What is Microcheating?

“Microcheating”: is this a thing now?

I guess once something gets a name on the Internet, it is, so allow me to indulge.

The definition, from a recent Esquire article, is: “If you’re exchanging flirty texts with someone who isn’t your partner, consistently liking and commenting on their posts, or leaving googly-eye emojis on their Instagram photos, you may be engaging in micro-cheating. The term describes a wide range of actions and behaviors that aren’t egregious enough to qualify as cheating but are definitely a little bit shady nonetheless.”

I’m of two minds about this, as any reasonable adult would be. In short, such behaviors COULD be a sign of future infidelity, but they certainly are not NECESSARILY a sign. Which makes micro-cheating as a broad definition just about as clear as mud.

Such behaviors COULD be a sign of future infidelity, but they certainly are not NECESSARILY a sign.

As anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows, I am a proponent of the “full trust or no trust” relationship. If you’re dating someone you don’t trust, your boyfriend liking a woman’s photo online is a threat. If you’re dating someone you completely trust, it’s just another sign that he’s the same human being he was when you first met – and liking photos is unfaithful as he’ll ever be.

I’m well aware of the first category of men, whose micro-cheating is a slippery slope to full-blown affairs. But I try to embody the latter category of men  – guys who have flirtatious personalities and libidos that don’t shut off like a light switch after marriage, but whose healthy marriages and strong moral code would never involve infidelity.

Both sides are important to acknowledge – but usually, the alarmists get more airtime. It’s simpler to think in black-and-white terms about attraction and behavior than engage in nuanced discussions about how people REALLY act, rather than how we think they SHOULD act. Per the Esquire article, “It is a myth to believe that being in a committed relationship means you can never or should never feel attracted to someone else.” (In fact, nearly 46% of women and 42% of men have fantasized about someone other than their partner during sex, according to a 2015 British survey.) Hell, I don’t even do that.

Both sides are important to acknowledge – but usually, the alarmists get more airtime.

To be fair, the article is actually quite balanced and gets a series of expert quotes to balance out the fear-based worldview that conflates micro-cheating with cheating.

So what do you think, readers? Is sending a Facebook message to an ex-boyfriend a sign that your relationship is going down the tubes? Or is it just a sign that you were thinking momentarily of your ex-boyfriend, but have no intention of doing anything nefarious? Do you have different rules for your own behavior than your boyfriend’s behavior?

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Emily, the original

    I think it all depends on how serious the flirtation is. A woman who is in a relationship can see a good-looking man and appreciate him, feel attracted to him, enjoy watching him bend over, enjoy a flirtatious banter with him, but when he walks away a few minutes later, she probably won’t remember his name. If, however, she develops a serious thing for him and she spends a lot of time thinking about him and plotting ways to run into him … if he’s camped out in her head and she’s “microcheating” with that guy, texting that guy, isn’t that something more troublesome? I don’t know how it works for men.

  2. 2
    Stacy

    Don’t do anything you can’t do in front of me and not feel guilty is my motto – simple enough. I actually think most of this stop is common sense so I wouldn’t date someone who doesn’t not match up with my common sense in this regard. For instance, nothing wrong with telling a woman she looks nice but saying that you find her sexy/sexual is unnecessary and for me, that would be crossing the line. I mean, what is the point of communicating this type of way if you are in a relationship?I will compliment a woman/man in a minute and have no issues nor do I feel threatened if my man finds another woman attractive and comments on it. We both don’t ‘do’ social media so that’s not applicable. However, I would have no issue if he wanted to like pictures, flirted harmlessly, and even enjoyed looking at a woman half naked on occasion.  But I feel that most reasonably thinking adults know if they are crossing the line and since I will not waste my precious time being with a man I have to spy on, I would never be with someone who doesn’t know what that line is.

    1. 2.1
      Adrian

      Hi Stacy,What are your thoughts on couples who walk around with each other  and always comment about another man or woman being sex? I personally never understood that. I know couples also do it with celebrities but a celebrity is not the same as a waitress you can talk to or a jogger you see every morning in the park. I am not saying they are wrong I am just saying I don’t understand the purpose of doing it. 

  3. 3
    Stacy

    Forgive the typos – uggh

  4. 4
    S.

    Is microcheating actual cheating? If it leads to an affair, okay the affair is cheating.  But the micropart? Just unwise. I kind of agree with Evan.  Some men, most men I have met, are completely and utterly trustworthy.  And usually the only time a secure person would worry is when there are already issues in the relationship.  Then, yes, trust may grow a bit shaky.

    Is kissing cheating? Going out to lunch alone with the opposite sex? Jerking off to an ex’s photo or image in your mind? Murky ground.  A kiss is technically cheating in my book.  The rest? I dunno!

    If I had to draw a line, I’d say crossing the real-life touch barrier is it for me.  Sexy letters, even phone sex, sexting, I don’t count that as real as out and out cheating. Maybe emotional cheating, maybe leading to cheating, but not out and out infidelity. A least not yet.

    Sure others’ opinion differ!

    1. 4.1
      Emily, the original

      S.,

      Sexy letters, even phone sex, sexting, I don’t count that as real as out and out cheating. Maybe emotional cheating, maybe leading to cheating, but not out and out infidelity. A least not yet.

      I wouldn’t want someone I was seriously involved with sexting other women. Because that starts to cross the line from harmless flirtation in person (and I don’t care if I ever see this person again) to taking it to the next level and communicating with the person in a sexual manner (which is different than liking someone’s photo on Facebook). When someone starts to communicate with, for example, a co-worker outside of work in a sexual manner … then that co-worker is starting to take up too much space in the other person’s mind. And kissing someone else is most definitely cheating.

    2. 4.2
      S.

      Agree about kissing! Absolutely.

      But even though certain behaviors may lead to cheating, they aren’t actually cheating.  I’m not saying they’re good or people should be good with their partners engaging in these behaviors.  But are they the same as actual cheating? I don’t think they are.

      Liking someone’s Facebook or Instagram photo is pretty harmless in my book unless it’s part of some other behaviors.

      1. 4.2.1
        Emily, the original

        Liking someone’s Facebook or Instagram photo is pretty harmless in my book unless it’s part of some other behaviors.

        Yes, that’s nothing. But sexting somebody? C’mon. You want your boyfriend or husband sending sexually graphic, targeted messages to another woman about what he wants to do to her? About how he wishes he was there with her?

        1. S.

          It’s not just about what I want my boyfriend or husband doing.  What is he actually doing? The messages are inappropriate and wrong, but they’re not cheating.  People do a lot of wrong and hurtful things.  Some of them are grounds for breaking up.  But they aren’t necessarily the definition of cheating.

          If cheating was everything that I think is wrong and hurts, it would be such a wide definition of cheating.

          Is sexting sex? Before phones and computers, people sent graphic messages through the mail.  Was that sex?

          Not saying it’s right or wrong, just the post is called, ‘what is microcheating?’ Just trying to define it.  And back to my question, is microcheating actually cheating? A couple, of course can define for themselves what is okay or not okay in their relationship. I’m more curious as what microcheating is in general and if the general public considers it equal to actual cheating.

        2. Emily, the original

          S., 

          But they aren’t necessarily the definition of cheating.

          What is cheating, then? Having actual sex with someone else? What about oral sex? What if you are fantasizing about someone for months to the point he is crowding out thoughts of your spouse? I had a friend who, in the last year of her marriage, spent most of her time while at home with husband texting another man. “I love yous” were exchanged. She told me she was in love with him but nothing had happened physically. I believed her but thought it was ridiculous that, yes, technically, she hadn’t physically cheated. But she was completely checked out of the marriage and focused on someone else. Had that guy actually stepped up and told her he wanted to be with her full time, she would have left her husband in a heartbeat. She just didn’t have anything else solid lined up.

        3. S.

          @Emily, the original

          Like I said, we agree on kissing, the rest, I dunno!

          Your friend hadn’t physically cheated.  She might not have. She might have divorced her husband and went for that guy had he asked. If she had, no, I wouldn’t have said she had committed an infidelity.

          There has to be a line.   It maybe nuanced, but it’s still a line.

          Now like the new term microcheating, there was an older phrase, emotional cheating, which may apply to your friend’s situation. You can fall in love with someone else while married to another and that person you fall for doesn’t even know you’re alive.  Is it cheating because he reciprocates?  Either way mind is still completely focused on another person.

          It’s not a good situation and doesn’t bode well for that marriage, but yeah, for me, the physical is that line.

          If you hide things from your partner you’re being disloyal and dishonest.  Lying or hiding the truth is part of committing an infidelity, but lying isn’t the act of infidelity itself. At least not to me.

          Did your friend ever tell her husband? It’s weird that she may have fallen for someone else yet stayed with her husband because the other person didn’t ask her to leave with him.  I’m sure things like this were common in decades previous, when people didn’t always marry for love.

        4. Emily, the original

          S.,

          It’s not a good situation and doesn’t bode well for that marriage, but yeah, for me, the physical is that line.

          I wouldn’t want someone to cheat on me, period, but I’d be much more worried about a situation where my partner had a strong emotional connection with another woman and was developing feelings for her than if he picked up some rando at a business trip, had sex with her but didn’t give 2 shits about her and felt guilty and would never do it again. Men can often detach sex from emotion, but if he feels something for the other person … Houston, we have a problem.

          Did your friend ever tell her husband?

          He knew but inertia, fear, complacency, just plain not wanting the inconvenience of getting out of it kept him in the marriage.

          It’s weird that she may have fallen for someone else yet stayed with her husband because the other person didn’t ask her to leave with him. 

          I don’t think it’s weird. She wanted to have someone lined up before she left and this other guy wasn’t promising that. She eventually left and was on match.com within a week.

        5. S.

          I’d be much more worried about a situation where my partner had a strong emotional connection with another woman and was developing feelings for her than if he picked up some rando at a business trip, had sex with her but didn’t give 2 shits about her and felt guilty and would never do it again. Men can often detach sex from emotion,

          Both would be bad for a relationship I’m in.  I am hoping to find a man who isn’t that good at detaching sex from emotion.

          She eventually left and was on match.com within a week.

          Wow. Maybe not weird, but that surprised me!  She didn’t end up with her husband or the guy she exchanged I love yous with.  But yep, whether it’s technically cheating or not, it can still break up a marriage.  She clearly didn’t want to stay in that marriage.

        6. Emily, the original

          S.,

          I am hoping to find a man who isn’t that good at detaching sex from emotion.

          I’d like to find one where sex means something, but not everything. I don’t want it to be laden with heaviness.  (I didn’t mean to italicize that. I can’t seem to turn the italics off.)

          “Wow. Maybe not weird, but that surprised me!”  

          It surprised me, too, as we had talked about this other guy for a year. I thought she really cared for him, but I think she would have “loved” anyone who showed up. That kind of personality, male or female, scares the shit out of me. Shallow.

        7. S.

          @Emily

          I’d like to find one where sex means something, but not everything.

          I hear you.  And when it means everything for a woman that sometimes is something different than it meaning everything for a man.  Sigh.  It is heavy, though. Maybe it’s the hormones.  And there is no getting around it. I just wish other things in the relationship were equally important early on.  Poor compatibility.  Not many people thinking about that in the first month.  But maybe the people who follow Evan are.

          Gosh, we both sound so tired.  I’m still hopeful.  But I am tired.  Long week.

          Sometimes a person isn’t a good person to be in a relationship with. Not a cheater, least not in deed, but still not good to date.  But weird that the husband didn’t leave and he knew.  Too much in that situation to parse here.

          I’m glad I’ve learned the things I’ve learned here but sometimes it all makes me weary.  I appreciate all the commenters trying so hard to get their points across.  And most of us get those points. But goodness.

           

        8. Emily, the original

          S.,

          It is heavy, though. Maybe it’s the hormones.

          But once all those hormones die down  … haven’t you ever thought to yourself, “Oh. That’s all it was.” Have you ever suddenly realized there isn’t much else going on? There’s no real connection. In those situations, no, I don’t think it’s heavy. It’s more entertainment or distraction, but it can take a while to see that.

          But weird that the husband didn’t leave and he knew. 

          Most people will always stick with comfort and convenience. It’s human nature. To uproot your entire existence–find a new place to live, lose half your income (they earned a nice combined income, but on his own, he would be penny pinching)– takes energy, and, frankly, balls.

        9. S.

          @ Emily, the original

          But once all those hormones die down  … haven’t you ever thought to yourself, “Oh. That’s all it was.”

          That happened to me once.  With a guy where the chemistry between us was at 11.  After sex I was good on that score.  Then I really started to get to know him and . . . it’s weird.  We didn’t have sex early because I’m not an early sex person.  But I was still in a sexual haze about him.  Post-orgasm, I could see him clearly and I didn’t really know him. Even after all of those weeks.  So that feeling dampens the sex. I don’t want to have sex with someone I don’t really know. I felt oddly detached where before I had been so attached.  I didn’t know what to do with that feeling.

          Most of the times I have sex sex with people I do know or feel I know and I care about.  This is my preference.  Also a good reason for me to stay away from any Chemistry Elevenses out there!

          Most people will always stick with comfort and convenience. It’s human nature. To uproot your entire existence–find a new place to live, lose half your income (they earned a nice combined income, but on his own, he would be penny pinching)– takes energy, and, frankly, balls.

          I don’t.  I just get so deeply and irrevocably unhappy and grow even more so as time passes.  That pall takes over my whole life until I have to change/leave for my own survival. Maybe others have a higher tolerance or more distance from their unhappiness.  I never thought about it taking balls. Just something that has to be done, like leaving your parents’ home.  I’ve uprooted several times, leaving careers behind, starting over from scratch.  I only have one of those moves left in me.  I didn’t think about balls, but I do become less fearful.  Once you’ve built yourself back from the bottom a few times you know you can do it.  You don’t want to do it.  But deep inside you know you can and it will be okay again someday in the future.

        10. Emily, the original

          S.,
          “That happened to me once.  With a guy where the chemistry between us was at 11.  After sex I was good on that score.  Then I really started to get to know him and . . . Most of the times I have sex sex with people I do know or feel I know and I care about. ”
          That therein lies the problem. At least for me. I have a male friend I like to talk to about books, movies, music, current events, etc. He is intellectual but I don’t necessarily trust him emotionally. He lives inside his head and can be very dismissive and cold. I have a male friend I connect with emotionally and understand (and he “gets” me), but I don’t see him as a romantic partner. We relate to each other because he ‘s …well… the “mother” to his kids. He took on that role because his ex-wife is pretty checked out. I respect him for it, but he’s not the most masculine of men. And then there are the men you take one look at and think of sexually, but there’s not much else going on.

          “I’ve uprooted several times, leaving careers behind, starting over from scratch.”

          Me, too.

           “I only have one of those moves left in me.”  

          I thought I only had one left, too, but I just relocated and there is no way I can stay here for the rest of my days. Too conservative. Too small. This is a place to get experience for the resume and move on.

    3. 4.3
      Nick

      Emotional cheating is just as bad if not worse! It literally means they do not love you. Why? Because neurological studies have shown that when a person loves someone truly, that part of the brain that deals with sexuality and sex only lights up upon thinking or seeing the one they love. Love is a safeguard that shifts the sexual part of the brain to only work on the one you love. This is not same as finding someone visually beautiful, but it will never cross your mind to think of having sex with them or kissing them or flirting with them. This is proven by studies. It makes perfect sense as ai can confirm this with my own direct experience of love. When single I could spontaneously think sexually about different women, but this diminished drastically when dating my partner and when I knew I loved her I realized years later reading studies that I have never ever done it nor tempted. The brain switched! All my libido and sex drive by default goes to my partner! So emotional cheating is a huge sign there is no love nor even respect for your partner and how it may traumatize them if they find out, if they love you, in some cases as much as if you had sex with another.

  5. 5
    Mila

    Hi Evan,
    I am a regular reader of your blog and find most of your advice helpful and reasonable. However, when it comes to questions of attraction to or flirting with others while in a relationship, I tend to disagree with your views. Your discussion of whether or not “microcheating” is an indicator of future macrocheating, so to speak, misses the question of how cheating is defined in the first place. Does the term microcheating not imply that actively flirting with other people but your partner, while not involving a physical act of cheating, can nonetheless be seen as a lighter form of unfaithfulness? Clearly, your view is that flirting or expressing your attraction to people other than your partner is not cheating. Most people today would probably agree with you. However, the position that flirting with – or desiring, more broadly speaking – someone other than your partner is already a form of emotional cheating is just as valid. For someone who subscribes to this idea, it doesn’t matter whether or not microcheating leads to physical unfaithfulness. The fact that a person is polyattracted is enough in itself to avoid being in a relationship with them.

    1. 5.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      You are absolutely right. If you think that a man who finds another woman attractive is an egregious insult, you should probably move on. But that only leaves you with a much smaller subset of men: men who have never been with anybody else, men who are great liars, and men who are blind. Expecting a guy to never admit attraction is a foolishly high bar to set. And to be clear, I don’t “actively flirt” with anybody, nor do I recommend it as a practice. But if I’m having a fun conversation with an attractive woman at a party with absolutely no intentions and my girlfriend accused me of flirting and disrespecting her? She wouldn’t be my girlfriend much longer.

      1. 5.1.1
        Emily, the original

        But if I’m having a fun conversation with an attractive woman at a party with absolutely no intentions

        This is perfectly fine. Crossing the line would be getting her number to communicate with her outside the party.

         

         

    2. 5.2
      Nick

      Amen. Thank you!!!!

  6. 6
    dana

    I think it’s crazy to believe that any partner — male or female — would never view other people as attractive. And, sexting may not be cheating, or may not even lead to cheating. However, a partner who sexts with other people is creepy and gross, and would be no one I’d want.

  7. 7
    April Hunter

    Deception equals cheating. It doesn’t matter if its Financial, emotional, and addiction, or sexual. If you are hiding it from your partner, it is cheating.

    On the flip side, if you trust someone, being charming, which can be mistaken for flirting, or being friends with exes is not a threat. Especially if you are not hiding it and are comfortable doing it in front of your partner.

    I’m with Evan. I have never thought about someone else when I’m having sex with my partner.

    1. 7.1
      Adrian

      Hi April…You said, “being charming, which can be mistaken for flirting” I have seen that happen so many times and to be honest I think women falsely accuse charming and exciting women all the time. Especially when a charming woman’s natural energy makes the other woman’s boyfriend/husband excited to interact with her.

  8. 8
    Roxanne

    For me it’s not the finding another attractive that’s the problem. It’s the action that you choose to do that I give people side eye about. There’s a difference between seeing an attractive woman and thinking in your head “she is pretty/gorgeous/sexy” but to go out of your way to send her a message on social media even if your not trying to hit on her is disrespectful. I don’t message other guys I find attractive when I am with a boyfriend. I message other guys because I’m single and looking to date. So Why are you messaging them? Because you find them attractive. Cause you not messaging ugly girls claiming “just being friendly”. It’s bs and I feel like flirts try to justify the behavior saying “you can’t expect a man not to notice” because he is doing more than noticing. He is messaging her on purpose. Talking to her on purpose. For what motive? Because she is attractive. The act is just disrespectful to who you with in my opinion 

    1. 8.1
      Niceguyjay7

      I agree with you Roxanne, I know that men find my wife attractive and have noticed men eyeing her up when we go out. I learned to accept this fact years ago and take it as a compliment.

      I’d be lying if I said I’d never done the same thing, even when we have been out together!! We are only human after all.

      I am taking an educated guess that when she goes on a “girls night out” that there is a good chance, most of the time, that men will show an interest and try their luck. As much as I don’t relish that thought, I understand that he has no idea of her situation and have to take my hat off to him for trying.

      Everyone likes to be complemented and, especially after a few beers, if that person is pleasing to the eye a little harmless flirting isn’t a major deal.

      I would not class that as microcheatng or cheating up to a certain point. Swapping numbers and continuing with some sort of contact the next day or longer, in my opinion, would be dangerous!! I’m including the same sinereo to myself.

      I also think it would not be normal for people in a relationship to never look and find others attractive. To me it’s no different than looking at a stranger and finding them unattractive!!

      Just putting it out there but am I the only man that, when looking at a woman for the first time, rates them on a scale of yes/maybe/no way??

      Sorry if that comes across as offensive but do women not do that??

      Anyway, microcheating, to me going any further than I’ve mentioned in this post should be seen as a warning sign that your relationship probably has some serious problems!!

  9. 9
    John

    Microcheating and microaggressions are equally ridiculous.

     

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