‘Micro-cheating’ and Abuse — Why the Dating Buzzword Can be a Red Flag

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Photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash

Have you heard the phrase micro-cheating? The idea is that small, harmless behaviors can rapidly turn into full-blown cheating and thus need to be nipped in the bud.

There are several definitions of micro-cheating, but what it really amounts to is minor emotional infidelity.

What Kind of Things are Being Called Micro-Cheating?

Again, the definition varies, but here are a few things that I’ve gleaned from the internet:

  • Sharing a happy moment with your ex
  • Complimenting somebody other than your current partner
  • Speaking to your ex at all.
  • Sharing a private joke with somebody other than your current partner
  • Saving a phone number under a different name
  • Putting heart emoticons on an ex’s photo on Instagram
  • Not deleting your dating app profile
  • Always replying to a specific person’s Instagram story
  • Paying more attention to somebody else at a party
  • Sharing details about sex to somebody who isn’t your partner
  • Having lengthy work lunches with a coworker
  • Messaging a coworker after hours
  • Dressing differently to see a different person
  • Deleting texts so your partner can’t read them
  • Taking your phone every where you go
  • Locking your phone
  • Following your ex on social media
  • Commenting on somebody else’s Facebook posts
  • Talking about your ex
  • Going to parties or events alone
  • Turning to somebody other than your partner for emotional support
  • Badmouthing your partner
  • Hanging out with somebody you find attractive

…and the list goes on. While some of these are obviously no nos (badmouthing your partner?) others…

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

When Checking For Micro-Cheating Becomes Abuse

So, here’s the thing. I absolutely understand having boundaries in a relationship, and sometimes those boundaries are in different places. Maybe you are fine with your partner hanging out with one ex but not another.

But some of these include things like talking to people on social media. Locking your phone is cheating? Deleting a conversation you don’t want your spouse to see…there are many reasons to do that other than it being sexting, which might range from confidential work conversations through talking about matters with a friend that they don’t want your spouse to see through planning your spouse’s birthday party! Demanding to see every text your partner makes is abuse. Demanding they unlock their phone or give you the code is also abuse.

Going to parties or events alone? That’s healthy in many relationships. I often go to events alone so that I can pay attention to the people I need to pay attention to, such as a client or publisher, without being distracted by my spouse. We are also a mixed religion couple.

Oh, and we have to use our partner as the sole burden for emotional support? There’s a phrase for that: Toxic monogamy.

Sometimes we really need to talk to somebody other than them, and not to badmouth them either. One person cannot be your entire support.

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Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash

So, What is the Solution?

The solution is to communicate and set boundaries. It’s cheating if it violates the rules of your specific relationship. Maybe you have a good reason to ask them not to hang out with a particular ex (which might not be concern about cheating, you’re allowed to hate your partner’s ex for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their relationship).

But this also means setting boundaries. And when those boundaries include “You’re not to lock your phone,” then that is a major red flag. Talk about micro cheating can be used as ammunition by abusers. “Relationship experts say it’s cheating if you don’t let me read your texts.”

When almost any behavior, including having friends, can be defined as “cheating,” then it becomes incredibly easy for abusers to control them.

On the other hand, if you are hiding stuff from your partner it’s time to ask yourself why.

Is it because you are afraid of them? Or is it because you realize you may be going too far?

Personally, I think we need to put micro-cheating back in the box and instead focus on the most important elements of any relationship: Communication and trust.

Written by

Freelance writer, freelance editor, novelist and short story writer. Jack of many trades. https://www.jenniferrpovey.com/

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