Everything You Need To Know About Micro-Cheating

If they're back on dating apps or showing too much interest in someone, they may be straying from the relationship.

Reviewed by Dr Nancy B Irwin, PsyD
Written by Shivani Chandel, MA (English Literature), Certified Relationship Coach
Edited by Subhrojyoti Mukherjee, MA (English)
Fact-checked by Sneha Tete, Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach  • 

Micro-cheating is hard to define and depends on how a couple perceives it. This is a new concept for many and forms the gray area between fidelity and infidelity. But before we go further, how do you define cheating in a relationship?

You may probably think of certain sexual advances, an intimate touch, or a kiss. What if your partner does something lighter than that? What would you call micro-cheating? In this article, we will explain what this concept is all about, how it can affect your relationship, and how to deal with it. Read on!

What Is Micro Cheating?

If there was a word for “almost cheating” while being in a relationship, then it would be micro-cheating. Since every couple can have different standards on what it means to cheat on one another, the same can happen even in this case. However, what is common between micro-cheating, flirting, and any other form of straying in a relationship is that any of them can result in outright infidelity. Therefore, micro-cheating is not something that you can completely overlook in a relationship.

Micro-cheating may not be bound by a definition, which is why it can be hard to understand what it means. Are you still wondering why it is a problem in your relationship? Read the next section to understand why you are better off without a partner who indulges in micro-cheating while being in a relationship with you.

Is Micro-Cheating A Problem?

Many people believe that a bit of flirting outside the relationship is harmless and only meant to promote their ego. Coming to human nature itself, it is not uncommon to feel drawn to an attractive person who is not your partner.

Yet, micro-cheating can be a slippery slope. It may not take much time for your partner to slip and find themselves doing something that could potentially destroy your relationship. This is because a simple gesture of friendship and frequent interactions may amount to something more in no time. This can happen either intentionally or unintentionally.

Your partner may not even realize it, but such outside interactions may begin to consume their energy and affect their emotional and mental connection with you. When this happens, things can get pretty serious and damaging in no time.

Micro-cheating may begin as an unintentional act of harmless communication, but it can turn into a damaging element for your relationship. This is why micro-cheating is just as much of a problem as any other form of cheating.

Explained below is how micro-cheating is somehow similar to, yet different from, emotional cheating.

Is Micro-Cheating The Same As Emotional Cheating?

When it comes to micro-cheating, it is not quite the same as emotional cheating in a relationship. On several occasions, you and your partner may not even realize that either of you is indulging in micro-cheating.

Micro-cheating does not involve an emotional connection with the other person, and yet, over time, you or your partner may become emotionally invested in someone else and fail to realize it. That is when micro-cheating progresses to emotional cheating.

When someone is emotionally cheating on their partner, they will divert their emotional attention from their partner.

Check out the signs of micro-cheating in the next section.

Signs Of Micro-Cheating In A Relationship

The definition of micro-cheating can be different for every couple. Yet, if you want to keep an eye on your partner, here are a few classic signs of micro-cheating that you can look out for.

  • Downloading a dating app only because someone recommended it or because they want to check out how it operates. No one will be comfortable with their partner checking out other people on dating apps in their presence.

A study involving 395 participants revealed how people’s thoughts and feelings on mobile dating apps are connected to their tendency towards infidelity, it was found that people who had success at dating apps were more inclined to commit infidelity. Around 40% of Americans in committed relationships were active on mobile dating apps.

  • Interacting with people they are interested in on social media. This includes liking or commenting on an ex’s photos, always replying to a certain person’s stories and posts, and checking their phone when a notification for a new post from a particular person pops up.
  • Frequently engaging with a co-worker at the workplace, taking them out for lunch or dinner, and spending time with them outside of work.
  • Deleting texts and call history of a specific person so that you do not discover them.
  • Sharing personal details about sexual preferences and fantasies with someone else.
  • Showing particular interest in someone and investing their time, energy, and thoughts in them.
  • Failure to mention meeting someone from their past.
protip_icon Pro tip
Sudden changes in appearance, frequent comparisons to someone else, or an essential shift in communication patterns are also considered subtle signs of micro-cheating.

Basically, micro-cheating involves anything that can be linked to an increased interest toward another person by your partner. As you may have noticed, it could be several things, as is evident from the examples listed above.

More often than not, your gut will speak clearly, telling you that your partner is indulging in behavior that is not acceptable. When you feel this happening, you will need to consider how to deal with your partner’s attempts at micro-cheating.

Here are some ways to go about it.

How To Deal With Micro-Cheating In A Relationship

Micro-cheating may not be a reason why you break up with your partner. Given its vague nature, it can be difficult to set boundaries. These steps can be of some help:

1. Talk To Your Partner

There is nothing in a relationship that cannot be solved by having an honest conversation. Express openly to your partner and tell them why you are worried about their behavior toward someone else. If you are concerned about them cheating on you through any of the ways mentioned above, bring it up with them and make them aware that you will not accept such behavior. You could also simply tell them that they are sending the wrong message to another person, and it is problematic.

At the same time, encourage your partner to share their side of the story. Explore the existing space in your relationship within which the two of you can safely interact with other people and avoid indulging in micro-cheating.

2. Strengthen Your Relationship

Micro-cheating usually emerges as a result of certain elements in your relationship that may be disturbing your partner. Are you nagging them constantly over petty matters or behaving in a manner that indicates to your partner that you are subtly cheating on them? Assessing the state of your relationship regularly can save your partner from overstepping any boundaries and rekindle the lost love between you two.

3. Discuss Micro-Cheating Openly

The fact that micro-cheating is a vague territory opens the space for many loose definitions. Perhaps your partner does not consider a certain act as micro-cheating and, thus, does not realize that it may be bothering you. And even if they do, they may be reluctant to take a step back simply because they do not agree with the concept of micro-cheating.

protip_icon Pro tip
Creating a safe space for sharing feelings, concerns, and boundaries paves the way for open communication. Consider seeking professional help to help navigate through hard times and for an objective view of the relationship’s dynamics.

Only by having an open conversation about this matter can you convey that you expect your partner to practice certain limitations in their behavior. Not having a direct conversation or setting certain boundaries may lead your partner to believe that you are okay with the way they are behaving with another person. If you don’t give them a reason to stop, your partner may continue to indulge in acts that amount to micro-cheating.

4. Keep Assessing Your Relationship

Surprisingly, every new day can bring a new reason for your partner to indulge in micro-cheating. This is why it is important to keep a tab on your relationship and reiterate what sort of behavior your partner is not allowed to engage in. Only by discussing your relationship can you take care of it and avoid a situation where your partner fails to recognize the consequence of their actions.

5. Adhere To The Boundaries Of Relationship

Establishing boundaries in a relationship is essential for maintaining a healthy and respectful connection. Discuss personal space, communication preferences, and social boundaries with your partner. Openly talk about both of your takes on what things are acceptable and what are unacceptable. Commonly, negligence in the area of clear boundaries can push away any of the partners and have them seeking comfort somewhere else. Be clear with your partner about certain things that can harm the relationship, such as secretive messages or emotional connections with others.

Ensure to establish trust in the relationship by being transparent and respecting each other’s limits. If any discomfort or micro-cheating does arise, then address it calmly and seek mutual understanding. Reaffirm your commitment and love and discuss the importance of loyalty.

Micro-cheating is cheating in a subtle form. The first sign of micro-cheating is usually observed when an individual finds their partner interacting too much with someone else. Initially, it might not mean anything at all. But constant interaction could soon develop into inappropriate flirting in no time, and it is a clear cause for problems in an exclusive relationship. Most times, people do not even realize they are doing it. We hope this article helps you recognize the signs of micro-cheating and ways to deal with a partner who is slowly straying away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is micro-cheating forgivable?

Every relationship is different and what may seem unforgivable to some may not be too difficult to move past for someone else. Having said that, micro-cheating is generally not considered to be full-blown infidelity—it can be looked at as a step in the direction of a slippery slope, which, if curtailed in time, shouldn’t result in too much harm and can be forgiven.

Is sexting micro-cheating?

Sexting regularly with someone is considered cheating. However, it can be more nuanced. Discussing sexual preferences with someone other than your partner can be considered micro-cheating, as it can lead to sexting and eventually, physical intimacy outside of a relationship.

How do I forgive myself for micro-cheating?

The first step is to own up to your mistake and be honest about it with yourself regarding what boundaries were crossed or were about to be crossed, how you feel about the entire thing, and how it may have hurt your partner. The next step is to figure out why that happened and whether there is an underlying issue somewhere that needs to be addressed. The third step is to set the intention of not repeating such behavior henceforth. Finally, you can move on from the incident and forgive yourself as you are human.

Key Takeaways

  • Micro-cheating is a very subtle form of cheating, and can be a first step in that direction if unchecked.
  • It includes anything linked to your partner’s increased interest in another individual.
  • Micro-cheating may appear to be an unintentional act of harmless communication at first, but it can quickly deteriorate your relationship.
  • However, if you want to save your relationship, talk to your partner, openly address micro-cheating, and keep an eye on it.

Explore the intricacies of micro-cheating as an expert discusses the several aspects of this form of cheating in the video. Check it out to get more clarity on this!

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