Micro-cheating is a complex form of flirting – what sets both apart is dependent on intention. The behaviours are subjective to every individual relationship. While one couple may consider ‘flirting with the bartender’ as micro-cheating, others could shut it down as harmless.
Berman Psychotherapy clinician Hannah Paull, PSYD, told Indy100 it’s essentially ‘almost cheating’, “meaning you did not fully sexually or emotionally engage with another person outside of the relationship, but you certainly walked the line, hoping you wouldn’t get caught.”
The key to any infidelity is concealment: Behaviours that are hidden from a partner because subconsciously, you know you shouldn’t be doing it. For example, if you’re not comfortable with telling your partner ‘you responded to your ex last night’ and scapegoated it to friends as “they wouldn’t understand”, then it’s likely you’re unknowingly guilty.
But some people are just “naturally flirty”, you may say.
While this is true, Paull explained the importance of communication with your partner. “If you or your partner are naturally flirtatious, this should be discussed, so that one can avoid micro-cheating or hurting their partner unintentionally,” she said. “Neither behaviour is inherently ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, if there is mutual agreement within the relationship as to where the boundary lies.
“However, if you or your partner are aware of a boundary and it is deliberately crossed, that’s when conflict and hurt will arise.”
Living digital, micro-cheating interactions have become easier and more accessible than ever – take the secrecy of Snapchat, Instagram DMs that can be reversed, and photos that instantly disappear after viewing. The digital age has arguably normalised risque behaviour that doesn’t honour your relationship.