Micro Cheating in Relationships

The trending topic on relationships this past year has been micro cheating. A relatively new term, coined by Psychologist Melanie Shilling in 2017, it’s a talking point for many couples. In this post, we’ll talk about the definition, examples, and solutions of micro cheating.

What is micro cheating?

Micro cheating is a relatively new term, but the actions have gone on since the dawn of relationships. It has become more prevalent as the use of technology and social media has increased in our society. It’s basically a catchall phrase for those seemingly small actions, behaviors, or moments that focus emotional and/or physical attention on someone outside the relationship. Basically, if you’re uncomfortable doing what you are in front of your partner, you could be micro cheating.


How do I know if it’s micro cheating?

First, it’s not a good sign if you have to hide or keep your actions private. People can hide great things from their partners, whether it’s a surprise party, exchanging gifts on an anniversary, or mystery date night. But if the reason you hide what you’re doing is that your partner will be upset, it can be micro cheating.

Second, if your partner has a problem with it, it’s a problem. In all relationships, everybody has different boundaries, values, and expectations. If those are being violated by actions like the ones mentioned above, you could be micro cheating.

If one person has a problem in the relationship, you both have a problem in the relationship. When your partner hurts, you try to mend their world.


Common examples of micro cheating could include:

  • Downplaying the seriousness of your relationship to someone you find attractive at the bar
  • Storing a phone number under a fake name in your phone
  • Keeping a profile on dating sites


What to do When Micro Cheating is in Your Relationship

Step 1: Decide if It’s a Deal Breaker

When micro cheating actions are occurring in your relationship, I’d encourage you to decide if those are deal breakers for you or not. If so, be true to your values and it may be time to have an honest conversation with yourself, your partner, and move on. Otherwise, I would work to understand why your partner took the actions they did. Maybe there is a major change in the relationship, life, or they feel less connected to you.


Step 2: Make Changes to the Relationship

Moving forward and growing from micro cheating involves making changes in the relationship. Do so by understanding each other’s concerns about the relationship, and make the appropriate changes. If you haven’t been as close lately, find ways to reconnect. If sex has lagged, discuss ways of increasing the frequency of your sex. Whatever the issue, working towards a solution will decrease the chances micro cheating will happen again.


Step 3: Move Forward

It sounds straightforward enough, but if you’ve chosen to forgive and work towards your relationship; then you need to do just that. One way of doing this is by matching each other’s efforts, even when you don’t want to. For example, the person who committed the micro cheating is being spontaneous like you both suggested, don’t shoot it down because you’re angry and thinking about the past. Instead, fight through that and match their spontaneous effort.

Throughout this article, you’ve gained an understanding of what micro cheating is, what it could look like, and what to do if it’s a part of your relationship. Cheating is a hot topic for couples, holds a lot of variables and isn’t something easily resolved without a third party.

If you need support through the process of micro cheating, we’re here to help.


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