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A psychologist says more people in relationships are 'micro-cheating' - here's how to know if it's happening to you

Business Insider | Jan 11, 2018, 09.36PM IST

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Go with your gut.

  • "Micro-cheating" involves seemingly trivial behaviors that suggest a person is emotionally or physically involved with someone outside the relationship.
  • The top signs are secrecy and deception, like if your partner hides their online chats with a "friend."
  • Ultimately, every couple has to set their own boundaries around infidelity.


The Daily Mail is out with an article on "micro-cheating." And depending on your perspective, it could either help validate all the fears you've been having about your relationship - or create new insecurities.

"Micro-cheating," Australian psychologist Melanie Schilling told the Daily Mail, involves seemingly trivial behaviors that suggest a person is emotionally or physically involved with someone outside the relationship. Think listing a "friend" under a code name in your phone.

Micro-cheating, according to Schilling, is fundamentally about secrecy and deception. If your partner is hiding any aspect of their relationship with someone else - say, if they close Gmail the minute you walk into the room - that could be a warning sign that something's amiss.

Schilling isn't the first to comment on so-called micro-cheating. Urban Dictionary's entry for "micro-cheating" - "when someone cheats on a partner, but just a little bit. Like copping a feel or kissing" - dates back to 2008.

In 2016, Thought Catalog published a list titled "33 Ways Your Boyfriend is Micro-cheating (and Totally Getting Away With It)." Signs include "gifting his girlfriend with a bottle of the perfume his crush wears so she'll smell like his latest fantasy chick."

It's important for individual couples to set boundaries around cheating

The term "micro-cheating" recalls the similarly salacious and hard-to-define term "emotional affair." As Kristin Salaky at INSIDER reported, emotional affairs are becoming increasingly common.

That may be at least partly thanks to the rise of digital technology and social media, which allows users to keep in touch with exes or have late-night conversations that cross the line without ever getting physical.

If you feel like micro-cheating - or really any kind of cheating - is happening in your relationship, Schilling told the Daily Mail it's important to specify which behaviors are bothering you. For example: "When you add all the heart emojis in her/his post comments it makes me feel like she/he is your partner, rather than me. Next time, it would be great if you could reserve the online love for me."

A commenter on the subreddit Ask Women, writing in response to the Thought Catalog list, put it nicely:

"I don't understand the concept of 'micro-cheating'. What I do understand is the concept of relationship boundaries. Every relationship partner should have their boundaries and if their partner goes outside of the agreed upon boundaries, then I think that is a betrayal by their partner. Whether or not they want to call that cheating, 'micro-cheating', or whatever doesn't matter to me."

NOW WATCH: Here's how people in happy relationships can wind up cheating

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