Infidelity is probably one of the most dangerous things that can happen in a relationship, as it breaks trust and destroys a couple’s bond. When most people think of cheating, they likely imagine obvious forms, such as having sex with someone else.
However, micro-cheating can be just as damaging. These small acts can erode trust and hurt your significant other. Below, learn about micro-cheating examples to avoid this behavior in your relationship.
What is micro-cheating?
Before jumping into examples of micro-cheating, it’s beneficial to define micro-cheating so there is an understanding of the meaning of this behavior. Essentially, micro-cheating is cheating on a small scale.
Simply put, micro-cheating means any behavior that flirts with the line between cheating and not cheating. Whether micro-cheating constitutes actual infidelity is a topic of debate.
Some people believe that micro-cheating isn’t cheating, and others state that it does cross the line into cheating. Regardless of whether you define micro-cheating as infidelity, the reality is that the behavior is inappropriate and can lead to a full-blown affair.
Micro-cheating examples are damaging for relationships, and it represents a lack of loyalty toward your partner.
How to tell if you’re a micro-cheater
The best way to determine whether you’re micro-cheating is to consider if you’d engage in whatever behavior you’re doing in front of your partner.
For example, if you’d quickly put your phone down, or turn off the computer screen if your partner entered the room, whatever you’re doing probably falls within the micro-cheating definition.
Micro-cheating is unfair to your partner, and if you know your behavior would upset them, it’s probably micro-cheating. Talking to someone your partner would be uncomfortable with or sending messages you wouldn’t want them to see are good indicators of micro-cheating.
20 micro-cheating examples
If you are worried you’re micro-cheating or believe your partner may be a micro-cheater, the examples below can give you more insight into this behavior.
1. Claiming to be single
One of the micro-cheating signs is claiming to be single when you’re in a relationship. This could take the form of listing yourself as single on social media so that people will feel comfortable flirting with you.
Or, you might go out with friends for the night and claim to be single, so you can dance or exchange numbers with someone you find attractive. You aren’t necessarily hooking up with someone else, but you’re sending the message that you might be available.
2. You secretly remain in contact with an ex
Another one of the micro-cheating signs is staying in contact with an ex, especially if your partner doesn’t know about it. Chances are that your significant other wouldn’t be comfortable with you messaging an ex because there could still be feelings involved.
Having a friend of the opposite sex isn’t a problem in and of itself, but if you’re crossing the lines of friendship, this can be one of the micro-cheating examples.
Sharing the most intimate details of your life should be reserved for your partner, so if you’re having these deep conversations with someone who is “just a friend,” you’re probably violating the terms of your relationship.
5. Texting someone you’re attracted to
If you’re in a relationship, you owe it to your partner to avoid anything that may tempt you to be unfaithful, as it could lead you to micro-cheating examples.
Even if you never meet up in person, exchanging text messages with someone you’re attracted to shows that you aren’t being entirely loyal.
6. Confiding in an ex about your relationship issues
When you run to an ex to discuss problems in your current relationship, you disrespect your significant other. You’re also leaving the door open for your ex to be a source of comfort when things go wrong in your current relationship, which you probably already know is bad news.
7. Trying to impress others
Picture this scenario: you have a work meeting with someone you have a crush on. You spend extra time getting ready that morning, applying seductive makeup or choosing the perfect outfit.
Trying to attract attention from others just isn’t good relationship etiquette. And it could be counted as one of the micro-cheating examples.
8. Secret keeping
If it’s not something you feel comfortable telling your partner, it’s probably micro-cheating. When you’re keeping secrets about who you’re talking to or the content of your messages, you’re not being entirely faithful.
9. Talking about sex with someone other than your partner
When you’re in a relationship, you shouldn’t be discussing your sex life with someone of the opposite sex or someone you’re attracted to, and you definitely shouldn’t be sharing your sexual fantasies. These conversations should be reserved for your significant other.
10. You’re meeting up with people behind your partner’s back
Even if it’s just having a cup of coffee together, if you can’t tell your partner about it, it’s one of the key examples of micro-cheating. If your significant other wouldn’t be okay with you meeting up with someone, it’s not faithful behavior.
11. Following ex-partners on social media
Keeping up with your exes can cross the line into micro-cheating, especially if you are spending a significant amount of time following them or are fixated on knowing what is going on in their lives. This suggests that you are only partially committed to your current relationship.
12. Liking and commenting on someone else’s photos
If you’re following a few specific people on social media, and you’re constantly liking and commenting on their photos, this can be upsetting to your partner.
If the behavior continues and bothers your partner, it’s one of the micro-cheating examples.
13. Emotional cheating via text
If you’re texting someone and have a deep emotional bond, this is an example of micro-cheating. This behavior can even cross the line into full-blown cheating if you establish a relationship with this person behind your partner’s back.
Emotional cheating texting examples include revealing secrets to this person via text message, speaking negatively about your partner, or confiding in this person about your worries and problems.
14. You lie about who you talk to
One of the key micro-cheating signs is lying about who you’re talking to. If your significant other questions you about someone they believe you’re communicating with, and you have to lie about it, it’s inappropriate behavior for a relationship.
It’s especially problematic if you go so far as to change names in your phone so your partner doesn’t know who you’re messaging.
Watch this video to learn how to deal with lies in a relationship:
15. Hitting on other people
You can’t help if a stranger out in public comments about your looks or says something flirty, but it’s micro-cheating if you’re the one initiating the flirty conversation.
16, Sending photos to others
Even if the photos aren’t suggestive, you shouldn’t send pictures of yourself to someone of the opposite sex (or of the same sex if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community). Once you start exchanging photos, you’re crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed when you’re in a committed relationship.
17. Giving out your number
If you meet someone new at the bar, at the gym, or while out and about, and they ask for your number, the answer should be a resounding no if you’re in a relationship. If you choose to give out your number, you’re opening the door to cheating.
18. Disrespecting your partner in any way
Overt disrespect is also a form of micro-cheating. This can involve talking to people your partner has asked you not to talk to (if it’s a reasonable request) or to engage in any behavior behind their back that you know they would find hurtful.
Everyone has crushes occasionally, but when you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important not to act on these feelings. If you’re micro-cheating, you may find yourself going out of your way to run into a crush or make an extra effort to flirt or look your best around them.
20. Your social media profile is deceptive
Some people like to keep their love life private, and that’s entirely acceptable, but if you purposely hide your significant other from social media, this is a pretty clear micro-cheating example. This might mean that you don’t friend them on your profile, or none of your pictures include them.
This is a red flag if you’re intentionally hiding them to appear single.
How to avoid micro-cheating
If you see some of yourself in the above examples of micro-cheating, it’s time to find ways to change your behavior, especially if you want your relationship to last. The best way to avoid micro-cheating is to stop engaging in behavior you’d have to hide from your partner.
Before you message someone, like a photo, or talk to someone behind your partner’s back, ask yourself if you’d talk to that person in front of your significant other. If the answer is no, it’s micro-cheating, and you should avoid it.
Another strategy for avoiding micro-cheating in your relationship is to discuss with your significant other what behavior is okay. Some couples are comfortable with each person maintaining some friendships with people of the opposite sex, whereas other couples decide this behavior isn’t acceptable for them.
Most importantly, you get on the same page about what behavior is infidelity in your eyes. Come to an agreement, and both of you should stick to it to respect the relationship.
Some commonly asked questions
Here are the answers to some pressing questions that can give you a better understanding about micro-cheating:
What is considered micro-cheating?
Micro cheating is small acts that don’t quite fall into the category of physically cheating, but they flirt with being an act of infidelity. Any behavior that represents a betrayal of trust is micro-cheating, especially if it’s something you wouldn’t want your partner to know about.
How do you know if your girlfriend is micro-cheating?
It’s common for people to ask, “How do I know if my girlfriend is micro-cheating? Or, “What are the signs he is micro-cheating? Some key indicators are if your significant other hides their phone from you, becomes defensive when you ask who they are talking to, refuses to claim you as their significant other on social media, or keeps in contact with ex-partners.
Other indicators can include becoming moody or distant, frequently liking others’ flirty pictures on social media, or maintaining profiles on dating apps.
Micro cheating may not seem as extreme as physical infidelity, such as hooking up with someone else after a night out, but it is still damaging to a relationship. It breaks the trust you have with your partner, and it opens the door for more severe acts of cheating.
If you’re struggling with micro-cheating in your relationship, you may benefit from seeking couples therapy to help you improve your communication and resolve the lack of trust in the relationship
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Read more Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.
(Jenni Jacobsen is also listed in Best Marriage Therapists in Ashland)
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