Making the decision to cheat on a partner is one that is clear-cut. You either seek gratification with your chosen partner that you've committed to, or you find it elsewhere, behind their back and with no intention to tell them. There are so many steps to nurturing and fixing whatever rift exists in a relationship that leads to one party wanting to cheat, but some people just can't wait.
What happens before that, though? Are there smaller actions that lead up to cheating, like stepping stones to infidelity? Welcome to the idea of micro-cheating, what it means and what it looks like.
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A Messy Break
The concept of cheating is an unfortunately common thing. To be cheated on is to have one's trust completely broken by the person they're closest with. Relationships can be shattered in an instant because one half didn't want to remain committed, but also didn't want to communicate this healthily. That, or they wanted to have their cake and eat it too, a stable relationship at home with the fun of flings behind the scenes.
There are blatant, undeniable acts of cheating, but there are also smaller acts that people go back and forth on whether or not they're technically on the same level as full-blown cheating.
These acts are called micro-cheating. They're little, very easy-to-miss acts that some people might even do without realizing it. It doesn't cross any hard lines into major cheating territory, but it does signal that something is very wrong, and that one party may be on the path to cheating if they don't stop themselves and investigate what's wrong.
Below are some examples of what micro-cheating can look like, and what it is about them that makes them an indicator for a relationship going south.
Becoming Obsessed With Someone Else's Social Media
This isn't to say you can't follow anybody you know on social media, nor is it forbidden to follow people you simply find attractive, but it's about how much you become invested in this person's account—and what your motive is for doing so. Even if you don't plan on reaching out or initiating something with them, frequently checking one person's account so you can ogle at them does your current partner a disservice.
This applies even more so if you're spending time looking at those accounts that you would otherwise be spending talking with your partner, or if your infatuation grows to the point where you're liking and commenting on every post.
You can follow who you want, just be aware of how your feelings manifest themselves.
Going To Someone Other Than Your Partner For Emotional Support
Don't let the title alone here fool you; you need a support system that consists of more than just your partner. It's unfair to either of you if they're responsible for all of your feelings.
That being said, it does matter who else you reach out to in times of need. Talking to a trusted friend or family member? Totally cool. Talking to a rocky ex or deliberately asking someone you find attractive? That's a little more questionable, especially if you value their insight over that of your significant other.
You have to draw the line between simply seeking advice and building an emotional connection with someone else for the rush of it all, and as such, breaking trust with your current partner.
Keeping 'Backup Partners' On Hand
A common trait of micro-cheaters is befriending or staying in contact with people they see as potential partners should their current relationship fall apart. This constant thinking about others as a future partner really showcases how flimsy their sense of connection and devotion is.
Maintaining a friendship just because it could potentially become a relationship down the line is also a very disrespectful way of treating friends. You should want them in your life because you want their company, not because you might start dating one day.
Downplaying Your Relationship
Downplaying, denying, or hiding your relationships when speaking to someone new, especially someone you find attractive, is very disingenuous. You don't have to go out of your way to bring up the fact that you're taken, but if you purposely hide details or skirt around the subject with the intention of not talking about it, then there's clearly something else going on there.
This also counts for mentioning your relationship, but then making light of it, or speaking poorly of your partner in that context. Both of these tactics make you appear more available/less attached to your significant other than you truly are, with the hopes of this new person picking up on it and maybe thinking about pursuing something.
Keeping Tabs On An Ex
Let's be clear here: it's totally fine to be friends with your ex, if that works for you and your current relationship. People tend to have divisive opinions about this, but if you two ended on good terms and want to actively maintain a friendship, there's zero issue. The issue arises when you're either clearly still harboring romantic feelings for them, having not fully gotten over them before choosing to date again, or you haven't remained friends, but you have this obsessive need to be up to date on what they're doing.
Both are extremely indicative that you should not be dating someone new, and that this new partner is not holding the space they should be in your mind and your heart.
Hanging Out With Someone You Find Attractive
This is another one that depends solely on the intensity and intentions behind what you're doing. It's normal to find a friend of yours attractive, and it's not inherently wrong to want to spend time with them even if that's the case. Admiring someone's beauty is far from a bad thing.
However, going out of your way to go where they're going or going with the hope that something will spark between you does make the plans seem iffy. You're allowed to think your friend is attractive, but leaning into that and making it the basis of your friendship does fall into micro-cheating.
Things like this are hard to define in a strict, black and white way. There are a lot of grey areas in our lives, especially in the realm of relationships, as the webs we weave with other humans are complex and multi-faceted. To determine whether you or someone you know is partaking in micro-cheating, it's important to look less at the act as a whole and look into their intentions instead.
People perceive things differently, and something you might consider casual could be extremely personal to someone else. However, if your intentions behind doing said thing are with the hopes of an exciting new romantic prospect, then there's no denying that a cheating mindset was behind it.
In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?
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