The Grey Area of Love: Micro Cheating Explained

It’s not just innocent flirtation. It may not involve physical intimacy, but micro cheating can erode the trust in a relationship. Know here why.

Relationships often exist in a gray zone. Micro cheating is a term that has recently emerged. Opinions are split: some dismiss it as minor, while others see it as seriously wrong.

Nowadays, hookup sites like AdultFriendFinder have made it easy to find casual connections. Inevitably, the rise in popularity of discreet affair sites like Ashley Madison has brought a new dimension to micro cheating.

Here, we'll talk about micro cheating more thoroughly. We'll identify typical signs and explore motivations behind such behaviour. This article aims to enlighten anyone encountering micro cheating or curious about this new trend, providing beneficial information.

What Is Micro Cheating?

Micro cheating refers to behaviours that can breach trust in a relationship. Although microcheating does not involve engaging in sexual activities, it can include conversations about sex. Most of the time, micro cheating pertains to inappropriate emotional and psychological intimacy.

Man browsing through phone

To know if you are micro cheating, look at your intentions with the other person. They may seem minor or unimportant, but micro cheating behaviours can hurt and damage your relationship. It usually involves using the other person for things that you and your partner used to do. By learning what micro cheating is, what it looks like, and how to identify it, you can be better prepared to address it.

What Types of Behaviours Count as Micro Cheating?

Honesty, trust, and intimacy are essential building blocks in a committed relationship. However, when compromised, it can create a grey area where micro cheating may occur. In general, these are the types of behaviours that count as micro cheating:

  • Sending flirtatious messages or texts on social media or even webcam chat sites like LuckyCrush
  • Posting provocative comments or "likes" on social media
  • Lying about relationship status
  • Keeping a dating profile to see if you can find someone "better" or to see how many matches/likes you get
  • Giving your phone number to someone who's attracted to you
  • Going out of your way to look attractive for a crush
  • Obsessively stalking a crush or ex 
  • Discussing your sex life or sending sexual messages/pictures to someone outside the relationship
  • Removing your wedding/engagement ring before going out with friends
  • Flirting with others
  • Going for drinks with someone without telling your partner
  • Maintaining regular communication with an old flame
  • Constantly texting throughout the day with someone other than your partner
  • Sending revealing selfies to someone you have a crush on
  • Concealing a friendship from your partner
  • Telling someone you'd date them if you weren't married/in a relationship
  • Having inside jokes with someone outside the relationship
  • Inventing reasons to see or spend time with your crush
Microcheating is a red flag!Know more here!

Why Is Micro Cheating on the Rise?

Micro cheating is a relatively new term that has emerged with the advent of social media and dating apps. With these technological advancements, people can access a larger pool of potential romantic partners. 

Unfortunately, while these platforms have made it easier to connect with others, they have also made it easier to engage and define micro cheating behaviours.

Additionally, its rise has blurred the lines between acceptable behaviour in a relationship. Hence, people may micro cheat without even realizing it. 

Finally, some relationship experts suggest that the rise of micro cheating could be due to a cultural shift towards individualism. As a result, it has led some people to prioritize their desires over the needs of their partners.

Micro Cheating vs. Cheating

Micro cheating and cheating are both actions that can cause harm to a relationship. However, they differ in their level of severity. 

Cheating is generally understood to breach the agreement between partners to maintain sexual exclusivity. Meanwhile, micro cheating is a more subtle form of betrayal that involves behaviours that break the trust and emotional intimacy between partners.

While real cheating is a clear and explicit violation of the terms of a relationship, micro cheating is more of a grey area. Cheating often involves more explicit sexual acts, such as having sex with someone outside of the relationship or engaging in sexual activities that are off-limits for you and your partner. 

On the other hand, micro cheating may not always involve physical intimacy, but it can still create emotional distance and distrust in the relationship. 

Micro Cheating vs. Emotional Cheating

Micro cheating and emotional cheating are used interchangeably but refer to different behaviours.

Micro cheating is a term that describes small actions or behaviours that might seem harmless on their own but, when taken together, can add up to a breach of trust and emotional intimacy in a relationship.

Conversely, cheating emotionally is a more severe breach of trust and intimacy in a relationship. It involves developing a strong emotional affair and connection with someone outside the relationship, often leading to a full blown affair. 

Does Micro Cheating Matter?

Whether micro cheating matters or not depends on the individuals and the relationship involved. For some people, even small behaviours perceived as flirtatious or secretive can cause significant emotional harm and break the trust in a relationship. For others, these behaviours are not a big deal.

It's important to note that micro cheating can be a symptom of deeper issues in a relationship, such as a lack of emotional intimacy or communication. While it may not be as severe as cheating or emotional infidelity, micro cheating can still erode the trust and emotional connection between partners over time if left unaddressed.

Ultimately, the level of mutual understanding and trust between partners matters. If both partners are comfortable with each other's behaviour and have established relationship boundaries and expectations, micro cheating may not be a problem. However, if one or both partners feel uncomfortable or betrayed by certain behaviours, it's essential to communicate and address these issues to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

What Might Micro Cheating Mean About Your Relationship?

Micro cheating can be a sign of the underlying problems in a relationship. For instance, it may suggest one or both partners are feeling unfulfilled or unsatisfied in some way. It could also indicate a lack of communication or trust in the relationship.

Also, micro cheating can cause harm to the connection by eroding the trust and emotional intimacy between partners. In addition, it can lead to feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and betrayal, which can damage the relationship's overall health.

If you or your partner engage in micro cheating behaviours, open and honest conversation about your concerns and feelings is crucial. It can help address any underlying issues and rebuild trust and intimacy in the relationship.

Signs You’re Micro Cheating

Micro cheating can harm a committed relationship. Thus, it is vital to be aware of the signs that you may be engaging in this behavior. Some signs that you may be microcheating include:

  • Keeping Secrets

When you find yourself keeping secrets from your partner, especially regarding interactions with someone else, it could be a sign of micro cheating. For example, you might hide text messages or social media exchanges with someone you find attractive or with whom you have a flirtatious relationship.

  • Flirting

Flirting with someone other than your partner is also a sign of micro cheating. It includes making suggestive comments, using flirty emojis, or engaging in playful banter with someone you find attractive. While harmless flirting may seem innocent, it can be hurtful to your partner.

  • Obsessing Over Someone

Another sign that you may be a micro cheater is if you find yourself obsessing over someone who is not your partner. It could mean constantly checking their social media accounts, daydreaming about them, or even seeking opportunities to bump into them. If you are spending excessive time thinking about someone else, it is a bad thing in your current relationship.

  • Social Media Activity

Social media is another area where micro cheating can occur. It includes liking and commenting on someone else's posts in a way that goes beyond what is considered friendly or appropriate. For example, regularly liking and commenting on someone's photos or leaving heart and kiss emojis can be considered micro cheating.

  • Comparing Your Partner to Others

Micro cheating may happen if you constantly compare your partner. It may involve making mental notes of attractive qualities in others or even commenting on physical appearances. Comparing your partner to others can damage the relationship. Thus, creating feelings of inadequacy and insecurity for your partner.

  • Withholding

Withholding information or emotions from your partner can also be micro cheating. It could include sharing personal details or discussing problems with someone else before talking to your partner about it. It may also involve seeking emotional validation or support from someone outside the relationship instead of your partner.

  • Giving Excessive Attention

Giving excessive attention to someone other than your partner can be another sign of micro cheating. It could manifest as constantly liking and commenting on someone's social media posts or spending more time with them.

  • Keeping Options Open

It’s a red flag if you are still actively seeking attention or validation from others. This behavior may include maintaining dating app profiles or engaging with potential romantic interests. It’s not good, even if it's just for the attention or possibility of a future relationship.

Are you micro cheating? You may be falling out of love.Know how to navigate this situation!

Signs You’re Being Micro Cheated On

Being micro cheated on can hurt and damage a relationship, so it's essential to be aware of the signs. Here are some signs you may be experiencing micro cheating in your relationship:

  • Your Partner Hides Their Phone or Computer from You
Girlfriend checking boyfriend's phone

If your partner suddenly becomes secretive about their electronic devices, it could be a sign that they are hiding something from you. It could include texts or social media messages with someone they are micro cheating.

  • Your Partner Becomes Defensive or Secretive about Their Interactions with Others

If your partner becomes defensive or secretive when you ask about their interactions with a friend or others, it could be a sign that they are micro cheating. For example, they may hide something from you, such as a flirtatious conversation or an emotional connection.

  • Your Partner Is Overly Concerned with Their Appearance and Starts Dressing Up More than Usual

If your partner suddenly starts paying more attention to their appearance and dressing up more than usual, it could be a sign that they are trying to impress someone else.

  • Your Partner Starts to Pull Away Emotionally or Becomes Distant

If your partner starts to pull away emotionally or becomes distant, it could be a sign that they are giving more emotional investment in someone else. They may be investing their time and energy into another person rather than you.

  • Your Partner Starts to Compare You to Others

If your partner starts to compare you to others, it could be a sign that they are looking for something missing in your relationship. They may be emotionally invested in someone else and are looking for those missing qualities in that particular person.

  • Your Partner Starts to Prioritize Other Activities or People Over You

If your partner starts prioritizing other activities or people over you, it could be a sign that they are investing their time and energy into someone else. They may be micro cheating by building a stronger emotional connection with someone else.

  • Your Partner Starts to Give You Less Attention and Affection 

If your partner starts to give you less attention and affection, it could be a sign that they are investing their time and energy into someone else. They may be micro cheating by building a stronger emotional connection with someone else and giving them the attention and affection that should be reserved for you.

Is It Really All Their Fault?

When it comes to the issue of micro cheating in a relationship, it is not always accurate to assign blame solely to one person. While it may be tempting to point fingers and place all the responsibility on the partner who engages in the act of micro cheating, it is essential to recognize that the issue is often more complex than that.

Moreover, micro cheating may be a symptom of deeper problems within the relationship. For example, there may be a lack of emotional intimacy, or one or both partners may be dissatisfied with the current state of the partnership. These issues could create a sense of emotional distance that leads one partner to seek validation or attention from someone else, even if it's in a seemingly harmless way.

On the other hand, personal issues like insecurity or low self-esteem can also contribute to micro cheating. For example, if someone doesn't feel confident in themselves or their relationship, they may seek validation or attention from others to feel better about themselves. While this behavior isn't an excuse for micro cheating, it highlights the complex factors that can contribute to it.

How to Deal with Micro Cheating in a Relationship?

Dealing with micro cheating in a relationship can be challenging, but there are steps that couples can take to address the behaviour and strengthen their relationship. Here are some tips for dealing with micro cheating:

  • Acknowledge the Behavior

The first step in dealing with micro cheating is acknowledging it's happening. It means both partners must have an honest conversation about what behaviours are causing concern and why.

  • Identify the Root Cause

Once you've acknowledged the behavior, it's essential to identify the root cause. It might involve exploring the underlying issues in the relationship, such as a lack of emotional intimacy or dissatisfaction with the current state of the partnership.

  • Set Clear Boundaries

Couples should work together to set clear boundaries and expectations for their relationship. It includes defining what behaviours are acceptable and what constitutes a breach of trust.

  • Work on Communication

Communication is critical in any relationship and essential when dealing with microcheating. Couples should work on communicating openly and honestly about their feelings, needs, and concerns.

  • Rebuild Trust

Rebuilding trust after micro cheating requires time and effort from both partners. It may involve demonstrating your commitment to the relationship, being transparent about your actions, and following through on your promises.

  • Seek Professional Help

In some cases, dealing with micro cheating may require the help of a professional. Couples counselling or therapy can provide a safe space for partners to explore their feelings, work on communication, and develop strategies for strengthening their relationship.

When to Consider Couples Counselling or Therapy?

Couples counselling or therapy can be a helpful tool for couples experiencing challenges in their relationship, including issues related to micro cheating or emotional affairs. If you're unsure whether or not couples counselling is best for you, here are some signs that it may be time to consider seeking professional help:

  • Communication Breakdown

If you and your partner have trouble communicating and resolving conflicts effectively, therapy can help you develop better communication skills and learn to work through issues together.

  • Trust Issues

Microcheating can be a breach of trust in a relationship. Couples therapy can help you work through the betrayal and rebuild trust.

  • Recurring Conflicts

Suppose you and your partner have the same arguments or conflicts repeatedly. In that case, couples therapy can help you identify the underlying issues and work towards resolving them.

  • Emotional Distance

Suppose you feel emotionally distant from your partner or have difficulty connecting with them on a deeper level. In that case, couples therapy can help you explore why and work towards greater emotional intimacy.

  • Loss of Attraction

Micro cheating can also lead to a loss of attraction in a relationship. If you or your partner are struggling with attraction or sexual intimacy, couples counselling can help you address these issues and improve your sex life.

  • Lack of Intimacy 

Micro cheating can signify a lack of intimacy in the relationship. If you're struggling to connect physically or emotionally with your partner, couples therapy can help you explore the reasons behind the lack of intimacy and work towards rebuilding it.

Consider professional counseling or therapy when stonewalling happens.Learn more here!

Does Micro Cheating Mean Your Relationship Is Over?

No, micro cheating doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship is over. With that, micro cheating should not solely dictate the decision to end a relationship. Instead, couples should work together to address the root causes of the behaviour and explore ways to rebuild trust and strengthen their connection.

Both partners should have open and honest communication about their feelings and concerns. The person engaged in micro cheating should take responsibility for their actions and be willing to make changes. The other partner should also listen and offer support in rebuilding trust.

It's also important to recognize that rebuilding trust takes time and extra effort from both partners. It may not happen overnight, but with commitment and patience, it is possible to move past micro cheating and strengthen the relationship. However, if the behavior persists, it may be a sign that the relationship is no longer healthy, and it may be time to consider other options.


In conclusion, micro cheating is a behaviour that can harm a relationship. While it may not be as severe as cheating, it can erode trust and emotional intimacy between partners. Individuals need to recognize the signs of micro cheating in their behaviour or their partner's behaviour and take steps to address the underlying issues. Whether seeking couples counselling or working on personal insecurities, there are ways to overcome micro cheating and rebuild a more robust, healthier relationship. By being open and honest with each other, couples can move forward and prevent micro cheating from becoming a more significant issue. Author Chris Pleines
Chris Pleines
Founder of Datingscout and Author of the book "Online Dating for Dummies"
Chris founded Datingscout 15 years ago, and today he is one of the leading Online Dating Experts. He is the author of the book "Online Dating for Dummies" and the author of the Internet's largest online dating study analyzing 20 Million Profile Pictures with artificial intelligence. Chris Pleines holds a master degree in media science and appeared in numerous television interviews and publications to give expert advice as well as tips about online dating.

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