Micro-cheating! The latest relationship-oriented buzzword to permeate your mind and create problems you weren’t even aware of in your relationship — or were aware of and couldn’t quite put a name to. The Daily Mail reported on micro-cheating as a trend on the rise, and in true Daily Mail fashion, headlined it with, “Social media is tearing couples apart as scientist warns flirty gestures on apps can ruin marriages.” 

To catch you up on the latest social trend (these things move quickly!), micro-cheating is defined as the relatively small actions that might indicate a person is emotionally or physically focusing on someone outside of the relationship. The internet blew up with pieces exploring what constitutes micro-cheating, and it’s a pretty broad spectrum. There was also a considerable backlash vehemently insisting that micro-cheating isn’t a thing. Anything from Instagram DMs to even having someone else’s name pop up on your SO’s frequent searches can fall within the realm of micro-cheating.

My two cents? It’s kind of impossible to determine whether any singular action could lead to cheating — context, as always, is everything. My boyfriend’s name is the first one on my “frequent searches,” but aside from him, the other names are good friends OR completely random people that I’m curious about at any given time. Usually, your intuition is everything, and one random act might not mean much. BUT if your gut is telling you to inquire further, it’s worth a conversation.

Another, perhaps more controversial opinion is this: It might not THRILL you to think about the porn that your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at, but in 2018, it is what it is. In a lesser way, that’s how I tend to feel about some — certainly not all! — of these behaviors. We’re human beings and likely to find multiple people attractive and interesting, and as such, see what they’re up to via social media. As long as, at the end of the day, you’re the main focus, I would wager that it’s even ok to enjoy someone’s attractive photo every once in a while — after all, how different is it than smiling at the hot Sweetgreen cashier?

Also, people and relationships are complicated and saying across the board that, for example, DMing an ex on Instagram is a bad move isn’t necessarily as easy as that. I’ve been friends with my ex for two years now because we work in the same field, have a similar sense of humor, and he’s someone I generally share many of my weird thoughts with. But they’re also weird thoughts I’d share with my boyfriend. Refinery29’s Kasandra Brabaw said it very well: Micro-cheating by any other name is an “emotional affair,” a term that experts have been using for years and for which there’s no strict definition because only you and your partner can decide what crosses the line. So these very specific examples that have been making the rounds on the internet — and often just sound like the definition of being a good friend — are total BS.”

We polled a handful of women on what they consider to be micro-cheating. Here’s what we found:

Amanda, 26

“Instagram DMs!!! Sooo sketchy. Also, having a certain girl’s insta story always first lmaoo. I guess that’s not cheating, but it’s a way to get caught.”

Katie, 27

I think I would hate finding out my man sent a girl a fucking eggplant emoji, or any sort of suggestive fruit or vegetable (peach,  cherry, etc). I wouldn’t enjoy him liking pictures of the same girl over and over, or commenting on stuff. I think we are in an age where monogamy is honestly dead because there is so much small “cheating”…because people now have so much access to so many different people, body types, and things they never thought they would find attractive but have complete access to stare at/comment on now.

Lindsey, 25

Micro-cheating, when you hear the word and you think uh oh? It probably means that deep down there’s something internal that triggered you to think that there’s something you are doing to compromise your current relationship. I think if anything, it’s probably a trigger word that pulls at your heartstrings to make you more aware of your current situation. There’s a word for everything nowadays isn’t there?! But at its root, I think it’s just a matter of honesty in your relationship with your SO and yourself.”

Victoria, 24

Definitely anything that I would be concerned about the other person doing in a relationship qualifies as that to me. I’m dating someone, but I message my friend Brian* who moved to Oregon a while back. Even though we’re just friends and don’t say anything relationship-y, I feel like leaning on him for support in a professional/writing/morale sense is micro-cheating-y.


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