Couples are under so much pressure, from within the relationship and outside it. The latest problem to contend with is, apparently, micro-cheating. Are you, or your partner a micro-cheater? And if so, are you willing to do something about it?
Flirting has always been a thing. Some people are fine with their partners dilly-dallying with members of their preferred sexual group, some experience mild, or even extreme jealousy. But then, just when we thought we’d all grown up and accepted it’s OK to have friends of either sex, along comes micro-cheating.
What is Micro-cheating?
Psychologist, Melanie Schilling, has identified a form of behavior that indicates someone is emotionally involved with another person outside of their marriage or long-term relationship. While there may be no physical contact or even face-to-face meetings, this behavior poses a threat to the relationship because, by it’s nature, it is clandestine. In other words, if you hide it from your partner, you are essentially cheating.
This behavior is generally conducted by social media, email or phone texting. It begins as light-hearted interaction, but gradually morphs into a kind of alternative relationship. People become addicted to it because it provides the same feeling as when you meet a new potential lover for the first time; it sends the pulse racing and the heart fluttering. It feels naughty and it feels good. It makes you feel special. Valued even. This is micro-cheating.
How Micro-cheating Began
The first examples of online micro-cheating occurred quite some years ago on a British site called Friends Reunited. This was in the year 2000, long before FaceBook ever existed. The site was launched with the intention of reuniting old school friends who had lost touch with each other. By entering your details and tagging your school, it was easy to catch up with people you thought you’d never see again. However, it wasn’t only old friends who were reunited but old flames as well. It was based on a similar site in the US called Classmates. Pretty soon, reports began appearing in the newspapers how Friends Reunited was the catalyst for marriage break-ups. However, not every divorce was due to old flames meeting up and deciding to begin a new life together. Some marriages were subject to online micro-cheating by one partner… and many couldn't take the strain.
Signs of Micro-cheating
The key to knowing what is micro-cheating is if you do it without your partner knowing. Examples of such behavior are:
- Sending texts to another person that you wouldn’t show your partner.
- Regularly checking your ex on Facebook or other social media accounts.
- Interacting in a flirty manner, including sending romantic or sexy emojis in messages.
- Storing someone’s contact details in your phone under a different name or code word.
- Liking all of someone’s posts.
- Sharing private jokes.
- Making calls you wouldn’t like your partner to overhear.
- Making someone, who isn’t your current partner, feel special.
Micro-cheating doesn’t have to be with only one person, either. It may form a pattern of habitual behavior. You know when you are doing it. It thrills you, even just a tiny bit. You look forward to reading the other person's response. Their next message can make your day just a little brighter. And there's nothing wrong with that, is there? Well, if you hide it from your partner, it it is micro-cheating.
We All Hide Stuff
Some will argue that the definition of micro-cheating is too broad, after all, we are all entitled to our privacy, and that is perfectly true. It depends though, whether the hidden interaction has a flirty, sexual edge. And it also matters if your partner would be hurt by it. Would you be upset if you found your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife carrying on one, or more, online relationships? Because that’s what micro-cheating really is—it’s a low-risk relationship with emotional benefits. Melanie Schilling calls it ‘a subtle betrayal’.
When is it not Cheating?
When your interactions are open and accessible by your partner. Even with your ex or a business colleague. When your love really doesn’t mind you having flirty ‘friends’. If you can share those interactions quite happily, it’s not micro-cheating. There is a clear distinction between open friendship and secret flirting.
Take a Step Back
If you are concerned and bothered that your partner is micro-cheating, ask them to stop. They may not realize it upsets you. They may not even realize you know what they are up to. Or perhaps you think it’s OK to micro-cheat because it keeps each partner on their toes? If both partners are accepting of it, there’s nothing to be concerned about. However, if it is eating away at you, or interrupting the time you are spending with your partner, you should speak up. There’s nothing worse than having a romantic meal with your lover and being interrupted by his or her phone buzzing with messages. Especially if they are from their cyber love interest.
Are We Over Reacting?
Possibly. Micro-cheating is one of those trending buzzwords that can put pressure on a relationship where none existed. People may start looking out for signs their partner is engaging in behavior which they may have previously ignored. It is like raising a red flag when it should only be a yellow one. Maybe a little flirtation never hurt anyone. It comes down to the fact that every relationship is unique in the way it is structured, and how secure both partners feel within it. Some might say that micro-cheating relieves a little boredom and keeps established couples together. Others say that micro-cheating is a certain betrayal. It’s all a question of degree and emotional involvement.
We’d love to hear what you think. Is micro-cheating really a thing? Do you do it? Are you happy for your partner to do it? Do you feel uncomfortable and threatened by it? Please share your opinions.
Psychologist Explains Micro-cheating Rise
Featured photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash