As dating has evolved to a much more digital landscape, a slew of new words and trends have emerged, requiring singles to brush up on their knowledge before diving in. To ensure you’re up to date and ready to tackle the ever-changing vocabulary, reference Datezie’s Dating Glossary. Our collection defines, explains—and offers humor and strategy—to the new ABC’s of falling in love.
TLDR: Micro-cheating: where you aren’t 100 percent emotionally faithful to your partner–but physically, you don’t break any rules.
Some couples find the concept of monogamy restrictive and unreasonable, prompting them to adopt an open relationship. Others keep their love affair closed, with little-to-no room for error. However you decide to approach commitment, there are always some gray areas intertwined with the black and white. This is increasingly the case in modern communication and interactions, considering so much takes place digitally. When you inch a little too close to the fire, you could be ‘micro-cheating’ on your partner, without realizing it. If you’ve been accused this, or worry perhaps, you’re guilty yourself, here’s what you need to know about this new dating terminology—and why it matters.
What is Micro-Cheating?
When you’re chatting up a storm with a coworker you’re attracted to or a person on the bar stool next to you at happy hour, you aren’t technically crossing the line—but you’re teasing it. In essence, this is what micro-cheating is, according to sexpert Coleen Singer. She explains it’s not sleeping with or kissing with someone else, but it’s a series of small actions that indicate you are into another person outside of your relationship. “Think of it as a close relative of ‘emotional cheating.’ It’s not sleeping running around on someone, it’s texting, flirting or dressing a certain way,” she continues.
The tricky part about placing rules around micro-cheating is the fact it means something different to each person and to each couple. While some partners might not mind if their boyfriend or girlfriend banters wildly with someone who is ‘just a friend’—others won’t stand for it and find it dangerous or threatening.
Where Micro-Cheating Came From
Though no official record is kept from the cavemen days on how duos monitored their spouses, you can pretty much argue all forms of infidelity have been around since the dawn of time. The term ‘micro-cheating’, however is a relatively new-ish label for this level of straying. Singer shares Google trends suggests it has been around 2004, but exploded into public consciousness in 2016 thanks to a viral Thought Catalog article that articulated signs a boyfriend might be micro-cheating.
Why Micro-Cheating Matters
The synonym for micro-cheating, according to Singer? Flirting. Before the term started to gain traction and attention, a person would be accused of being too friendly with someone else, or otherwise known as the act of flirting. For some, it was never a big deal, but for others, it is reason enough to end a relationship. Singer says the emergence of this phrase challenges couples to set smart boundaries within their partnership, opening the gates of communication and making for a much sturdier foundation of trust. “Your partner may emotionally need this, but if you won’t tolerate it, you need to have a calm discussion about the topic to establish what’s okay and what isn’t,” she continues.
It’s also important to fully understand what micro-cheating is so you know if you’re participating. As dating expert and founder of CupidsPulse, Lori Bizzoco notes you could be pushing it too far and potentially, damaging your love. “It’s possible that you may not even know or think you’re doing it. With social media so prevalent today in society, it is very common and much easier to micro-cheat,” she continues. “It could be possible that your seemingly innocent act wouldn’t bother your significant other, but the fact that you lied about it, or lied by omission, is what causes an issue.”
Another obvious downfall of micro-cheating? It could be the pathway to cheating in person—whether sexual or emotional, or both. After all, if you give a mouse a cookie…
Where You Might Hear About Micro-Cheating
More than likely, the internet—and its infinite way of defining and redefining everything—will introduce you to the idea. That, or your social media savvy pal who is infuriated with their partner’s mini-indiscretion. Singer gives the example of two gal pals analyzing their partner’s actions: “I used my husband’s laptop yesterday and in his browser history, I see that he visited a woman’s Facebook profile 10 times last week. Do you think he is micro-cheating on me?”
How to Use Micro-Cheating in Conversation
As a concept, ‘micro-cheating’ is the term to describe an almost-cheating experience. Micro-cheated is the past tense, suggesting it is already happened. And if someone is the perpetrator of the extreme flirtation? They’re a micro-cheater. You can use all of these various tenses depending on the convo, but Bizzoco estimates you might not hear much of it, quite yet. It’s still a growing trend, and one that is primarily used by couples to set the guidelines and perimeters of their relationship. If you’re concerned, consider defining what ‘micro-cheating’ is compared to ‘full-blown, it-is-over cheating’ as a starting point.
Notable Micro Cheating Quotes
“Emotional affairs such as this last example has been part and parcel to a number of sexual affairs but now you can add social media “micro-cheating” to the mix.” —Sam Louie MA, LMHC
“Every relationship partner should have their boundaries and if their partner goes outside of the agreed upon boundaries, then I think that is a betrayal by their partner. Whether or not they want to call that cheating, ‘micro-cheating’, or whatever doesn’t matter to me.” —Reddit user
“You may think your partner’s “Happy Birthday” post on someone’s Facebook wall was flirty and could count as micro-cheating, whereas they spent all of five seconds coming up with and posting it like NBD. If you ask them about it, they may tell you it was no big deal, or they may become flustered and nervous and forgot that you’d be able to see it, too. Busted. However, if you and your partner define what cheating means to you — micro-, physical, and emotional — there should be no confusion or jumping to conclusions.” —Natalia Lusinski