When it comes to relationships, it’s important to navigate them relative to your own personal needs and desires. There are plenty of rules and regulations thrown at us, telling us what we can and cannot tolerate. However, with the rise of polyamory and open relationships, it’s clear that there’s much more fluidity within the confinement of partnership than we may have once considered.

Within that, how we define betrayal can be nuanced as well. The term micro cheating, referring to small breaches of trust in a relationship, has been rising in popularity as more couples interrogate the gray area within infidelity. Here’s everything to know about micro cheating and how to navigate it within your own relationship.

What is Micro Cheating?

It’s pretty cut and clear what cheating is: engaging in some sort of physical affair with someone outside of your relationship. However, micro-cheating is used to reference the instances that don’t necessarily pass that physical threshold.

These are acts that fall into an ethical gray area because while they may not overtly be cheating, they’re behaviors that can lead someone to question their partner’s emotional or physical commitment to the relationship. If something your partner is doing is making you uncomfortable, yet you feel like it’s a silly thing to be hurt about, this could potentially be an instance of micro-cheating. Similarly, if you find that your partner is particularly secretive, defensive, distant, or withholding any form of intimacy, these could also be signs of micro-cheating. 

As accountable queens, it’s also important to self-reflect on whether you’re the partner potentially engaging in micro-cheating. If you find some sort of void in your relationship that you’re fulfilling elsewhere, either by someone else or a secretive act that could be considered a bit shady, you could be stepping outside the sanctity of your relationship as well.

Examples of Micro Cheating

Acts of micro-cheating are subjective, which can make them difficult to navigate. Ultimately, it’s up to whoever makes up the relationship to decide what micro-cheating, is because what is a betrayal to one could be a not-so-big-deal to another. However, some common examples include:

  • Having a work husband/wife
  • Flirting with someone who is making a sexual advancement
  • Being in communication with an ex
  • Taking off your wedding ring while going out
  • DMing or replying to someone’s thirst traps on Instagram
  • Not making it clear to others that you’re in an exclusive relationship
  • Having an active profile on a dating app
  • Receiving emotional comfort and confiding in someone else

If you have to differentiate whether or not an act in your relationship is considered micro-cheating or not, it’s essential to look within and have an honest conversation with yourself about why your body is emotionally responding in a certain way. Are you coming from a place of unresolved trauma or insecurity? Or do you simply feel lied to and betrayed? Consider discussing amongst a group of deeply trusted friends and families to help you see from an unbiased lens.

How to Navigate Micro Cheating

Avoiding micro-cheating altogether looks like being communicative from the get-go about what you can and cannot accept. While some couples don’t mind there being communication with exes, others find that intolerable, so it’s important to be straightforward right away with your partner about your boundaries. Every relationship should have terms to follow, a clearly communicated set of regulations that honor each individual’s needs.

If the breach has already happened, then healing should be the focus. Forgiveness can only come from accountability, discussing at length why either party felt hurt, instilling new boundaries to protect the partnership from being damaged again, and moving forward with application and intention.

Whether you or your partner are at fault for the micro-cheating, it’s important to note that every relationship requires compromise, and this is an indicative instance. While one person may enter a relationship with polyamorous ideals, the other person may enter it with monogamous ideals, therefore, there must be some surrendering on both ends for everyone to feel emotionally safe and cultivate a healthy relationship.