What Is Micro-Cheating? 5 Warning Signs

Updated on March 27, 2019
Kaitlyn Lo profile image

Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.

Studies show that around 23% of married men and 12% of married women have had intercourse with someone who is not their spouse. While extramarital intercourse is easily defined as a type of cheating, other behaviors are usually not as black and white.

According to another study published in the Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy, almost anything could be considered cheating—from sexting to lying to extramarital intercourse. It’s all very subjective. To further complicate the issue is the appearance of a relatively new relationship term: micro-cheating.

Micro-cheating can include almost any kind of behavior, which makes it hard to define.
Micro-cheating can include almost any kind of behavior, which makes it hard to define. | Source

What Is Micro-Cheating?

According to relationship experts, micro-cheating is a set of behaviors that ride on the line between fidelity and infidelity. And like clearly apparent infidelity, it’s tough to define micro-cheating because the boundaries are unique to the individuals in their unique relationships.

Unlike full-blown infidelity, however, almost anything can be defined as micro-cheating; from swiping on Tinder to flirting with a stranger, and everything in between. The most common “micro-cheating” behaviors are usually frequently texting or social media interactions with an individual outside of the relationship. It could be keeping in contact with an ex, or becoming a little too friendly with a colleague.

The main issue with all micro-cheating behaviors is not so much the risk of disloyalty, but how that behavior makes your partner feel. Texting that single colleague may not make you feel less committed to your romantic partner, but it can definitely make your partner uncomfortable.

And there lies the distinction: if it makes your partner uncomfortable, then it’s a problem for your relationship even if you think differently.

There are a few behaviors that are common signs of micro-cheating.
There are a few behaviors that are common signs of micro-cheating. | Source

5 Signs of Micro-Cheating

Since micro-cheating is such a nuanced concept, how do you know if you or your partner is micro-cheating or not? Here are a few behaviors that can often be a signal that someone is micro-cheating.

1. Staying Active on a Dating App

When we sign up for an online dating app, we’re telling the world that we’re available and looking. So it’s a bad sign if they are still logging into dating apps and swiping or chatting to other single people while already in a relationship. People may think that as long as nothing happens beyond messaging or swiping, it’s harmless. But if it’s making their partner insecure or uncomfortable, their Tinder swiping isn’t harmless at all.

2. Talking to and About Their Ex Regularly

It’s one thing to talk about an ex at the beginning of a relationship or every once in a while when it’s relevant to whatever a couple is discussing. But if a partner brings up the ex frequently as a topic of conversation or seems to be up-to-date on everything in the ex’s life, there may be an issue. It’s not uncommon for people to stay friends with their exes even after they enter into new relationships, and that’s okay. But messaging, calling, or hanging out with exes in secret is not.

3. Saying That Their Partner Is Overreacting or Imagining Things

Never underestimate your intuition or let someone tell you to distrust your gut instincts. While there are times where you are overthinking and being overly suspicious but don’t dismiss your feelings of unease when they do arise. When you’re in a supportive, healthy relationship, partners should feel comfortable about talking to each other about any insecurities they may be feeling. But if someone is made to feel like they’re imagining things and their feelings are being invalidated, that could be a significant sign of micro-cheating.

Set your boundaries early to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication later on in the relationship.
Set your boundaries early to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication later on in the relationship. | Source

4. Defensiveness

We often react defensively when confronted with something we’re trying to hide. So, when the “friendship” is mentioned, and they react by trying to brush it off or redirect, then it's a strong sign that feelings beyond friendship may be happening. Also, more specifically, if they keep coming up with excuses for why a relationship with that “friend” cannot happen or are always preventing a romantic relationship from starting with that person, then you know that there are some secret feelings that need to be dealt with.

5. Inviting Partners to Fewer Events

While it's normal and healthy for partners to have their own separate groups of friends, it’s also par for the course for a couple to do things and attend events together. So if a partner suddenly starts wanting to do things, go out, or attend get-togethers alone, this could be a sign that they may want to meet someone new or at least are starting to become less emotionally invested in the relationship.

End Note: Establish Boundaries Unique to YOUR Relationship

Every relationship is unique, and every individual will have a different understanding of what it means to cheat. So make sure you have a conversation with your partner early in your relationship on what you consider cheating so you can agree on some boundaries to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication later.

Have you ever micro-cheated or were micro-cheated on?

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© 2019 KV Lo


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    • dashingscorpio profile image


      17 months ago from Chicago

      "While extramarital intercourse is easily defined as a type of cheating, other behaviors are usually not as black and white.

      According to another study published in the Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy, almost anything could be considered cheating - from sexting to lying to extramarital intercourse. It’s all very subjective." - Therein lies the problem

      Generally speaking the goal is to find someone who shares your same (values). Micro-cheating adds a whole other set of questions to the "getting to know you" phase of a budding new relationship. What do YOU consider to be cheating?

      Is remaining friends and socializing with an ex cheating?

      Is having lunch almost everyday with a co-worker cheating?

      Is sexting with someone on the other side of the globe cheating?

      Is watching porn cheating?

      Is flirting or playfully using sexual innuendo cheating?

      Is loaning money or doing other favors for an ex cheating?

      Is having "friends" your mate knows nothing about cheating?

      Is sharing/complaining about your relationship cheating?

      Is fantasizing about someone else while having sex cheating?

      Essentially cheating like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We also have the same issue with sexual harassment. Oftentimes it's not about what was said or done but rather if (the person) was into that particular individual. Two guys can say the exact same thing to a woman and if she thinks one of them is "hot/cute" she'll laugh but with the other guy she might find him offensive.

      It's all subjective!!!

      One of the best definitions I heard for cheating came from Dr. Phil. Anytime you are doing or saying something you would NOT do or say with your mate sitting next to you it's most likely cheating.

      The main two components of cheating are secrecy and deception.

      When your partner simply says they spent the day with a "friend" they are intentionally trying to be evasive and hope YOU will make the "assumption" it was with a gender they are not into.

      In the event you learn otherwise they can fall back on the fact that they didn't say whether the friend was a man or woman and therefore it was not really a "lie". It was a game of deception!

      Lying by omission is still lying.

      If there are any micro-cheating actions you think are "deal breakers" you need to find out early on if your mate is on the same page.

      Generally speaking people don't change unless (they) are unhappy. If the person you are seeing has completely different ideas as to what constitutes "cheating" don't expect them to redefine their list to coincide with yours. Opinions don't change overnight.

      There is no amount of "work" or "communication" which can overcome being with someone who does not want what you want.

      Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.

      Compatibility trumps compromise.

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!


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