What Exactly Is Micro Cheating and Is It Really That Bad?

At Flure, we like to talk about everything, including the less glamorous and romantic sides of relationships. Just recently we covered benching, but it looks like there’s a new nasty trend in town – micro-cheating.

What is micro-cheating

Micro-cheating is a so-called “light version” of cheating in relationships.
The common meaning of micro-cheating doesn’t include sexual intimacy, but it consists of morally gray actions that can be disregarded if they’re done just once or if we look at them separately. For example, your girlfriend going for drinks after work with a colleague she thinks is hot. You wouldn’t be happy about it, but then again you won’t freak out if it’s only this one time.
Micro-cheating is also about doing something that is seemingly innocent but you know your partner won’t approve, such as flirting with friends or continuously touching someone else during a conversation.

Signs of micro-cheating

There are signs you can watch out for to spot your partner micro-cheating. A lot of them intersect with signs of actual cheating, so you’re probably familiar with at least some of them.
  • Emotional withdrawal from your relationship. They’re avoidant, dismissive, and overall not invested in what’s going on between you two like they used to be.
  • They’re defensive when you ask about someone specific or their interaction with another person.
  • They’re on their phone too much when at home, and they’re secretive about what it is they’re doing.
  • You hear them mention someone else’s beauty, attractiveness, and appeal a lot, but they don’t say the same about you.

Examples of micro-cheating

Micro-cheating can be hard to identify, especially if you’re not paying close attention to what the partner is doing all the time. Here is a list of the most common examples of micro-cheating that the Flure team either lived through or witnessed.
  1. Developing an emotional closeness with someone else.
  2. Building erotic energy and tension with people outside of the relationship.
  3. Reaching out or continuing communication with ex-lovers.
  4. Fantasizing about people outside of the relationship.
  5. Sending heated messages to or simply texting with random people.
  6. Stalking someone on social media and liking all their posts, writing comments, sending thirty emojis, etc.
  7. Gifting things to others, as well as receiving gifts yourself.
  8. Non-sexual physical contact, like hugging, kissing on the cheeks, touching during the conversation.
  9. Being active on dating apps and websites as if they’re single and ready to mingle.

Is micro-cheating really bad?

The big question is whether micro-cheating is real cheating.
The answer to that depends largely on who you’re asking and what their relationship boundaries are. Someone won’t tolerate innocent flirting, and other people are completely okay with it. The Flure team is divided on that matter. Some of us say that occasional micro-cheating is fine if it’s just a one-off. Another part of the team is far less understanding.
Whether or not micro-cheating is okay is ultimately subjective. There are many types of forms of cheating that can occur in a relationship, so even within the micro-cheating sphere, you can be okay with seeing likes on Instagram posts but not tolerate what is considered emotional cheating, like your lover having repeated raw conversations about their dreams with someone else.
At the end of the day, micro-cheating is not the same as having sex or falling in love outside of the relationship. It’s still hurtful, even when we’re not admitting it publicly, but it’s not the end of the world. The ultimate judge of whether micro-cheating is bad or not is you and your reaction to it.

My partner is micro-cheating, what should I do?

Just like with regular cheating, you can deal with the issue and try to make it work, ignore it and continue like nothing happened, or break up. What you choose is up to you.
If the relationship means a lot to you, and you’re ready to move past micro-cheating, then definitely seek to resolve it. The main thing would be to understand what causes your partner to micro-cheat. Are they bored? Do they have to pretend to be someone else when they’re with you? Is it just who they are and they’ve actually been micro-cheating ever since you started going out? Knowing the root cause will help you plan your next moves.
Also, it’s important to point out that micro-cheating is not always intentional. Your boyfriend or spouse might be doing it subconsciously. It doesn’t necessarily make it better or easier for you to handle, but simply pointing it out and telling how such behavior makes you feel can help.
Having a conversation about micro-cheating can be hard, but necessary. When you talk about it, watch how the partner is reacting. Nobody likes to be accused of something, so they’ll probably show some kind of resistance to the topic or get defensive. However, if they flip out and their reaction blows completely out of proportion, this is your sign that there’s more to it than they’re willing to admit.
Pro tip: If you want to have a difficult conversation but worry that your feelings will prevent you from being constructive, reach out to a therapist who will be your mediator.
Micro-cheating is probably inevitable when you’re in a long-term relationship. Even the most loving and loyal people can get attracted to someone new and flirt a bit or share an emotionally intimate moment. What’s important is what happens next. If the micro-cheater stops this behavior and goes back to being a loyal lover – great. There’s probably no need to address it then if you forgive them for this mishap. Yet, if they’re turning into a serial micro-cheater, this can be a signal that something’s wrong in the relationship. In some cases, this can mean that you guys don’t belong together.
The bottom line is there’s no need to break up immediately. Think about your partnership and what you want from it. Talk to your lover about it, and take it from there.