What Is Micro Cheating, And Your Partner Doing It?

Cheating on your spouse or significant other is pretty easy to define. If you're having a physical relationship with someone that isn't your spouse, significant other or partner, unbeknownst to them, you're cheating. But there are other kinds of cheating that we're becoming aware of that isn't quite as easily defined as traditional cheating.

There's emotional cheating and now there's something called micro cheating. Micro cheating is similar to flirting, which sounds innocent enough, but there's a different intent to it that isn't as innocent as simple flirting. It happens when you or your partner begin doing little things that signal possible interest in cheating without the physical act of cheating.

“Micro-cheating happens when you create small opportunities for affectionate behaviors that fall outside your relationship,” sex and relationship therapist Tammy Nelson, PhD, explained to Cosmopolitan magazine. Psychotherapist and dating coach, Toni Coleman explains that “micro-cheating is basically anything that crosses healthy and expected boundaries in a relationship, but stops short of physical infidelity.”

Your partner may be micro cheating if you suddenly notice them commenting or liking frequently on someone else's social media posts that isn't a celebrity. Maybe they've suddenly decided dressing up more for work to impress an attractive co-worker. Perhaps they aren't being completely honest about who is attending after works drink, failing to mention the attractive new co-worker is going to be there. There are even instances when your partner is sharing text messages with someone else, and possibly having them listed under a fake name in their phone.

"You might be engaging in micro-cheating if you secretly connect with another guy/girl on social media; if you share private jokes; if you downplay the seriousness of your relationship to another guy/girl; or if you enter their name under a code in your phone," dating expert Melanie Schilling told HuffPost Australia.

"These are all signs that you are conducting a 'covert flirtation' and keeping it from your partner. If you feel you have something to hide, ask yourself why."

Schilling also suggests things to look for if you suspect your partner may be micro-cheating.

man smiling on phone
Credit: iStock / Ryan Herron

"If your partner is having private conversations or online chats that he/she quickly shuts down when you enter the room; if they are reaching out to an ex to mark an anniversary or other significant shared, intimate event; perhaps they are offering compliments to other guys/girls that they don't say to you; or maybe they meet up with someone of the opposite sex under the guise of a business meeting, when you discover no business was actually done... these are all signs to look out for."

If you suspect your partner may be micro-cheating, you're best to address the problem head on. By not talking about it can foster jealousy when the behavior was innocent in nature to begin with. Having an open dialogue with your partner can let them know that you're not okay with the behavior, and give you both an opportunity to discuss any underlying issues in your relationship.

Schilling says speaking openly about this behavior can help determine boundaries in your relationship.

"If this is an unconscious habit your partner has developed over time, due to previous partners allowing it, then you have the opportunity to put your foot down and set some new rules.

"However, if this is something they are actively choosing to do, and they do not change when you ask them to, perhaps it's time to consider if this relationship is good for your well-being."

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