Just because an action or behavior is small does not necessarily mean that it is harmless. Micro-cheating is a newly coined term used to describe interactions with someone outside your marital relationship that are small enough not to meet the criteria for cheating but have the potential to cause discord between you and your spouse.

Micro-cheating is potentially hazardous to your relationship for two reasons. First, it can cause mistrust and jealousy between you and your spouse, which are two of the biggest reasons why relationships falter and eventually fail.

Second, the definition of what does and does not constitute micro-cheating is somewhat nebulous. It can be difficult to know where to draw the line between micro-cheating and harmless flirting. Therefore, it may be possible to engage in micro-cheating and not realize it.

Secrecy

One of the ways to distinguish micro-cheating from normal interactions with others is to gauge the air of secrecy around it. You may notice that your partner shuts down online chats the moment you come into a room or tells lies about his or her relationship with another person.

Conversely, you may take pains to conceal text messages that you exchange with a co-worker from your spouse. Though not cheating per se, these behaviors exceed the bounds of normal friendship due to the deception required to maintain them.

Guilt

You probably do not feel guilty about interactions with friends for whom your feelings are completely innocent. If you feel guilty about an interaction, that is an indication that it may not be appropriate. Your feelings of guilt may affect your behavior and your attitude toward your husband or wife. On the other hand, if you notice your spouse’s attitude toward you changing, that may be an indication that he or she feels guilty about micro-cheating, especially if you also notice secretive behaviors.

The concept of micro-cheating is controversial. Some people view it as an excuse to validate one’s own relationship insecurities. However, if interactions with others outside your marriage are putting a strain on your relationship with your wife or husband, you should have an open and honest conversation about it.

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