Forty five per cent of men and 35% of women have admitted to having an emotional affair at some point, according to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. While that’s a lot more than the 20% of people who admitted to having a physical affair, we can all agree that what constitutes adultery is anything but black and white.
It usually stems from a partner craving attention outside of the relationship
Social media, for one, has widened its scope. One survey found that 76% of women thought it was cheating to send flirty texts, compared to 59% of men. It’s just not as simple anymore whether a one-time indiscretion on a business trip (35% of respondents in the Family Therapy survey admitting to cheating while away for work) or a drawn out emotional affair that started with an innocently flirty DM are on the same level when it comes to infidelity.
The fact is, cheating can encompass a whole array of micro actions that you may not have even thought about. And, as people who have cheated before are 350% more likely to cheat again than those that haven’t, anything on the cheating continuum is a slippery slope.
According to SeekingArrangement’s spokesperson and in-house relationship expert Alexis Germany, “micro cheating can be defined as small discretions that cross the lines of your relationship without physical infidelity occurring. It usually stems from a partner craving attention outside of the relationship.”
London-based family lawyer Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart describes it as “a form of emotional infidelity that’s a grey area between flirting and physically acting unfaithfully. It usually involves emotional intimacy and often a sexual/romantic connection with someone who isn’t your partner, all of which your primary partner is blissfully unaware of.”
So is your partner micro-cheating? Here are the signs to look out for…
He Responds To Thirst-Trapping
Even if you don’t know that term, you’ll know the behavior. It’s those photos people post that have the intention of getting a million likes and fire emojis – and yes, they normally involve not so much clothing. The struggle of virtual flirting is real.
The biggest way people get away with micro-cheating is through digital means like social media or texting
“Examples of virtual flirting include putting heart eyes on a sexy Instagram photo or engaging in flirtatious DMs,” says Germany. “The biggest way people get away with micro-cheating is through digital means like social media or texting,” she admits.
“Often times, these forms of communication are private and so people feel emboldened to behave in ways in which their partner would not approve.
“If you notice your partner is secretive and overly protective over their cell phone or laptop there might be some micro-cheating going on or even worse, actual cheating. Everyone is entitled to privacy but trust your gut if your partner is acting shady.”
He’s Looking Fly
First, he mentioned the new girl starting at work – and then you notice a serious office wardrobe ramp up. And, if you’ve seen him take ‘sexy selfies’ without them being sent to you or going up on his own social media channels, where exactly are they going?
Continuously engaging in flirtatious behavior – especially at work – is unacceptable
“Something as simple as dressing better for work may seem innocent but… while I think a little harmless flirting with a waiter is fine and fairly innocent, continuously engaging in flirtatious behavior – especially at work – is unacceptable,” says Germany.
According to love and communication coach Ar’nie Krogh, your partner becoming more distracted and paying less attention to what you’re saying when you’re together is something you should keep your eyes and ears peeled for.
These actions are purely a gateway to acting on the emotions and eventually, physical cheating
Mackintosh-Stewart claims that micro-cheating has crossed the line and does constitute cheating. She says it tends to happen “when someone isn’t feeling invested in a relationship due to feelings of boredom, neglect, temptation, or looking to have needs met elsewhere to seek new excitement outside the relationship.”
“You must question why they are engaged in this activity in the first place, what their motivation is and what they hope to get out of these liaisons.
“They should be focusing their attention and energy on their partner and these actions are purely a gateway to acting on the emotions and eventually, physical cheating.”
(This is not to say that all distracted men are possibly cheating though, of course.)
He’s Being Shady With His Phone
Have you noticed him sending late night texts? Or him being quiet about recent budding friendships?
Being guarded about relationships they have with someone else which are close, private and emotional is another bad indicator
If there’s any sign that your partner is trying to hide their phone from you – or makes sure you’re not around when they’re on it – then this is a huge red flag.
“Engaging in secret communications with another person often late at night and in the form of flirty text messages is an activity of micro-cheating,” explains Mackintosh-Stewart.
“And being guarded about relationships they have with someone else which are close, private and emotional is another bad indicator.”
He Has Strong Opinions About Physical Cheating
If you don’t act on these feelings to pursue a physical connection, then what’s the harm?
So, if your partner keeps hammering this point home, it may be his way of excusing what he’s doing behind your back.
“Physical cheating is commonly regarded as sexual infidelity or adultery,” says Mackintosh-Stewart. “It is a physical act, which if kept secret, is a blatant attempt to deceive your partner.
“Some question however, whether physical cheating can be excused if it occurs while heavily intoxicated.
“Some say micro-cheating is fine in a relationship as it hasn’t crossed the line into physical cheating, and if you don’t act on these feelings to pursue a physical connection, then what’s the harm?”
He Goes Out Of His Way For Other Women
Does your partner give his co-worker a lift home ‘just to be nice?’ even though she lives on the other side of town? According to private counselling psychologist and We-Vibe’s relationship expert Dr. Becky Spelman, excuses like these are a form of micro-cheating.
“Those little interactions like flirting with the girl at his local coffee shop because he sees her every day and is pretending to just be friendly or getting overly close to a colleague at work because she’s married and ‘it doesn’t count’ all do count as micro-cheating,” according to Spelman.
His Social Schedule Is Busier Than Ever
Has your partner suddenly gone from being out of the house two weeknights a week to four or five? Krogh says this is a warning sign.
“Is he suddenly busier than normal but laughing it away when you bring up the subject of why he’s only seeing you for three nights a week instead of four?” she asks.
“And when you push it and voice your feelings of insecurity, does he tell you not to worry and that you’re making it up in your head (or that his gym or sports routine has suddenly changed) rather than actively solving the problem?”
While all these are indicators to pay attention to, ultimately you decide what counts.
I’ve seen people who’ve gotten incredibly upset because they felt their partner flirted with somebody at a party while other people will come in and be pensive and forgiving when they find out their partner has had an affair for five years, so where do you draw the line?
According to relationship therapist Christina Fraser, infidelity is subjective.
“It’s a really interesting question because couples will look at what micro-cheating is very differently,” she tells us.
“For some people, it’s a complete deal breaker if their partner messages somebody intimately – and intimate to some women means a partner sending a kiss to the end of a message to a work colleague.
“And, for others, it’s can be something shallow that pushes them over the edge when they could have gotten over a long-term affair. It really is very individual.
“I’ve seen people who’ve gotten incredibly upset because they felt their partner flirted with somebody at a party while other people will come in and be pensive and forgiving when they find out their partner has had an affair for five years, so where do you draw the line?
“The definition of micro-cheating is rooted from people’s own standards and what in their eyes constitutes as being unfaithful. But, an affair happens to both people, it doesn’t just happen to one of them; it means the relationship needs attention.”