Everything you need to know about micro-cheating

In today's fast-paced world of dating apps, social media, and constant connectivity, the backdrop of our relationships is constantly evolving. With that evolution comes new challenges, including the phenomenon of micro-cheating. But what exactly is micro-cheating, and how can it affect your relationship?   

What is micro-cheating? 

When so much of our lives are now lived online, it's not surprising that our romantic relationships have become increasingly digitalised as well. Micro-cheating is a term that's popped up to describe a subtle yet impactful form of infidelity that often occurs on social media, dating apps and other online spaces.  

While what constitutes micro-cheating might be different for everyone, it generally refers to behaviours and actions that may seem small on the surface but can erode trust and emotional intimacy due to their underlying motives. 

If you’re not sure what might constitute micro-cheating behaviours, here are some examples: 

Excessive social media interaction 

Repeatedly liking, commenting, or messaging someone you find attractive on social media, could be classed as micro-cheating, especially if your messages have a flirty undertone to them. 

Hiding conversations 

Deleting or archiving text messages, DMs, or emails from someone without your partner's knowledge could ring alarm bells. 

Overly flirtatious behaviour 

You might regularly compliment someone's physical appearance or find small moments to create physical intimacy with someone outside of your relationship. 

Signs that someone may be micro-cheating 

Now that we've defined micro-cheating, let's talk about some potential signs to watch for if you suspect your partner might be engaging in this behaviour: 

  • Increased secrecy about their phone or online activity 

  • Emotionally distant or defensive when questioned about their online interactions 

  • Less intimacy and affection within the relationship 

  • A gut feeling that something just isn't right 

‘I think my partner is micro-cheating on me. What should I do?’ 

Because what is classed as micro-cheating can blur between normal interaction and overly flirtatious and might be hidden from you, it can be hard to know for sure if it’s happening to you. 

And although it’s called ‘micro’-cheating, the effects of it on your relationship can be huge. If you have an inkling that something is wrong, we recommend that you approach it head on. Here are some steps you might want to take: 

Think about what evidence you have and how you feel about it 

Write down why you think your partner is micro-cheating and how this makes you feel. It might be that you’ve seen flirty messages or comments on social media that make you uncomfortable. Or maybe your partner is spending more time on their phone recently and you’re feeling suspicious. Either way, approaching the situation with openness and vulnerability is crucial to moving forward.  

Initiate a conversation 

Find a calm time to discuss your concerns with your partner. Use "I" statements to explain what you’ve discovered and how it’s made you feel. If you’re unsure if your partner has done anything wrong or it may be a misunderstanding, try to be as honest as possible without being too accusatory to facilitate open communication. 

 Practice active listening 

It's important to give your partner a chance to share their perspective and explain their actions. It could be that work has been busy and they’ve had to check their emails more often, or your gut feelings might be right. Asking questions to gain clarity can help to ensure you both leave the conversation understanding each other’s perspective. 

Discuss and set boundaries 

It might be the case that you have different ideas on what is acceptable behaviour outside of the relationship. This is normal but it’s important to decide together what level of physical and emotional intimacy is OK outside of your partnership, if at all. Getting clear on your expectations can help to reduce emotional turmoil and ensure you’re compatible moving forward. 

Talk to a professional 

If you’re struggling to move past a breach in trust or create shared boundaries moving forward, you might want to consider speaking to a relationship counsellor. Relate counsellors have helped hundreds of people rebuild their trust and communication in situations like this, so you’re in safe hands. 

‘I’ve micro-cheated on my partner. What can I do?’  

If you’ve realised that you’re engaging in micro-cheating while reading this article, you might be wondering how you can stop and repair any trust that has been eroded. There are steps you can take to try and minimise the hurt that may be caused in order to move forward in a more trusting way:  

Reflect on your motives 

If you think you’ve been micro-cheating, it’s important to reflect on what’s driven these actions. Are you looking for something you’re not receiving in your relationship? Does the thrill feel more exciting than your everyday life? Understanding why you engaged in these behaviours is the first step towards creating a healthier dynamic between you and your partner. 

Be honest 

To move forward, try and be honest and take responsibility for your actions, both with yourself and your partner. This can help to create a clean slate where you can decide if you both want to stay in the relationship and how trust can be rebuilt.  

Put words into action 

Saying sorry and taking responsibility are important steps to repairing your relationship, but how you demonstrate communication, understanding, and commitment are also key. Try to keep the lines of communication open and understand that it may take time until trust is totally rebuilt.   

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