“My boyfriend keeps changing his phone lock code and refuses to show me his messages.”
“My girlfriend’s boss calls her at odd hours, and she thinks it’s okay.”
“I found plenty of dating apps on my significant other’s cellphone.”
“My partner constantly likes and comments on ex’s stories and pictures on social media. When asked, they say they are just friends.”
Such episodes from your romantic life could be bothering you. You are skeptical about your partner’s behavior because they seem committed to you. But what if they have crossed the line?
Is your partner’s behavior making you wonder if you should worry that they are cheating on you or that your mind is playing games with you? As frustrating as they can be, such behavioral patterns can be put into a category of infidelity referred to as ‘micro-cheating.’
How is micro-cheating any different? Can it put your relationship at risk? In this MomJunction post, we tell you what micro-cheating is and how to deal with it.
What Is micro-cheating?
Micro-cheating can be defined as an act that seems to be crossing certain boundaries of a committed relationship. However, it is regarded as a gray area, as some acts that may seem harmless to a few may appear to be red flags to others.
For instance, chatting with a colleague about something that is not related to work may seem shady to only a few. Similarly, helping your ex in making career decisions could look fishy to some and friendly to others. So, there is a thin line in perceiving something as positive or harmless, and negative or detrimental to the relationship.
At the same time, micro-cheating may begin with a friendly tone and go overboard in no time.
Micro-cheating may seem like a new concept in the digital world, but it existed before the arrival of the internet and smartphones. Only that there was no definite term for it.
Micro-cheating behaviors, such as healthy discussions or mere teasing, may not be something to be worried about. But if you notice your partner crossing physical or emotional boundaries, then it could be bad for the relationship.
Signs Of Micro-cheating In A Relationship
Here are some behaviors that are characteristic of micro-cheating.
1. They follow someone actively
Following a celebrity or a legend or a famous personality on social media is not something to worry about. But if you find your significant other spending too much time following someone (it could be ex, neighbor, mutual friend, colleague, or stranger) and socializing with them via the internet, there could be something fishy. For instance, they like photos and stories, comment regularly, and chat with someone without you knowing. It could be a sign of micro-cheating.
2. They are active on a dating app
When you are in a committed relationship, there is no point in being active on a dating app or site. Even though someone uninstalled the app from the mobile, their profile does exist if it has not been deleted. If you or any of your friends have found your partner’s profile on a dating application, then you may certainly have doubts.
If they have a profile that has been inactive for a while, they may have honestly forgotten to delete it. But if they have been active on the site, interacting with people, then it can be considered micro-cheating.
3. They get defensive
When a person is hiding something, they get defensive. If you ask your partner about something and they get fussy about it for no reason, it is dubious. And if they repeatedly make excuses instead of telling you the truth, there might be a secret that they are trying to hide from you.
4. They are always on the phone
Does your significant other always carry a phone wherever they go, even when you two are together on a date or an outing? Do they have a passcode that they do not share with you? Do they hide social media notifications from you? If yes, you may want to ask them why they are so secretive.
And if you catch them chatting with someone and smiling at the phone, there’s a chance they are micro-cheating, which is a red flag in a romantic relationship.
5. They are too close to someone else
It is okay if your partner has a best friend or someone with whom they share a close bond. But there is a thin line between being close and being super close to someone outside the relationship. They give them more importance than they give you. This could seem ambiguous to some extent and could be a sign of micro-cheating.
6. They say you are overreacting
You might be overthinking things at times, but when it happens a lot of times, then you should not overlook it. If you ask your partner something, and they say you are imagining things and overreacting when you are not, this could be a concern. Sometimes, they gaslight you, making you think you are wrong even when you are right. If such situations keep happening in your life, then it could be a sign of micro-cheating.
7. They begin withdrawing from the relationship
If your loved one is distancing from you and you sense it, it could mean that they are trying to move away from you. They don’t spend quality time with you, don’t seem to share anything as they did before, and try to maintain a casual relationship. These signs of physical and emotional withdrawal could mean they are micro-cheating on you.
8. They talk a lot about their ex
Talking about the ex-partner once in a while is understandable. But talking about them frequently , and sometimes even comparing you with them when it is not relevant and it is not healthy in a relationship. Also, following their ex on social media and trying to know what they are up to or trying to contact them often is not okay. It could be one of the signs of micro-cheating.
9. They don’t take you along for events or parties
You are a happy couple in love. When going to events or parties, you and your partner are expected to be together. But your significant other doesn’t invite you and goes alone. They don’t even inform you about an event that you both should go to. What could be the reason? Are they going with someone else? If yes, it seems they are micro-cheating on you.
Micro-cheating, at its core, is not something you should panic about. But there could be inevitable consequences if limits are crossed.
Is Micro-cheating Harmful For The Relationship?
Trust and communication are two essential aspects to keep behaviors of micro-cheating in check. Micro-cheating is not as crushing as cheating or infidelity is. However, it may take your relationship to a direction of damage, as it could be the first step of cheating.
Partners involved in micro-cheating don’t necessarily intend on breaking up, but they may become vulnerable on the go. In case of any doubts, it is better to address it immediately, before things go out of hand. Read on to know what you can do if your partner is micro-cheating.
What Should You Do About Micro-cheating?
It is essential to have boundaries in relationships so that your bond remains healthy and strong. Other things that can keep micro-cheating at bay are listed next.
1. Open communication
Do you doubt your significant other? To find out the truth, you check their mobile, social media profiles, or try to spy. That’s wrong. As an adult, you must try to stay calm and avoid the urge to suspect your partner’s every move. What you should do is sit down with your significant other to have open and transparent communication.
Assumptions, when not controlled, can result in misunderstandings. So, get clarity by having an honest conversation with your partner, and try not to start it with an accusatory tone.
2. Listen to your partner
Instead of questioning and blaming your loved one, listen to them. Let them pour out their heart and explain their behavior. Going beyond the boundaries of a committed relationship is indeed wrong, but your partner may have some reason. Hear them out, and you may find them being sorry or regretting what happened. Or, they may not have realized that they have gone overboard and made an honest mistake.
3. Don’t distance yourself
It could be hurtful to know about your partner’s behavior and acts of micro-cheating. But if you think there’s still love between you and your partner, then you should not let it go. Take it as a test of your relationship, stay strong, and help yourself and your significant other to resolve the issues.
4. Make your partner understand
We come across new friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and many other people in our lives. There could be many opportunities for micro-cheating. Instead of keeping an eye on your partner and always doubting them, it is better to talk about it. If your partner is too friendly and gets along with people quickly, they might not understand that crossing boundaries is micro-cheating.
In such a case, talk to them about the importance of boundaries in a relationship. Tell them what counts as micro-cheating and cheating. You can make them understand that you don’t like and feel hurt when they go beyond the limits.
5. Move on
Your significant other has crossed certain limits that constitute micro-cheating. But you both have talked about it and sorted out the matter. Once it is settled, move on and don’t bring it back once your partner has stopped behaviors that suggest micro-cheating. Avoid recalling those or bringing them up again and again to embarrass your partner.
If the love between you and your partner is strong, micro-cheating cannot break it up. But if your partner is still doubtful about your relationship and you sense betrayal coming your way, then holding on to it would not be of any help to you. It is then better to get clarity and move on with your life. A beautiful romantic life should be independent of these little insecurities and doubts that eventually break it.
Do you have any experiences to share? Let us know in the comments section below.