental work to figure out what you’re comfortable with as an individual and as a couple.
Imagine Bob has a new girlfriend, Mara, should he remain friends with his ex Tiffany? Should Bob and Tiffany have lunch together? Should Mara be invited to join? If not, should Bob discuss personal details of his new relationship with Tiffany with Mara? Everyone will come up with a slightly different answer. It’s important to be clear with your partner on the boundaries of the relationship. Otherwise, you will undermine the trust you have together.
In particular, it’s important for men to understand that (generally speaking) emotional affairs hurt women MORE than basic cheating. Men on the other hand, are far more concerned with inappropriate sexual activity. Keep in mind this is a vast generalization.
Take into account how men and women evolved. Men would have to ensure their partner was physically faithful in order to successfully procreate. If not, he wouldn’t necessarily know if his children were his biological offspring. Women, on the other hand, would rely on their partner for protection and resources, especially at the times they were caring for young children. This is a woman’s greatest priority, a man’s emotional fidelity.
Of course, physical infidelity is extremely damaging to both women and men, but micro-cheating inhabits the grey area between and is equally detrimental over time.
No one in my family has ever cheated. It was never in my mindset growing up; never a question mark. However, I had to come to my own conclusions about acceptable behavior when I was faced with an irrationally jealous boyfriend. I had to examine for myself what I thought was acceptable within a relationship when routinely faced with hurtful and ridiculous accusations. Through that experience I’ve realized how important trustful and trusting behavior is to the health of a relationship. If you have fears you should definitely bring them to light, but only ever in a respectful manner.
Likewise, you should behave in a way that makes your priorities clear. For example, my grandfather decided to never give a female colleague a ride home alone in his car. This was in effort to respect my grandmother and not make her even question, nor give the possibility of anything inappropriate ever happening. I don’t think my grandmother really cared, but it was a very nice thing for his children to see. They never once thought about betrayal or their family splitting up.
Most of us in modern times would probably see that example as extreme and unnecessary, but it’s important to realize how much small actions can make a huge difference. If we manage to show our most significant relationships how important they are to us, we will be rewarded with peace and love too.
Everything in life comes back to our priorities. Everything we do should be a reflection of those priorities. If you want a long happy relationship you need to analyze what you’re going to do to get there. For example, studies show that actively keeping in touch with an ex while in a relationship is an indication (statistically) that your new relationship will fail. The studies seems to suggest that people who stay in touch with their exes may do so because they feel less committed in their new relationships and want a backup plan. The research was published in Personal Relationships; it was comprised of two studies that examined communication between former partners and how it affects a person’s current relationship. The results weren’t great! In fact, studies have also found that staying friends with an ex can be a sign of “dark triad” traits and serious mental disorders such as psychopathy or narcissism (not for most individuals obviously but there is a correlation).
It’s only common sense that we have limited emotional energy; it’s helpful to primarily invest in those who we want in our lives long term. Unfortunately we have all become victims of a scattered but hyper-connected reality while we’ve actually never been lonelier. In modern times, both men and women have taken to technology to cross lines. Sexting, flirting over text, keeping up with communication with friends more often than your partner… all of these could fall under the “micro-cheating” category. This type of behavior can also be a way of avoiding intimacy. It can sometimes be more common among insecurely attached people.
Something I’ve noticed a lot of women do is keep “back-up” men and continue to text with exes or “friends” when they’re in a serious relationship. Men often secretly seek attention on the dating apps while already in a relationship. What’s common isn’t necessarily right. What’s expedient today might be your downfall tomorrow. What is micro-cheating? Generally, it’s crossing non-sexual lines with someone other than your partner.
Here’s a cheat sheet (no pun intended):
Texting flirty jokes and memes to someone other than your partner
Making a dating app profile just to see how many matches/likes you get
Putting extra effort into your appearance in case you run into your crush
Google stalking a crush
Lying about your relationship status, either in person or online
Liking and/or commenting on a crush’s social media
Discussing your sex life with someone who isn’t your partner
Constantly texting someone who’s not your partner throughout the day
Sending “feeling cute” or slightly revealing selfies to a crush
Hiding a friendship; hiding get-togethers
Stating you’d date them if you/they weren’t married
Having inside jokes that your partner isn’t a part of
Inventing reasons to see your crush or spend time with them
Confiding emotionally intimate things to someone who’s not your partner
Sexting – graphic language or nudes
Clearly some actions on the list are worse than others, but it’s a slippery slope as most physical affairs are committed on impulse and under the influence. It’s easier to forgive a one-off event than a pattern of behavior that seems intentionally deceptive. Everyone will have slightly different boundaries that’s why it’s important to discuss. Those who have been cheated on in the past may be extra suspicious and fearful of any signs of possible betrayal. It’s important to be patient with these people.
A good rule of thumb to figure out if something is acceptable or not? Simply ask yourself if you’d be upset if your partner was doing it with another (hot) person. Would it hurt your feelings? It’s not about black and white rules, it’s about being a kind and good person to someone you love.
People caught micro-cheating will undoubtedly claim the person you are worried about is ‘just a friend’. They might not even be aware that they are on a slippery slope if the other person has feelings for them. We’re all human and that’s why it’s best to keep our priorities clear and invest our time and resources with intention.
Always error on the side of transparency. Any photo or text you send to a ‘friend’ should be able to be posted on social media or sent to your mother.
If you’re not sure, ask. However, there’s on caveat. If your partner is severely insecure, controlling or domineering they may try to manipulate everything into a violation of trust. Your relationship shouldn’t (always) interfere with your ability to pursue your goals or have a rewarding social life.
Has anyone ever broken your trust by micro-cheating? Please answer in the comments below! 👇🏼