What is micro-cheating (and could you be doing it?)

Micro-cheating is easy to pass off as innocent flirting but experts say it can cause long-term damage to your relationship. So what exactly is micro-cheating and how can you tell if you - or your partner - is guilty of crossing the line?

Do relationships these days seem more fraught to you than ever before? There are so many terms and trends in dating and relationships right now, you could be divorced and not even know it. Or so it seems.

The most frustrating trend of all? Micro-cheating. Micro-what you ask? Well, according to a survey done by Victoria Milan, a British extramarital site, and nextlove.com, a Scandinavian social network for single parents, micro-cheating can best be described as a series of seemingly small actions - typically digital – that can be perceived as infidelity. It ranges from lying about your relationship status on social media to active and conscious digital practice (connecting with an ex on Facebook, liking their social posts, or even sexting) that your partner is unaware of because you’re consciously hiding it from them.

Says Lysn psychologist Michelle Pal, “Micro cheating sits somewhere between innocent flirting and a downright infidelity so, therefore, there are plenty of grey areas when it comes to the term.”

For couples, those grey areas can vary but a big part of micro cheating comes down to the intention behind the actions -  as a rule, you cross the line if you think your partner would feel uncomfortable if they saw your actions. And of course, if you’re being secretive about it, or lying about it so they don't see them, it’s likely to be something you shouldn't be doing. 

“If you feel like you need to hide what you’re doing from your partner, then chances are you are micro cheating,” agrees Michelle.

“This can mean feeling the need to keep your distance when messaging, or keeping your social media activity private or are having phone conversations without telling your partner about them. The act could even be as simple as liking an ex boyfriend’s social media post from months ago, or sending them private messages to see how they are.”

In their survey, too, Victoria Milan found that while only 24 per cent of the 7000 people surveyed thought contacting an ex on social media was cheating, 62 per cent thought contacting an ex and concealing it was a problem. So yes, it seems secrecy that seems to really be key here.

How do you know if you have a problem in your relationship with a partner micro-cheating? Michele says: “Sure, everyone deserves some level of privacy (even when they’re in a relationship), but most people know their partner well enough to know if something is amiss. For example, if they start answering calls away from you, or restrict you on Facebook. These are not definite signs, but many people will start to feel insecure about such changes in their partner’s behaviour.”

And how do you bring it up? “Don’t jump to conclusions and accuse them of cheating but do talk about the topic of micro cheating and explain that their behaviour is making you feel nervous and why you are suspicious,” advises Michelle.

Michelle suggests you say something like, “It seems like you’re relating to this person in a way that, if I were there, would make me feel uncomfortable. Do you have feelings for them?” And if there are specific instances that have upset you, bring them up. As in, “When I see you chatting with that girl on Facebook, I worry about us.”

“Even if they don’t understand your viewpoint,” adds Michelle, “try to calmly come to an agreement on some boundaries about what you are both willing to accept or not accept when it comes to communicating with others outside of your relationship. If they’re not putting in a good effort the majority of the time to meet your emotional needs and help you feel secure in the relationship then you may need to start questioning whether this relationship is meeting your emotional needs.”

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