What Is Micro Cheating In A Relationship & How To Deal With It?

Things like changing a mobile’s password, refusing to show the messages, or accepting calls from the boss at unusual hours thinking it’s okay can be signs of micro-cheating. You may get doubtful about your partner’s sudden abnormal behaviors and fear if they can jeopardize your relationship.

If you are having issues such as “”My partner constantly likes and comments on their ex’s stories and pictures on social media. When asked, they say they are just friends,”” or “”I found plenty of dating apps on my significant other’s cell phone,”” you may be forced to rethink about their commitment to you and the possibility of cheating. However, such frustrating behavioral changes may not be classified as cheating or unfaithfulness, but fall into a different type of infidelity.

In this post, you will learn about micro-cheating, if it can put your relationship at risk, how different it is from cheating, and some tips to handle it effectively.

In This Article

What Is micro-cheating?

Micro-cheating can be defined as an act that involves subtle boundary-crossing behaviors within 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. It can progress from small secret-keeping behaviors to an emotional affair, potentially escalating to sneaking around or involvement in inappropriate activities.

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 and engaging in hidden intimacy, it could be bad for the relationship.

protip_icon Quick fact
Sometimes, micro-cheating may increase when novelty and mystery in a long-term relationship fade away.

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

Spending too much time on social media

Image: IStock

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 an act of disloyalty and regarded as 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 raises suspicions of possible deception. 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

Boyfriend being close to another girl, Micro cheating

Image: IStock

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.

protip_icon Be watchful
A determiner of the proximity between your partner and their best friend may be the increasing frequency of gifting or meeting for an unspecified reason. Additionally, this friend may also possess information about the intimate aspects of your relationship.

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 their ex, igns of micro-cheating

Image: IStock

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.

10. They are inattentive

It is not possible for anyone to focus their full attention on you every time. But if your partner has been particularly inattentive and distracted of late, this can be a sign of micro-cheating. However, this inattentiveness can be caused by other factors such as work pressure, personal issues, or mental fatigue. So, try to find out the reason before assuming anything.

11. They are being secretive

Your partner is being secretive about his whereabouts or about people he is talking with. He does not speak much about his office friends and colleagues and spends a lot of time away from home under the grab of office work or hanging out with friends. More subtle signs may include passing off things as a surprise for you. Take note of such events to trace the pattern, as they may be signs of micro-cheating.

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

Listen to your partner

Image: Shutterstock

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.

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Offer support to your partner if they wish to approach the problem with self-development therapeutic resolution strategies.

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

Move on from a broken relationship

Image: Shutterstock

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a relationship recover from micro-cheating?

A relationship may recover from micro-cheating only if partners communicate well and discuss what bothers them. Setting healthy boundaries and being honest is the key to saving a relationship from micro-cheating.

2. Is micro-cheating a relationship breaker?

Initially, micro-cheating may not seem like a problem because the behaviors appear as minor or small betrayals, which are natural and harmless. Most people don’t consider such behaviors threatening. However, the same behaviors become problematic when they cross physical and emotional boundaries. If one partner’s behavior starts bothering the other, micro-cheating may become a relationship breaker.

3. What is emotional vs micro-cheating?

Emotional cheating means developing an emotional connection or intimacy with someone outside of a committed relationship, which can also develop into romantic or intimate feelings. Micro-cheating refers to subtle behaviors that breach the boundaries of a relationship. Both emotional and micro-cheating can negatively impact a relationship.

4. How do I trust my partner after micro-cheating?

Rebuilding trust after experiencing micro-cheating may take time, but it is not impossible. You must communicate openly with your partner. Try to understand their perspective and address any underlying issues. Establish clear boundaries and expectations moving forward.

5. Is micro-cheating a sign of a bigger problem in a relationship?

Dissatisfaction, lack of communication, or unmet needs in a relationship could lead to micro-cheating. So, it is crucial to approach the situation with open and honest communication, addressing the root causes and working together to strengthen the relationship. If the root cause is resolved, it can preempt bigger problems.

6. Can micro-cheating ever be justified or considered acceptable in a relationship?

Cheating in any form is not justifiable or acceptable in a relationship. Micro-cheating involves breaching the boundaries of trust and emotional exclusivity, which can undermine the foundation of a relationship. It can hurt both the people involved in the relationship and cause emotional scars.

7. Can social media and technology make micro-cheating more common, and if so, how?

Social media and technology provide easy communication, which can make micro-cheating feasible. The temptation of online flirting can be hard to resist. Social media also provides complete privacy, which may further encourage such behavior.

8. Can micro-cheating be a form of emotional abuse, and if so, how?

Micro cheating can emotionally harm a person as it breaks their trust and ruins a relationship. The affected person faces feelings of betrayal, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Considering the kind of negative emotional impact it has on a person, it can be seen as emotional abuse.

9. Can micro-cheating lead to physical cheating, or is it usually a separate issue?

If micro-cheating is not controlled, it may lead to potential infidelity. Engaging in emotional intimacy outside of the relationship can increase the scope of crossing more boundaries. However, it’s important to note that not all instances of micro-cheating necessarily lead to physical cheating, as individual circumstances and motivations vary.

You may have been witnessing micro-cheating without even knowing it. Things such as constantly being on the phone without paying attention to the significant other, constant flirting with friends or colleagues, ignoring you, or disregarding your concerns are signs of micro-cheating that apply to you and your partner. The best thing to do is to have open and transparent communication about what must be causing such actions and your expectations from each other. If things seem beyond repair, it may be okay to let go. Remember, it requires mutual efforts, trust, and understanding to keep the love and spark alive when you are with someone.

Key Pointers

  • Micro-cheating is mostly perspective-based.
  • An active account on a dating site, being too close to another person, or talking about exes could also be called micro-cheating.
  • It could be the beginning of cheating.
  • Discuss the issue with your partner, and if nothing works, moving on may be beneficial for you.

Infographic: Clear Signs Of Micro-Cheating In A Relationship

Unlike infidelity, micro-cheating does not involve a partner cheating with someone physically, but it involves abnormal behavior towards their partners. The infographic below explains several signs that could indicate that your partner might be micro-cheating on you. However, before making any decision, talk to your partner clearly and express your feelings.

how to know if your partner is micro cheating on you (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Micro-cheating is a subtle form of infidelity that can hurt relationships. It’s important to understand what it is and how it can affect your relationship.

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