That’s not cheating – or is it?

16 June 2020

‘Micro-cheating’ – said to be a new buzzword – is all about little things you might think aren’t that naughty, but could turn out to be.

Is there such a thing – ‘cheating but only a bit’?

Yes, says Dr Martin Graff, professor of psychology at the University of South Wales, who wrote about this modern dating dilemma in an article for a psychology journal.

He talks about how infidelity has evolved as we live more of our lives online. He defines micro-cheating as any act or behaviour by someone in a relationship which might suggest to a third party that they are emotionally or physically available.

In our digital age, it’s easier than ever to signal to someone that you’re available – anything from ‘deep liking’ (when you go way back into someone’s Instagram feed to like old posts) to sending direct messages.

While ‘micro-cheating’ may not be actually cheating on your partner, says the professor, it is behaviour that could spark infidelity. “Think of it as a warm up,” he says.

So, here’s your chance to judge for yourself. Rate these scenarios out of five for infidelity.

Messaging an ex
You’re at a gig on a date with your partner. The support act turns out to be a favourite of your ex. You take a picture and text it to him or her. Fast forward 24 hours: they’ve replied and put a kiss at the end of their message. If you continue the conversation, are you micro-cheating?

There’s nothing wrong with being in touch with exes, is there? But should you always run it by your current partner? It’s fine if you aren’t secretly angling for a reconciliation, or bored and in need of attention, surely. Yet, a lot of people message their exes for a quick ego boost if they know that the ex might still harbour feelings for them.

How would you rate it on the micro-cheating scale – 3 out of 5, maybe?

Liking someone else’s posts on social media
You’re in bed. You’ve turned the lights out, but you can’t sleep. You start scrolling through Instagram and liking the posts of someone who, if you weren’t in a relationship, would be very much your type. Then you do the same thing on your lunch break, and on the bus home you leave a few emojis on their latest post, including a heart.

Perhaps that’s a sign there’s a bigger problem in your current relationship. Liking people’s posts isn’t necessarily something to feel bad about, but if you were regularly liking the same person’s posts, that might be more of a concern.

What do you reckon? 2/5 if before dark; 5/5 after dark?

Building a ‘platonic’ friendship online
You went on a holiday with a group of mates from college and had a big night out where you bonded with one of them who is on your course. Becoming Facebook friends when you got back was a logical next step. From there things have progressed to following each other on Instagram. Suddenly, on the bus home, you get a message asking for your number: they want to talk to you about coursework.

If you’re in a stable relationship and you do things, such as building a relationship with someone else or texting other people, is it out of order?

We often meet people who share our interests – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Agreed? But maybe you have to be clear about ‘where you’re at’ because the other person might misinterpret the friendship.

How would you rate it on the scale? Risk of it reaching 4 out of 5?

Not deleting your profile on dating apps
After months of trawling dating apps, you’re now several months into what seems to be a real-life relationship. But you can’t quite bring yourself to delete your dating apps – not quite yet. You even find yourself occasionally swiping when you’re bored.

Not on? Completely inexcusable? It could also be seen as a ‘power move’, leaving your partner anxious about the fact that you haven’t deleted those apps.

Infidelity rating 10 out of 5?

Fantasising about someone else while having sex
You can’t look your new boss in the eye because, last night, while getting intimate with your partner, their face popped into your head. It was completely unexpected, although you had been answering work emails late that night in bed, and it startled you.

Fantasising about someone isn’t micro-cheating, is it? Fantasy is a private matter, and as you don’t act on it, that’s fair enough. It’s your own business. Some might argue that fantasies are safeguards against cheating.

It’s common; lots of us do it. But when you’re ‘not present’ for your partner, you’d be surprised how many people can sense it, even if you’re quite certain they can’t read your mind, or at least you hope not.

But, as for the infidelity scale, well… I’ll leave that one for you.

If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about any of this, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01604 634400.

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