What Is Micro-Cheating? Inside The Dating Trend Everyone Is Talking About

mbg Contributor By Leigh Weingus
mbg Contributor
Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist writing about health, wellness, feminism, entertainment, personal finance, and more. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis.
What Is Micro-Cheating? Inside The Dating Trend Everyone Is Talking About

What constitutes cheating in 2018? This topic has been up for debate as of late, as more and more people are choosing open relationships over monogamy and subscribe to Esther Perel's philosophy that even if infidelity does occur at some point, it doesn't necessarily have to mean the end of the relationship.

In recent weeks, the concept of "micro-cheating," a term coined by Australian psychologist Melanie Schilling, has been making the rounds. What counts as micro-cheating varies from couple to couple, but Schilling explains that micro-cheating typically involves an act of covert flirtation. "You might be engaging in micro-cheating if you secretly connect with another person on social media, if you share private jokes, if you downplay the seriousness of your relationship to your partner or if you enter their name under a code in your phone," she explains.

There's no question that micro-cheating happens and probably more often than people in relationships would like to believe. So how can you navigate micro-cheating without ruining your relationship? Here's what the experts have to say.

Not sure if you're micro-cheating? Ask yourself this one question.

If you're not sure whether your own behavior counts as micro-cheating, certified coach Jillian Turecki suggests asking yourself this: Would you be acting the same way if your partner was sitting right next to you? "Anything that’s done on the sly or is not congruent with who you are in front of your person is a problem," explains Turecki. "I’m not one to call something a 'micro-cheat.' Cheat is a particular word with specific meaning. To me, writing on someone’s Facebook wall is no big deal, unless it’s something you feel the need to hide."


If you're tempted to micro-cheat, consider your values.

No matter how small the act of micro-cheating feels, Turecki suggests thinking about what you value. "Instead of thinking, 'I can’t micro cheat,' it’s more useful to think of what you value. If you value integrity, respect, and loyalty, then commit to acting in accordance with that. I believe that is an important standard everyone must have for themselves, coupled or not. It leads to greater happiness as well. We like acting in alignment with what we value. It feels good."

Remember that micro-cheating isn't always a deal-breaker.

Even though micro-cheating can lead to hurt feelings, micro-cheating is typically a pretty minor transgression. "We all need the freedom to have friends and to express our caring toward them, and if someone is threatened by something as minor as their partner writing "Happy Birthday" on their Facebook wall, then that might be something they need to work through in a bigger way," suggests relationship expert Margaret Paul.

Still, if your partner's perceived micro-cheating is bothering you, you shouldn't hesitate to bring it up with him or her. "It might be hard to pinpoint exactly what's bothering you, and it’s doubtful that anyone in a loving relationship is going to be threatened by tiny acts of friendliness toward others," says Turecki. "But again, if there are problems, if you feel disconnected or rejected or any of that—you’re more likely to be threatened and concerned. It’s a symptom of something larger. This warrants a conversation that goes deeper than the alleged micro-cheat."

Micro-cheating doesn't have to ruin your relationship. So if anything your partner is doing is bothering you, be open and honest with them about it. You may find it's never an issue again.

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