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Could You Be Cheating And Not Even Know It?

Advice, Articles, relationships July 23, 2021

Are you micro-cheating? What harmless behaviours we all do could actually be considered cheating + examples

15 signs you or your partner could be micro-cheating

 

Infidelity used to mean one thing: sneaking around with someone other than your partner. From emotional cheating between Rachel and Joey on Friends to movies titled The Other Woman, many of us are familiar with the tale of the cheating partner and the heartache they leave in their wake.

But there’s a new type of cheating making its way into modern dating. It shows up in the most harmless of places. The one-off conversations, seemingly benign hair twirls and glances that last just a second longer than usual. Often, they’re behaviours that wouldn’t be considered cheating at all. It’s incidental, harmless, and on a macro level it seems like nothing at first, but these are micro-behaviours that have the potential to create long-lasting issues in a relationship.

This modern dating phenomenon is called micro-cheating.

But what does micro-cheating even mean? And are you, whether you’re partnered up or having a quick fling, partaking in any behaviours that could have you labelled a ‘micro-cheater’?

 

 

What is micro-cheating?

Micro cheating is defined by small affectionate or romantic behaviours toward someone other than ones’ partner, that could be interpreted as flirty and therefore, a subset of infidelity. The micro-cheater’s actions are more subtle than physical or emotional cheating, to the point where they may not even know they’re engaging in it. It’s the secret Tinder profile, the flirty water cooler conversations with a coworker, the seemingly harmless wink at the waitress.

But small acts begin to add up, and these behaviours begin to erode the stability of a relationship – creating jealousy and damaging trust, confidence and ultimately, longevity.

Additionally, COVID-19 has seen a resurgence in the use of the term as we shift to a digital-first dating world. We can no longer connect as easily ‘in the wild’, so a simple swipe, ‘like’ or DM becomes the best form of connection between loved up partners with wandering eyes and the (attractive) strangers that catch them. But aside from the pandemic, why is micro-cheating such a common affliction to modern dating?

 

 

Why is micro-cheating happening?

Our phones have become our second favourite accessory next to Netflix (especially during snap lockdowns), potentially ruining our relationships. They’ve become our crutch to lean on when we’re standing alone at the train station, bored with work (or our social circles) or relaxing after a long day. Being single and turning to dating apps and online dating sites can at times be your social life. The scary part is that despite all the positives of the convenience technology places at our fingertips, partnered men and women can also join dating apps and talk to people they probably shouldn’t.  And they can arrange meetups with innocent singles they probably shouldn’t. Furthermore, online when the initial stages of dating blur the lines of exclusivity, micro-cheating is especially prevalent. It is difficult to agree (or even discuss) boundaries around dating, loyalty and safe behaviours, so the non-existent rules of the relationship (or situationship) are easily broken by micro-cheating and its loose, subjective definition.

It should also be noted the tendency to flirt is a completely natural behaviour among humans. It can be as simple as lingering eyes or deeply engaging conversations, putting more effort into our appearance when we know we’re seeing a certain person, or lying by omission to the one we love. And while this behaviour is sticky even with your local barista, the territory of doing so with an ex or former ‘friends with benefits’ is even more dangerous. It brings up suppressed feelings and nostalgia that takes the damage of micro-cheating to the next level. In an era (and yet another year) of heightened emotions, it’s unsurprising micro-cheating has soared into the modern dating world and will continue to wreck havoc in relationship.

 

 

Stastics on micro-cheating

Is micro-cheating more popular among men or women? Who’s more likely to follow through with micro-cheating? While we certainly don’t have all the answers, research has revealed some women may be genetically predisposed to cheat, with 28% admitting to thinking about cheating on their partner. Additionally, just over a fifth have followed through on that thought. A similar number of men have done the same, and in Australia, 60% of men and 45% of women have cheated in the traditional sense, heralding online dating as the best tool for better anonymity, convenience and escape from their current relationships.

But can we predict a micro-cheater? In studies with loved up couples married for over three years, it was found those who’d look away from a photo of a potential lover more quickly were less likely to cheat than those who lingered. Sounds pretty obvious, right? It also turns out placing a partner above others by devaluing the attractiveness of others reduced cheating tendencies. But with so many attractive strangers available at a simple swipe, controlling our natural disposition and resisting temptation becomes more challenging than ever.

 

 

Are you a micro-cheater?

15 most common examples of micro-cheating

 

What counts as micro-cheating?

Here are some common scenarios that could be interpreted as micro-cheating. Whether you’re actively dating or partnered, are you guilty of any of these?

  1. Following or talking to an ex on social media, or stalking someone’s profile regularly.
  2. Having sex with someone without telling them you are still seeing other people.
  3. Being in daily contact and communication with someone who believes you’re exclusive, while still keeping your options open talking to other people.
  4. Setting up a plan B while still dating the person you intend to break up with.
  5. Making flirty or overtly complimentary comments on other people’s social media hiding it from your partner.
  6. Messaging people in secret, building strong emotional connections.
  7. Having regular lunches, coffees or after-work drinks with someone who is single and not inviting your partner.
  8. Having secret fantasies you aren’t sharing with your partner and watching porn instead.
  9. Massages with an attractive masseuse, or one leading to a happy ending.
  10. Visiting strip clubs on a regular basis.
  11. Talking to other people about your relationship problems without resolving them with your partner.
  12. Looking at your partner’s mobile phone, iPad or computer in secret.
  13. Lying about your relationship status.
  14. Keeping an active dating profile.
  15. Listing someone by a fake name in your contacts.

It shouldn’t surprise you that these behaviours aren’t just reserved for the dating addicts or those in toxic relationships. So, what behaviours on this list would you consider micro-cheating, and which would you not?

 

 

What to do if your partner is micro-cheating?

Whatever your perception of micro-cheating, setting clear boundaries with your partner is crucial to avoiding miscommunications, turned disagreements leading to future breakups. Here are some additional tips for dealing with a potential micro-cheater:

Whatever your perception of micro-cheating, setting clear boundaries with your partner is crucial to avoiding miscommunications, turned disagreements leading to future breakups. Here are some additional tips for dealing with a potential micro-cheater:

  1. Don’t over-react or come from an accusatory standpoint.
  2. Before opening the discussion make sure your past isn’t triggering insecurities causing an over-reaction.
  3. Open the conversation by telling your partner it isn’t a big deal, but you’d like to share something with them.
  4. Communicate your perceptions and how you feel and allow your partner the same opportunity.
  5. Open the discussion on boundaries, and what your definitions of micro-cheating to ensure you’re on the same page.
  6. Resist the urge to break the trust by snooping through your partners phone, iPad or computer. Trust your intuition. (don’t fight fire with fire)
  7. If your partner is insensitive to your feeling and requests and things don’t change, consider whether it’s better to simply end things

 

While many of the example behaviours may seem harmless at first, they can soon escalate into significant issues. COVID-19 has made it easier than ever for us to use technology to connect with people and flirt seemingly without consequence. Even the implementation of flexible working environments means we can cheat right under our partner’s nose, pretending to respond to emails while we actually swipe through new matches or contacting a ‘work friend’ who is more than just a colleague.

Micro-cheating may be growing more prevalent in the era of online dating and COVID-19, but it’s a subset of infidelity with the same amount of power to tear down the strongest relationships. Even behaviours as harmless as a flirty emoji or after-work drinks can, when repeatedly engaged in, create lasting divides. As a result, open communication and clear boundaries are crucial to navigating this modern dating phenomenon that looks like it’s here to stay.

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