man and woman micro cheating

Have you had this gut feeling that something is not quite right in your relationship? Do you suspect your partner is dishonest with you? When entering a relationship, no one thinks about the hard things it may lead to, such as infidelity or micro-cheating.

You can’t prevent cheating from happening in your relationship. Still, you can pay attention to how your partner acts and what they say.

Let’s explore what micro-cheating is, signs it may be happening, and the best ways to deal with it.

What is micro-cheating?

Micro-cheating is not the same as physical cheating, as it remains more on the emotional level. For example, if one person is doing something that makes their partner feel bad or no longer trust them, that is micro-cheating. It can be flirting with a hot acquaintance on social media or buying coffee for an office crush every morning.

Micro-cheating can be the welcome mat to infidelity, so recognizing the signs and addressing them before it is too late may save your relationship from falling apart.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone who micro-cheats is looking to take it to the next level. However, many people don’t even realize when they start micro-cheating, and it can be a slippery slope. A survey found that just under half (46.1%) of the individuals who participated in it cheated in a relationship. And it all might have started with that innocent coffee at the office cooler or a Facebook “like.”

Ideally, before entering into an exclusive relationship, a conversation about your boundaries and expectations would lay a solid foundation.

You both likely have different ideas of what cheating is. However, infidelity is not a joke. It hurts both sides in a relationship, so it is important to be clear about your expectations.

You are not wrong, and your partner is not wrong with what you consider cheating. Still, it is your responsibility to have that discussion and then meet in the middle, so both of you are happy.

Is micro-cheating the same as emotional cheating?

micro cheating at workplace

Micro-cheating is not exactly the same as emotional cheating, but it can evolve into it. While micro-cheating can occur sporadically and may not be always related to the same person, emotional cheating is a secretive closeness with someone who is not your primary romantic partner. It is a platonic yet intimate connection with another person when you find them attractive, and they fill up a lot of your headspace. You just can’t stop thinking about that person and keep in touch by texting or using social media.

Emotional cheating also means going out of your way to having interaction with that person. When someone finds themselves opening up to another person about their relationship, talking about desires, dreams, and future plans, they are emotionally cheating. It can get to the point that they connect emotionally with that person more than with their primary partner.

Micro-cheating is not exactly the same as emotional cheating, but it can evolve into it. Click To Tweet

What types of behaviors count as micro-cheating?

The workplace is the first and most likely place where micro-cheating occurs. Buying coffee for a colleague each day, taking long lunches together, or even dressing up to be noticed are all signs of micro-cheating. Although they are extremely subtle, they are signs.

The next place and most easily accessible is the internet. Hitting up certain profiles daily to check for new pics and dropping a like or comment on how stunning they look is micro-cheating.

Swiping profiles on a dating app out of boredom also falls into the micro-cheating category. It may not be forgiven by the official romantic partner that easily, so this kind of entertainment is usually reserved for the privacy of the bathroom or any other discrete space.

Friends of the opposite sex that your partner has but you’ve never met can also be a red flag. If they show up in the same way you would: cooking for your partner, bringing gifts, and everything is happening behind your back, this could be seen as micro-cheating.

10 signs your partner is micro-cheating

woman suspecting a man in micro cheating

You are not in a relationship to be a detective. However, spotting early signs of micro-cheating can lead to a conversation with your partner to clear the doubts and determine where your relationship is heading.

1. He spends more time on the phone

After being with a person for a while, you get to know their habits, including their phone usage patterns. Has your partner been spending more time on their phone in the bathroom lately? Or maybe he’s been taking his phone with him to throw out the trash or into a gas station? Does he suddenly need to have the phone with him when he usually would have left it out in the open? Noticing the small details is one way to notice a changed partner’s behavior.

2. He places his phone face down

Just because your partner places his phone face down on the table does not mean he is doing something sneaky, unless you noticed that this habit is new. Paying attention to these things can help you to figure out if something may be going on. But before you fly off the handle, assess your partner’s overall behavior.

At times people can be oblivious to what they are doing, so he may be flipping his phone absent-mindedly. However, if you notice your partner texting and he keeps on placing his phone facedown while the notifications are still beeping, this could be a signal of micro-cheating.

Just because your partner places his phone face down on the table does not mean he is doing something sneaky, unless you noticed that this habit is new.  Click To Tweet

3. He posts provocative photos

It is common to be connected with your partner on social media. So you see him post pics of your puppy sleeping, you eating cotton candy on the pier on a sunny day, and some group pics of night out.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, there he is, half-naked and oiled up in a photo you’ve never seen before, and you notice Susan hearting all of his pics. So, naturally, you might have questions about who she is and what is happening.

4. He dresses up for work

dressed up man in suit

Your man is handsome. He looks good even when working out, and he usually dresses well for work. But one morning before leaving to work, as he grabs the coffee you made for him, you see his shirt is new, and so his cologne.

When you ask him about it, he brushes it off as he tells you he has a work meeting. No need to panic; just let things play out. There may be and probably is a good explanation for this. But, on the other hand, this might be a sign of micro-cheating, especially if the same pattern continues for days or weeks.

5. He keeps in touch with his ex

After a relationship ends, we are sad. We mourn the end. It is hard because we spent a lot of time with this person and loved them deeply, so it’s not unheard of that we stay in touch once we heal. But how long is too long to keep in touch with an ex?

After your partner has entered into a relationship with you, the distance between him and his ex should naturally grow. Staying connected on social media is one thing, but texting an ex every day or hanging out with her whenever she is in town is a different story.

How long is too long to keep in touch with an ex? Click To Tweet

6. You are not invited to social events

It is not uncommon for schedules to not align while in a relationship. For example, it is OK to go to a work event alone when a partner is busy. Still, if you are home and have no plans and he heads out to an event alone, you may wonder what is happening.

When addressing a situation like this, first observe if it keeps on happening again and again. If it does, have a conversation before you make assumptions.

If your partner prefers to attend social events without you, it can be a red flag, so talk about it when the time is right, not moments before he leaves.

7. He is hiding your relationship status

While you are out with your partner, pay attention to how you are introduced to other people. Are you in a fully committed relationship, and he is not introducing you as his girlfriend, and only by your name? He might be keeping his relationship status secret because he does not want everybody to know he is in a relationship. This could be hurtful to hear. When the time is right, ask what you need to know, but don’t do it at a social gathering.

8. His gym schedule has changed

man training in a gym

Has your partner suddenly changed his training schedule? Does he stay at the gym longer than usual? Usually, at the gym, there are plenty of attractive people, but if being with them in one room turns into talking, working out together, and getting more personal, that is already micro-cheating which can lead to probing the boundaries of a relationship.

It is not uncommon to make new friends with people who engage in the same activities, but it can be a problem if your partner keeps it secret from you.

9. He is openly flirting

Flirting is the same as leaving a door open to someone who may not know you are in a relationship. Some people have great personalities, and the way they communicate may come off as flirting. It can be innocent until it’s not, especially if the other person responds to it positively.

Have you noticed your partner openly flirting with his colleague during the company party? Not only is it disrespectful, but it is probably a sign of micro-cheating. Flirting happens on social media as well. If your partner keeps on leaving suggestive comments under the photos of other women, it’s probably time to have a conversation with him.

If your partner keeps on leaving suggestive comments under the photos of other women, it's probably time to have a conversation with him. Click To Tweet

10. He is deleting text messages

Unless your partner works as a secret agent, if he deletes text messages as soon as he reads them, something is not quite right. I don’t want to startle you, but if you noticed that he’s been acting like this for a while, this could mean more than just micro-cheating.

Having phone contacts under nicknames you’ve never heard of before also signals that your partner might be hiding something from you. Ask him who the “A” contact he’s been texting with lately is, and watch how your partner reacts.

How do you deal with a micro-cheater?

woman with micro cheater partner

If any of these signs sound familiar, you should address them during a conversation with your partner. Make sure you are not coming across as accusing. Be clear about your boundaries and know that not every relationship is the same.

Be honest and let your partner know how you feel about micro-cheating. For example, if your partner is liking selfies of hot women on social media, it’s OK to say that it bothers you. But remember, you can’t control the actions of anyone else. All you can do is let him know how it is affecting you and take it from there.

Sitting down in a quiet place after dinner with no interruptions is the best way to have this conversation. Listen to your partner’s side of the story. Communicate clearly and in a calm manner, but also be open to what he has to say.

Suppose your partner can’t give up certain things, such as keeping in touch with their ex or liking their pics on Facebook. In that case, you might want to consider if your relationship is healthy. You both deserve to be happy, feel secure, and share trust with each other.

If your partner is liking selfies of hot women on social media, it's OK to say that it bothers you. Click To Tweet

What micro-cheating says about your relationship?

When you commit to each other, you should be ready to compromise and sometimes accept each other’s flaws. However, the signs of micro-cheating can mean that your relationship is not as strong as you may have thought it was.

Micro-cheating might come up to a surface as instinctive behavior, and you may not even notice it until somebody points it out. When it happens, it doesn’t have to be a reason for a breakup or divorce, as long as you can discuss what is unacceptable in a civilized way and agree on relationship boundaries.

Has micro-cheating become a pattern in your relationship? If you haven’t discussed it with your partner, don’t brush it off under the carpet. As hard as it may be, you need to have a conversation about your partner’s unacceptable behavior and hurt feelings.

If you’ve had a conversation and your partner is in denial of micro-cheating, you shouldn’t suffer and hope for the best. Attending couples’ therapy could be the first step when trying to find a solution.

The signs of micro-cheating can mean that your relationship is not as strong as you may have thought it was. Click To Tweet

What if you’re the one doing it?

If you are guilty of micro-cheating, first, you need to stop. What you are doing has the potential of hurting your partner. When you keep on doing this because it makes you feel good, you get attention, or you think it is harmless flirting, you need to figure out if this relationship is right for you. What you consider harmless behavior can destroy your partner’s trust in you. And without trust, there’s not much to a relationship.

Cheating is a sign that you lack validation within your relationship. When you feel as if you are not significant to your partner, you tend to look for it in others. For example, you post a pic on Facebook and get the attention that your partner does not provide. Or you wear revealing clothes to get compliments because you never hear them from your significant other.

It’s all about the basic human need for external validation. However, hurting your partner because you like attention from other men is selfish. So if you caught yourself micro-cheating, and you can correct your behavior, do so. If not, seek professional help to find out why you are behaving this way. You may not have healed from your past relationships, or you have some underlining trauma you need to unpack.

Micro-cheating presents itself as innocent until some people are hurt. Like with any other bumps in a relationship, communication is the best way to deal with micro-cheating. Being open to a conversation and addressing problems early on is the key to relationship longevity.

Kelly is a certified Relationship and Dating Coach and the founder of Be Brave Coaching. After being a toxic wife and then suffering herself at the hands of an abuser, Kelly found herself in a recovery program where she recovered from codependency, anger, and control issues. Years later, she released her first book 'Signs in the Rearview Mirror Leaving a Toxic Relationship Behind' which is her story of leaving toxic relationships with her mother, her ex, and herself behind.

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