New dating trends and terms are emerging all the time—so much so that it can be difficult to tell your "haunting" from your "ghosting" (yes, they’re different things…apparently). But one of the most recent terms to spike in popularity is "micro-cheating." So what is micro-cheating really? "Micro-cheating is a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone outside their relationship," dating expert Melanie Schilling told HuffPost Australia.
It might be smaller gestures than what you traditionally think of as cheating—so, rather than full-on having sex with someone, it might be that you’re flirting with someone without your partner’s knowledge. “You might be engaging in micro-cheating if you secretly connect with another guy/girl on social media; if you share private jokes; if you downplay the seriousness of your relationship to another guy/girl; or if you enter their name under a code in your phone,” Schiling says. And if that all sounds like bad news to you—you’re right. It’s not OK.
Because here’s the thing: While a lot of new dating trends are just a bit silly, micro-cheating is, well, total BS. And in fact, using it as a term may sound catchy, but it also encourages bad behavior that we shouldn’t be complacent about. Here’s why mico-cheating should not be a thing and is actually a very unhelpful term, because you know the difference between right and wrong.
First of all, cheating is cheating—but we all don’t agree on what cheating is. Sure, everyone has a strong sense of what they feel is out of bounds, but that doesn’t mean it lines up with everyone else’s idea of what’s over the line. My friend regularly flirts and chats with a barista in a way that I would find incredibly hurtful if my partner did it, but his partner thinks it’s harmless.
But that discrepancy can cause huge problems in a relationship if one person thinks that behavior is fine and their partner doesn’t agree. A survey by Men’s Health showed that almost all women thought sexting someone else was cheating but, remarkably, a quarter of men didn’t think it was. Things like following your ex on social media were also gray areas—15 percent of people thought it was cheating, 85 percent thought it was totally fine. So cheating is already really confusing—do we really want to add a layer of micro-cheating into the mix and make the waters even murkier?
Because it can be unclear what constitutes cheating in general, it’s all the more important that you know what cheating is and what it isn’t within the confines of your relationship. If your communication skills are strong, you will have a good sense of where you stand with your partner. Sure, not every relationship looks the same—some couples are far more dependent, others don’t keep each other up to date on every person they see for lunch or go for drinks with. But you should know what’s right and wrong in your relationship—and so-called micro-cheating just shouldn’t even come into it.
Finally, you know when something is right or wrong. You know, in your gut, when behavior is disrespectful or shady or just somehow...off. But calling something micro-cheating is sugar-coating it—it’s wrapping a bigger issue in a snappy name. But do we really want to start letting people off the hook for behavior that we know—and, more important, they know—isn’t OK?
Saving someone by a different name in your phone is clearly a breach of a trust. It’s you deliberately hiding from your partner and, in a way, lying to them. But if you call it micro-cheating, the "micro" makes it sounds almost insignificant. It implies that it’s just a little wrong. But if I found out my partner had saved someone by a fake name to hide their communication, I wouldn’t think it was a little wrong—I’d be really hurt. And I’d have every right to be. We all know, instinctively, when something’s off—so let’s not pretend we’re OK with it.
See more: Will a Bad Honeymoon Lead to Cheating?
Micro-cheating sounds really quippy, but it’s not something we should take lightly. Labeling something as micro-cheating either makes genuinely innocent behavior sound worse than it is—or it takes bad behavior and minimizes it. Either way, it’s not good news. Instead, just make sure that you have clear boundaries in your relationship. You and your partner should have open, honest communication about what is acceptable behavior between the two of you, and, ultimately, you should always listen to your gut. Because really, cheating is cheating. It might be down to your individual relationship to decide exactly what counts—but you know it when you see it.