The phrase “micro-cheating” was first used in 2004, but when an article on the subject went viral in January 2018, it came to the world’s attention. So what is it, do you need to be worried about it, and should you be doing anything?
What is Micro-Cheating?
Psychologist Melanie Schillig defines micro-cheating as a series of small actions indicating that a person is physically or emotionally focused on someone outside their relationship.
Any small behaviours could be micro-cheating, from liking someone’s Facebook or Twitter post to texting them, or even flirting with your tablemates or customer service agents at an online casino. Other common possible signs of micro-cheating include:
- Someone lying about their relationship status
- Someone hiding the evidence of texting someone other than their partner
- If a friend is listed under a code name in a phone contact list
- Engaging with an ex-partner
- Someone sharing secrets with an individual they find attractive, who is not who they’re in a relationship with
- Obsessively checking someone’s social media feed
Stolen glances and other forms of micro-cheating have been going on for hundreds of years, but the information age that we live in now has highlighted them more and given them more possible outlets. An individual could be micro-cheating in cyber space only, and not in real life.
Should You be Worried?
Many people are sceptical of the idea of micro-cheating, saying small flirtations don’t have to lead anywhere, it can simply be part of normal human interaction, and that it’s alright for couples to have a few small secrets from each other. Experts, however, do say that these seemingly innocuous behaviours can open the door to things that are not so innocent.
If a person has shifted their attention and energy away from their significant other, it could show bigger problems in the relationship and could simply make someone feel very insecure. This, in turn, could cause serious issues.
When asking yourself if you should be worried, most professionals say it depends on the context and motivation in the situation. The same actions could be micro-cheats or could be completely innocent, depending on what an individual wants to get out of them.
Schillig adds that the key element in any micro-cheat is secrecy. If the only reason you liked your ex’s Instagram post is because you love the destination in the picture, for example, you shouldn’t have a problem with your current partner knowing. Chartered psychologist Aisling Leonard-Curtin suggests asking yourself what you want from the interaction, and whether you’d be happy if your significant other was doing it, if you’re unsure whether you’re micro-cheating or not.
Should You be Doing Anything?
What you definitely should not be doing is panicking about every tiny move your partner makes! Micro-cheats themselves can be used as indications of what needs to be addressed in the relationship, and the subject can also open up a discussion on what you both think cheating is. In both cases, the thing to do is talk together.
If you notice micro-cheating behaviour in your partner or yourself, discuss the state of your relationship. You could identify some areas that need to be worked on, and commit to putting the time in to do it. You could also define what cheating means for each of you, so that you never unwittingly make each other insecure. Use the opportunity that the idea of micro-cheating presents to make sure the trust in your own relationship is strong, and that you don’t need to worry about cheating behaviour of any size.