What Is Micro-Cheating, and Are You Guilty?

woman on phone micro cheating

So, you and your (very cute) work colleague totally bonded over your mutual love of Westworld, which means you finally have someone to talk to about the newest season (since your husband has never even seen the show). And while you think nothing of your late night texting sessions to dissect the last episode, your friends tell you that you’re—gasp—micro-cheating. Here’s what you need to know about the latest relationship buzzword.

So what exactly is micro-cheating?

As the name implies, micro-cheating describes various small actions by which a person may not be explicitly unfaithful, however, they are “physically or emotionally focused on someone outside of their relationship,” says dating expert Melanie Schilling. But exactly which actions qualify as micro-cheating is kind of up to interpretation.

What are some examples of micro-cheating?

Schilling lists lying about your relationship status, saving someone under a fake name in your phone and texting someone without your partner’s knowledge as micro-cheating. But other sources argue that even liking someone’s Instagram or confiding in them is also deceitful. The problem? While some of these behaviors are definitely shady, others are just, well, very normal.

Wait, so you’re saying it’s OK to micro-cheat?

Kinda, sorta. Here’s the thing: Just because you’re in a loving and committed relationship, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be attracted to anyone else ever again. And this attraction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sex researcher Justin Lehmiller broke it down for The Cut: “The truth is that many of the behaviors deemed 'micro-cheating’—like checking someone else out—are far from reliable signs of relationship problems,” he writes. “But the fact that they’re categorized as ‘cheating’ reveals an implied demand that our partners never pay attention to anyone but us. Ever. That kind of possessiveness represents an unhealthy and unrealistic approach to love.” And forming close relationships with people other than your S.O. is important for your overall well-being, he adds.

But when is micro-cheating not OK?

When it comes to relationship behavior, everyone has their own interpretation of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But if your behavior with another person is affecting your own relationship, then it might be a sign that something’s up.

The bottom line: If you’re concerned about your spouse’s behavior, talk to him about it and establish boundaries (and vice-versa). Relationships are all about open communication, after all.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...