What is micro-cheating?

What is micro-cheating?

When I hear the term "micro-cheating," my mind goes straight back to my first boyfriend. He never outright cheated on me, but trust me, he had his moments toeing the line. There was the time he swapped the names of girls in his phone for those of his mates, just to keep me from getting suspicious, even though he insisted they were just friends. Or that time he said he was stuck late at work, but later I found out he was actually at a movie with a girl from his office. And don't get me started on the afternoon he told me he was shopping with his brother, but was actually having coffee with an ex he 'accidentally' bumped into.

Micro-cheating isn't something you'll find in psychology textbooks, but it's a phrase that's definitely ignited a lot of chatter online. It’s this new, grey area in relationships that we’re all trying to figure out. So, before we dive deep into examples of micro-cheating and unpack how it could be quietly eroding the trust in your relationship, let’s pause and shift gears a bit first…

What is micro-cheating?

According to Harley Therapy, micro-cheating is defined as “one partner [testing] the limits of partnership by creating intimacy with someone else, yet without veering into a sexual relationship with them.” Curious about what that might look like in real life? Here are some classic examples:

  • Leaving your wedding ring at home when you're heading out to a social event.
  • Secretly chatting with an ex on social media or via text.
  • Getting noticeably touchy-feely with someone who isn’t your partner.
  • Constantly joking or talking about what it would be like to be intimate with someone else.
  • Saving someone under a fake name in your phone.
  • Frequently liking or commenting on a specific person's posts on social media.
  • Sharing personal jokes or a private language with someone outside your relationship.

Each of these actions might seem small on their own, but they can add up to serious trust issues in a relationship.

Micro-cheating can also involve emotional breaches

When you're in a relationship, honesty and open communication are crucial. So, when you start seeking out emotional and psychological intimacy with someone who isn't your partner, that can fall into the realm of micro-cheating.

For instance:

  • Sharing secrets or private information with someone other than your partner.
  • Complaining about your partner excessively behind their back.
  • Telling someone else you desire them in some way, shape, or form.

Ever heard someone say, "If I were single, maybe we could go out..."? Yep, that's a classic example of micro-cheating. It's a huge red flag because it suggests not just a wandering heart but also a readiness to explore possibilities outside the committed relationship.

Have you unknowingly been micro-cheating?

First things first: be deeply and entirely honest with yourself. What are the intentions behind your interactions with others? Are you connecting with people because of the excitement, the adrenaline rush, or because you find them attractive?

If you’re struggling to understand your own intentions, consider these questions: Do I make an extra effort with my appearance when I'm going to meet a certain person? Do I often catch myself thinking or fantasising about someone else? Is there someone I would immediately turn to if my partner and I were to break up?

If you find yourself answering 'yes' to any of these questions, it might be time to do some introspection. You may have some issues to address in your relationship, and possibly, some apologies to make. These signs indicate that your interactions may be veering towards emotional infidelity, which can be just as damaging as physical infidelity in maintaining the trust and integrity of your relationship.

So, does micro-cheating mean your relationship is doomed?

Hold on, hold on: not necessarily. At worst, it can mean your relationship should end. But at best, it can be a catalyst for open communication with your partner. Perhaps you and your boo are long overdue a cup of tea and a long, hard chat about boundaries.

Lots of couples also go to couples therapy, as naturally, talking about these things can be incredibly difficult! And seeking the help of a professional is never a bad thing, nor something to be ashamed of.

So, there you have it! Micro-cheating in a nutshell. And whew… let’s just hope I won’t be experiencing that one again anytime soon!

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