Micro-cheating: What is Micro-cheating & Does it Even Matter?


Let’s talk about micro-cheating! What is it and is it the same as full-on cheating?  Or is it just small actions that aren’t a big deal?

What is Micro-cheating?

It’s small inappropriate actions with someone outside of your relationship that crosses a line. If the action would upset your partner or damage their trust in you, it’s micro-cheating. 

It can start off quite innocently and even seem insignificant. For example, it could be liking someone’s post, a text message or a conversation. The someone could be a workplace colleague, an ex, someone you knew from school, an old friend, etc. You might both think you are good people and it’s pretty harmless.  Then it can get a little flirty or one of you says something slightly inappropriate. It moves to a point where you cross a line!

Micro-cheating doesn’t involve physical or sexual activity, so you may justify what’s the harm. 

Examples of Micro-Cheating

  • Sending flirtatious texts
  • Liking posts
  • Moving from liking the posts to sliding into their DMs (instant messaging)
  • Messaging people of the opposite but not telling them you are in a relationship.
  • Posting provocative comments
  • Lying about your relationship status
  • Keeping a dating profile
  • Giving out your number 
  • Cyberstalking crush or ex
  • Talking about your sex life
  • Sexting
  • Sending nude pictures
  • Removing wedding/engagement ring
  • Flirting with others

How To Spot the Signs

Micro-cheating can start off without people realising they are doing it so it can be harder to spot. However, when someone is micro-cheating they will start to behave differently in subtle ways.

Spotting the Signs

  • Fixated on their phones. This could mean not letting you see who they are messaging, going outside to take a call, taking their phones with them everywhere or even making sure their phone is face down so you don’t see their notifications. 
  • Defensive about social media.
  • They can start to act differently. This could be making more of an effort with their appearance at work, buying new clothes or wearing perfume/aftershave when they don’t normally do that.

You will unconsciously pick up the subtle changes and all the little things your partner is doing that they don’t usually do. You might find that you just can’t put your finger on what is different, but you will sense it and something will seem off.    This is your five senses picking up what your conscious mind doesn’t. In my experience when someone’s partner has cheated or started to cross the line, they felt it. They had a gut feeling that they just can’t explain. Listen to that gut feeling.

How to Confront a Partner if you Think They are Micro-cheating

I recommend that you have an open, honest conversation with your partner about what they are doing and how you feel about that. It may feel difficult to raise but it is much better to nip it in the bud so that it doesn’t turn into a full-blown affair! Because micro-cheating is often a sign that the person will cheat in the future. 

When you talk to someone about micro-cheating they may minimise it and say they haven’t physically cheated so what’s the big deal? However, breaking someone’s trust can be about so much more than a physical act!

When someone is micro-cheating they can also become defensive and make you feel silly for saying something. Don’t let that stop you from talking about it.

Oh and if you are the person who is micro-cheating I recommend the minute you start to hide something step back

and look at your reasons why.

Is Micro-cheating Really Such a Big Deal?

You don’t want to become so paranoid that you can’t talk to other people! 

The reality is that different things mean different things to different people. What will be a problem for one couple, won’t be a big deal for another. Some couples may be okay with flirting and others aren’t. 

For example, if someone has been hurt in the past, they can have difficulty trusting. This makes them more sensitive and they may react to an action that wouldn’t be a problem for someone else. If this is your partner, see what they need to feel safe in the relationship, remembering what is harmless to one person can be taken very personally by another. 

I recommend all couples have a conversation about what is and isn’t okay for them. Take the time to talk about your definition of cheating and what is acceptable for you both. Take the time to talk about what is not ok and what your boundaries are. Boundaries make everything clear and get rid of grey areas.

Also, take the time to talk about your expectations about how social media will play a role in your relationship.

Instead of making assumptions have an honest/open conversation.

This may sound like a lot of effort but being clear about what is and isn’t ok saves you from having arguments and a world of pain in the future! Don’t see them as ‘rules’ but as risk management for your relationship!

Don’t Avoid Difficult Conversations 

Don’t avoid difficult conversations to keep the peace as that can backfire on you.

Maybe you are innocently chatting to someone and don’t want to mention it to your partner as it may cause conflict. You hate conflict so you justify to yourself that it is harmless and doesn’t matter.

However, if you have been chatting to someone for six months and have not mentioned it to your partner, imagine how they might feel if they found out! They are likely to feel betrayed!  

Be transparent and open. Message as if you are messaging in front of a partner or that they could read it.

Micro-cheating – Reasons why a Partner might do it

If your partner is micro-cheating, there can be many reasons why. You can also read 9 Reasons Why Men Cheat. 

Reasons People  Micro-cheat:

  • The opportunity happened. Something could have happened innocently and it has crossed the line. Those micro-moments turned into something more. Maybe it was a colleague at work, an old friend or an ex.
  • Technology makes it easy for them to make contact with people they may not usually cross paths with. 
  • Your relationship is going through a tough or unhappy time.
  • When you get too comfortable in the relationship. 
  • If you have low self-esteem and someone gives you attention.

What you Can Do in Your Relationship to Avoid the Need for Micro-cheating

Did you know that the average couple only spends an average of 10 mins a day talking to each other? That 10 mins is generally about the children or what they need to do that day. The hard truth is that most couples spend more time on social media than they do talking to each other and having real conversations.  

To avoid the need to micro-cheat I recommend you invest time and effort into your relationship. Remember when you first met you made time for fun, romance, adventure and great sex! Yet as time goes by it’s easy to get comfortable and stop prioritising those things.

Prioritise (like it’s the most important thing in the world).  fun, romance, adventure and make sex something that isn’t just on your to-do list. Great relationships are made up of all the little things that you say and do.  Make time for a regular fun date. Say thank you for the little things your partner does, give them compliments, kiss/hug for no outcome, and say I love you as you mean it and not something you just say.!


I hope you have found this article helpful. If you are struggling with having some of these bigger conversations, why not book a discovery call? 

Debbie, Relationship Coach


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