Another day, another term for something you previously couldn’t quite put your finger on the pulse of. Many have had the feeling in relationships that something is slightly off – the car is cruising but there’s a rattle in the engine. It’s like an itch under the skin, a feeling that something is frustratingly in your eye, or perhaps the sensation that a hair on your tongue. It feels uncomfortable. It feels like cheating, but it isn’t part of the traditional spectrum of cheating endeavours, so it’s okay, right?
Micro-cheating as a whole is up for debate and full of contestations. However, if this uncomfortable feeling is something you relate to, you might be dealing with the sly fox that is micro-cheating. Now, this only applies to people who are in monogamous relationships of course. For those who are, it is not respective to one gender, sexuality, identification or anything of the like. Let’s get into it.
What is micro-cheating?
Vogue expressed it succinctly when noting “If emotional cheating is the little sister of physical cheating, there’s a newfound distant cousin that’s now part of the family.”
Micro-cheating is part of the digital dating trend’s lexicon. Like most terms, it’s subjective but it dances between two somewhat contrasting spheres: friendliness and cheating.
For psychologist Ty Tashiro, it’s to do with emotional infidelity outside of a person’s committed relationship that mostly occurs through apps, texting, or online interactions.
So the digital landscape of our world is like honey to the bees that are micro-cheaters. Lovely, we sigh sarcastically.
Now, the acts that actually encompass micro-cheating are a indeed hotbed of contestation.
Clinical psychologist Dr Shwetambara Sabharwal adds that micro-cheating often leads to mixed reactions. Some people think actions are minor. For others they’re as off-putting as catching your significant other (s/o) the way Shaggy was caught in his hit ‘It Wasn’t Me’.
So I add a pinch of salt and a bold disclaimer. On one side of the coin, you might be micro-cheating without even realising it. Breathe, then learn. On the other side of the coin, you might be experiencing it, seeing these words and thinking “I knew something was wrong,” and want to start a fight. Woah Nelly, hold the horses. Remember it takes both sides of the coin to make it whole.
Here are both sides for actions considered to be micro-cheating by mainstream understandings in the digital-sphere.
For some, liking a half naked person’s IG picture is a huge red flag. For others, it’s sexy, so why not? There aren’t any emotions there anyway. These are the broad pillars that you can aim your discrimination toward. Like I said, it’s a sticky topic.
Here are some behaviours that may be unknowingly micro-cheating, or could be the damn thing just as easily:
- The ones who are still engaging with exes on social media
This one oozes the expression ‘hectic’. Following, liking photos, DM’ing or still texting an ex, the range gets worse as one goes down the rabbit hole. For some, anything to do with an ex is an absolute no. For others, there’s so much trust in the relationship it couldn’t bother them any less. As psychologist Martin Graff notes, repeatedly interacting with one person, especially if it’s an ex, can be a sign of micro-cheating.
Now playing devil’s advocate, sometimes people are in situations where they cannot avoid their ex, and it’s as frustrating for them as it is for you. Say they work together. However, if the situation between the two in the digital space are not tasty, pull a Love Island and “have a chat.” Boundaries are the coolest, because you get to say what you’re good with and what you’re not and communication is ever important for a healthy relationship. However, be rational. You can’t make statements like “I don’t want any communication between you two, leave the work WhatsApp group because they’re on it.”
- The ones who follow every guy or girl or any identifications in the whole country on socials
As Zaeh writes, these situations can cross over into the realm of micro-cheating. To some, it doesn’t matter at all because they really just want followers (oh the 21st century and being famous for nothing). To others it’s confusing because we all know how many relationships kick off in the DMs. This one is definitely worth a chinwag.
- Thirst trap posts
A thirst trap refers to a cheeky or alluring post that is targeted at getting people’s attention, or rather certain people’s attention. As Greatist writes, it’s an art form. Now, I’ve heard a lot of especially male friends talk about how they’re not down for their girl (for the heterosexual couples) to be posting in certain outfits or looks. I was always of the mindset that so many of us post things for ourselves and not others, but it’s not always the case. It’s not a gender-based concept either – men thirst-trap too, they’re just not always as slick about it. Now is it micro-cheating?
Again, it could be. Or you’re just with the kind of person who knows they look good and doesn’t have a problem in their empowerment. However, there are levels to this confidence. If their caption is something spicy that basically makes them appear single and as if they want someone, then eish. It may not be a good sign.
- To the ones who seem to make new friends online, but they’re of a sex your person is interested in
We’re cool with him or her being friends with that one guy because they’ve been friends for years yeah? But this other man who became their friend because he responded to every story your person ever posted? Not so sure.
It might feel like micro-cheating, and to some it is. Pulling the uno reverse card however, we see that some people really do just like making new friends. Here’s the thing though: if they’re open about showing you the conversations (if you feel like you want to ask) there’s probably not much to worry about. Sometimes our partners really are obtuse to other people’s intentions. But if they get shady as Match’s Chief Dating Expert, Rachel DeAlto confers, then it may be a sign of micro-cheating.
Signs that someone is micro-cheating knowingly
- They have people saved under fake names in their phone
Yeah no, this one is a red flag. We know you don’t have Johnson&Johnson as a mate. As Insider notes, this one is a pretty obvious indicator.
- They’re super protective over their phone, chaotically so.
You shouldn’t invade anyone’s privacy, ever. But if you’re just asking to change the tune on the aux and your person Jackie Chan whacks the phone out of your hand, something is not tasteful. Psychologist Douglas Weiss expresses that someone who is dangerously protective over their phone in relaxed spaces could be suspicious.
- If they’re still active on a dating app
Numerous publications have called this one out as a major red flag, and it’s in essence a no brainer. It’s not just ‘fun’ or ‘in case you break up with me haha’. That’s called cushioning, and it refers to wanting a backup plan. Why would you need that in a trusting and honest relationship?
- If people in real life (IRL) seem shocked when you say you are dating this person and seem to need proof of it.
More times than not, it’s because they know something shady going on down in the DMs that you don’t.
Picture: Pinterest/ Baby