Ah, social media. Is there any end to the way it damages our relationships? Not only do most couples spend more time looking at their phones than each other, but it’s now causing a worrying new trend: micro-cheating.
Everyone knows physical cheating is going to get them in trouble. But what about those small, slightly dodgy actions – like DM’ing an attractive co-worker or liking the posts of sexy strangers — that are borderline straying but not quite cheating?
Should it be something to worry about? Or is it all harmless fun since everyone is at it?
When I was in my 20’s I started working for a well-known bookmaker. And, needless to say, the majority of the people who walked through the door were male. This meant that my fellow colleagues and I (who were all female) were constantly ogled by grown men who we had no interest in.
There was the odd exception, of course. I actually met my ex-partner through that job. And we went on to have a 14-year relationship together before recently breaking up. But on the whole, I just wasn’t interested in their advances. Unless I really think about it, that is. Then there may have been one other person’s attention I enjoyed.
I don’t remember when it started, exactly. But I vaguely remember how he’d always give me the biggest smile whenever he came in to place his bets. And other than thanking me when I handed him his betting slip, he didn’t have anything else to say. I just assumed he gave everyone who worked there that same smile, until one of my co-workers decided to tell me that she thought he fancied me.
After that, the girls wouldn’t let it go, despite me being delusionally happy in my relationship. They got him to open up and start talking, and he came across as a genuinely nice guy. As the years went by, I found that we spent more and more time laughing together, flirting, and occasionally brushing hands across the cash desk. I’d tell myself it was totally innocent so I wouldn’t feel guilty. I mean, we were both in long-term relationships, and other than him waving to me from across the street that one time, we’d never even seen each other outside of my workplace.
Then, one afternoon, he turned to me, smirked, and said: “Can I have your number?”
I can’t remember much else about that moment other than feeling like I’d come crashing back down to Earth with a bang. As tempting as it was to exchange numbers with him, I knew my other half wouldn’t approve of me toying around with a beautiful, sexy stranger behind his back. So I didn’t.
But it got me wondering — was my flirting really considered cheating? If I didn’t act upon my desires, was I really betraying my partner and ruining our relationship?
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the super-complicated world of micro-cheating.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A MICRO-CHEATER?
I think it’s safe to say that we’re aware of traditional cheating behaviours, such as having sex or even falling in love with someone outside your actual relationship. But there’s a new concept that’s rearing its ugly head with couples — and that’s micro-cheating. Sounds like a trendy buzzword, right!?
Well, if you’re wondering what micro-cheating is, then you’re certainly not alone. Essentially, micro-cheating is a term used to describe behaviours or actions that could breach the line of trust between partners. It’s hard to say point-blank if these behaviours fall under the umbrella of ‘conventional cheating’ since it’s unclear whether a line has been crossed at all.
They may seem innocent. They may seem harmless. And many of the times, they probably are. But, that doesn’t make them any less destructive to a relationship. These actions and behaviours are so hard to define, that you might not even know that you’re doing it. In fact, I’d bet you’ve micro-cheated on your partner many times, you sneaky little micro-cheater you!
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON FORMS OF MICRO-CHEATING?
There are thousands and thousands of entries in the micro-cheating dictionary. However, some scenarios are much more common than others. And I thought I’d share a few of them with you guys today. I wonder how many of them you’ll recognise in yourself …
Texting Your Ex
Sending ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘How are you?’ texts to your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend may seem friendly at first. After all, this person played a significant role in your life. And cutting the relationship umbilical cord takes time.
The same goes for subtly (or not-so-subtly) checking up on them through Facebook or Instagram. What can I say, curiosity gets the best of all of us at times.
I’ve known many people who maintain healthy relationships with their exes – my brother included. His ex-wife is still very much a part of the family and gets on with his new wife like a house on fire.
But if the Facebook stalking or monthly conversations are getting too regular for your tastes, then that may be a sign of something more serious.
Lying About Your Relationship Status
Talking to your handsome stud of a co-worker? Chatting up that sexy waitress at your local Costa? Sometimes, we let flirting get the better of us. And to some, omitting the fact that you have a significant other to someone you find attractive could most definitely be considered a form of micro-cheating.
If the conversation is with an acquaintance, then personal topics just might not come up. And in this case, it seems pretty legit that you might not mention that you’re in a relationship.
If you go out of your way to lie about your relationship status, however, then that may raise some eyebrows. Although it’s hard to classify this behaviour as cheating, it definitely raises a few red flags.
Confiding in Someone Who’s Not Your Partner
Obviously, your boyfriend or girlfriend is not your one-stop-shop for your emotional well-being. That’s why we have friends, family and co-workers. Because it’s damn near impossible to get everything you need from one person or one type of bond.
But what happens when you share personal feelings with someone who isn’t your significant other? Well, I suppose it depends on what you’re talking about, and why you’re talking about it with that person.
For example, if you’re in the middle of a feud with Karen from work because she interrupted you in that meeting and then didn’t accept your invite for lunch, then your significant other probably couldn’t care less.
But in times of turmoil or excitement, sharing those feelings with them is usually expected. And if you find there’s someone else you’d rather confide in, then you might just be crossing the emotional micro-cheating line.
Following That Hot Piece of Ass on Social Media
Instagram and Facebook have sent a world of half-naked hotties straight to our mobile phones and eager eyes. Seriously, I’ve seen some of the accounts my friends follow, and that shit is straight-up porn!
And just like porn – which you may or may not consider to be cheating – following attractive people on social media may get your partner riled up.
While admiring someone online seems relatively harmless, some people go ahead and take it a step too far. Flirty comments, aubergine emojis, and sexy DM’s may all be seen as a form of micro-cheating to your partner.
SO, IS MICRO-CHEATING CONSIDERED INFIDELITY?
Yes? No? Maybe? Who I am to say if scrolling through your ex’s Facebook or chatting up the hot barista is considered cheating. I’m just a silly dating blogger. I guess the only way to know about your partner’s limits is to — you guessed it — ask your partner!
Throw away the self-help books, turn off the chick flicks, and stop listening to what other people have to say. The definition of micro-cheating — along with other traditional methods of cheating — will depend on how you and your other half define infidelity in your relationship.
Of course, no one has the time or patience to sit down with their partner and run through a list of thousands of hypothetical scenarios that may or may not happen. It’s cheating if you smile at the pretty waitress when we’re at dinner! It’s cheating if you read a magazine and see an ad with a half-naked model posing seductively with a bottle of perfume! It’s cheating if you can no longer give hand-jobs because your arms were bitten off by sharks, and you catch me masturbating to porn! Etc, etc.
It’s not realistic to know every little thing that your partner might consider cheating. But you can at least start the conversation and see where they stand on the basics. Because even if you don’t consider micro-cheating a form of infidelity, there’s one thing that’s blatantly obvious: That shit hurts. So open your mind (and your mouth), and talk with your partner about your boundaries.
THE GOLDEN RULE OF MICRO-CHEATING
Just because you aren’t technically cheating, it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing anything wrong. As we’ve discussed, every person, relationship, and human being has a different way to define infidelity. What you believe to be innocent, another might find absolutely shocking.
Therefore, there’s no hard or fast rule that screams, Hey, asshole — you’re cheating on me!
So, if you’re wondering whether or not you’re a micro-cheater, there’s one fool proof way to help you decide: If you have to lie or hide your indiscretion from your partner, then you’re most probably engaging in something they’ll find harmful.
At the end of the day, it’s not really the act that causes pain. It’s the betrayal of trust. If in doubt, don’t do it. No matter how micro it might seem.