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“Micro-cheating” is the latest buzzword in the field of relationship psychology. Though the term sounds self-explanatory, the behaviors that fall under the category of micro-cheating are diverse.
Have you ever been guilty of committing a micro-cheating crime? Read on to find out!
What exactly is micro-cheating?
Australian psychologist Melanie Schilling coined the term “micro-cheating” in 2017. She defines the concept as “a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused outside their relationship.”
The key difference, then, between micro-cheating and “regular” cheating is the perceived size or seriousness of the transgression. Whereas most individuals would classify a physical affair as cheating, acts of micro-cheating often fall into a grey zone. The perception of these behaviors may vary from person to person. What one individual considers permissible flirtation may be regarded as cheating by someone else.
What types of behaviors qualify as micro-cheating?
According to Schilling, a wide variety of acts might fall under the category of micro-cheating. The psychologist lists a number of examples, such as downplaying the seriousness of an existing relationship to others, sharing private jokes with a certain individual, or secretly befriending other men or women on social media.
A Scandinavian dating service and an extramarital affair website paired up to survey over 7,000 individuals about micro-cheating behaviors. This study sought to determine whether or not certain acts were perceived by the majority as impermissible. Some results were to be expected. The vast majority of those surveyed regarded sexting and the sending of nude images to others as cheating. 3 out of 4 of those surveyed considered it micro-cheating to list someone under a fake name in one’s phone contacts. Most of those surveyed also perceived having a deep emotional connection with someone else or secretly contacting an ex to be acts of betrayal. Most of these behaviors seem to indicate some level of physical or emotional entanglement with others.
Other behaviors, however, seem to be up for debate. Just over half of those surveyed thought that maintaining an active dating profile was unacceptable. A similar number of respondents objected to the idea of lying about one’s relationship status online.
Only a minority of respondents claimed they would respond negatively to a partner who repeatedly visited the same online profile, liked old social media posts, or reached out to an ex. Even so, a number of those surveyed perceived these acts as micro-cheating, too.
How can I know if it’s micro-cheating?
Ultimately, it can be difficult to determine whether or not a behavior falls under the umbrella of micro-cheating. According to Schilling, most acts of micro-cheating involve an element of secrecy. Why is your partner hiding something from you? Behaviors committed behind the back of one’s partner rightfully arouse suspicion.
Secretly meeting up with other individuals and lying about it, for instance, might be considered micro-cheating. Even if nothing happened, most would consider this deception to be an act of betrayal. Constantly clearing one’s browser history or maintaining overly-friendly contact with exes or colleagues may also be signs of trouble. If these perceived acts of micro-cheating seem to be turning into a pattern of behavior, you may have something to worry about.
When is micro-cheating a problem?
Due to the subtle nature of micro-cheating, it can be easy to misconstrue innocent behaviors as acts of betrayal. The key determinant of micro-cheating is intention. Perhaps your boyfriend casually liked a few pictures of his ex without thinking about it. Maybe the way in which you complimented a friend came across as flirtation. If you feel uncomfortable with how your partner is behaving, discuss it with him or her. If your trust is repeatedly being broken, you may need to reevaluate your relationship.
Tread carefully, however, when accusing your partner of betrayal! Just because an act makes you feel jealous or insecure doesn’t necessarily indicate nefarious intentions. Interactions on social media, for instance, can be particularly easy to misconstrue. Analyzing every word and emoji isn’t healthy behavior. By reading too much into things, you run the risk of becoming paranoid and controlling, leading to more serious relationship problems down the road.
Try approaching each situation from a rational, rather than emotional, standpoint. When in doubt, ask a trustworthy friend or family member how they perceive the situation before proceeding with accusations of cheating.
As with most relationship issues, the best way to avoid accusations of micro-cheating is to discuss the issue with your partner. Can you laugh off your partner’s casual flirtation with a waitress? What sort of contact do you expect to have with your ex? Do you look at others’ online profiles out of curiosity, or are you drooling over pictures of your attractive new coworker? By being honest with your partner about your behaviors and personal limits, you can better avoid accusations of infidelity, leading to a healthy and stable relationship.
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