Have You Been Micro-Cheating On Your Partner?

Why Everyone’s Talking About Micro-Cheating And Is It Rather A Problem?

Understanding Micro-Cheating: Signs, Impact, and Communication Strategies

It’s a gut-wrenching feeling: You’re on the couch with your partner, they get a text on their phone and kinda turn away while reading it. You start getting worried about suspicious behavior like that but they reassure you again and again that there’s nothing to worry about. Although they continue to tell you everything’s alright and nothing ever happens, you just sense that there is something wrong and that you can’t fully trust them. If you’ve ever experienced something similar to that, chances are that your partner was actually “micro-cheating” on you.

 What is Micro-Cheating?

The buzzword has been shared throughout Instagram and TikTok quite a lot in the last few months. But what it actually means is not clear. You’ve heard right, although it’s a popular internet thing, there is no precise definition since micro-cheating looks different for everyone. Generally, micro-cheating can be considered a preliminary stage of cheating: small breaches of trust, but not yet physical intimacy with someone else. For example, a partner secretly messaging someone or lying about their relationship status to other people. To summarize: behaviors that hurt the partner and make them question their commitment to the relationship.

Insights on Micro-Cheating

Because every relationship is different, therapist Lori Ket told Mashable, “it’s difficult to create a specific list of behaviors that are universally considered micro-cheating, as each couple will have their own definitions for infidelity and where lines are drawn.” On top of that, micro-cheating can be intentional or unintentional. Someone might not be aware that slightly flirting with a friend might be hurting their partner. It might never lead to an actual physical affair but can have a huge effect on the relationship.

 The Impact of Micro-Cheating

Experiencing small breaches of trust continuously can obviously break someone’s trust in their partner. More so, a 2020 study published in Psychological Reports found that a lack of trust can completely hijack a relationship and lead to conflicts, emotional instability, and ultimately a breakup. But there’s also the gaslighting aspect to it: Sensing your partner is breaking your trust but they keep denying it can make you feel like you’re going crazy and can make you question your boundaries and expectations of a relationship, which might make you feel like you can’t trust yourself anymore—and that’s even worse than not trusting your partner.

Are You the Perpetrator of Micro-Cheating?

On the other hand, there is also the chance that you might be the perpetrator and either don’t see it or don’t wanna see it. To try to spot if you’re micro-cheating, it’s important to be completely honest with yourself: Are there any relationships—apart from the one with your partner(s)—that have some sexual element to it? And if so, why do you keep the sexual tension up? How do you think your partner(s) would feel if you told them about it? The obvious route to determining if someone is micro-cheating or not is communication, which is also the best way to prevent it.

The Role of Communication

As with cheating, everyone might draw the line somewhere else depending on their personal boundaries and relationship model. But with micro-cheating, there’s even less of a universal consensus—and cultural aspects might affect the definition too. For example, being friends with your ex could be micro-cheating for some, while it’s quite common in the queer community to stay friends, and often (not always, of course) not considered a problem. That’s why it’s important to talk to your partner(s) about your personal boundaries and continue this conversation throughout the relationship, reevaluating those boundaries since they can change over time and experience.

Final Thoughts

While I was reading up on micro-cheating, a question popped into my head: Is there such a thing as too much communication? I get it, communication is key for basically everything. But micro-cheating seems to describe a fuzzy gray area and seems to overcomplicate, giving meaning to behaviors that maybe aren’t that deep. Of course, I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s hurtful experiences, and losing trust in someone is definitely a huge problem in a relationship. I just don’t know if I’d want my partner to communicate the tiniest flirtatious interaction with me and if I want to reveal every little secret. Doesn’t trusting someone also mean trusting them to not overstep a boundary without having them disclose every small emotion?

I guess for some, the term micro-cheating helps to put a word to a feeling, especially if you have a hard time getting heard. In my opinion, though, it’s also important to not cling to a buzzword that doesn’t even have a clear definition. In the end, communicating if you’re getting hurt is always important, whatever you might call it.