Why 'microcheating' is BS (it's just cheating)

By Lea Rose Emery

When it comes to annoying new dating trends, microcheating is the latest catchy term that is actually really problematic. What is microcheating? Well, experts have been describing it in an annoyingly vague way. One called it a “grey area which falls between flirting and unfaithful behaviour, with examples including the use of romantically charged emojis in a communication with someone outside of your relationship [or] having a secretive online conversation online with them.”

Confused? Well, another called it “a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone outside the relationship.” Any clearer? I didn’t think so. There are a lot of different ways people are defining microcheating- and if you can’t put your finger on it, it might be because it’s not really a thing to begin with. 

Everything from lying about contact with another person, saving someone by a fake name in your phone, sending nudes, and looking at your ex’s social media has been called “microcheating”. And I call BS. Something is either cheating or isn’t it — calling microcheating is total nonsense. It’s complicating something for nothing. And it’s actually a really damaging term to use because it either makes things that are genuinely innocent sound bad — or lets people off the hook for sketchy behavior by making out that it’s not quite cheating. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Here’s why microcheating isn’t a thing. 

You and your partner should have boundaries  

Sure, some things may be totally OK to one person and totally not to another. Some people might think that stalking your ex on Facebook is a huge betrayal of trust, while others might think it’s natural curiosity. But you and your partner should know where you both stand on issues like exes and other people — and what behaviors cross the line. Then “microcheating” doesn’t even come into it. Either you’ve breached their trust or you haven’t. Either you’ve acted out of bounds or you haven’t. End of story. If you and your partner don’t know each other well enough to know what will upset them, you need to sit down and have a conversation. 

You know when something’s right or wrong  

Cheating is a moral issue, right? It’s not an issue of technicalities. If you do something that hurts your partner, that’s what should count, not whether it’s “technically” cheating or not “technically” cheating. And microcheating sounds like a technicality. It sounds like a way to take behaviors that are clearly sh*tty and excuse them by saying, “Well, they’re not as sh*tty as cheating.” But sending nudes to another person, lying about being in contact with someone, keeping your online dating profile active, we can all agree that those are really sh*tty behaviors. If you behave that way, you should have to take responsibility for it — not minimize it by throwing the word “micro” in there. Calling it something different doesn’t change what you’ve actually done. 

It sounds like fertile ground for gaslighting  

Does anyone else think that this minimizing is really worrying? To me, it sounds like fertile ground for gaslighting and manipulation. As soon as we start to add in a grey area to what are clearly not-OK behaviors, we leave a door open to manipulation. Microcheating seems like the first step toward “It’s not like I was cheating.” or “You’re overreacting.” or “You’re imagining things.” It seems like a way to mess with people. And that’s dangerous. If you act hurtfully, then your partner has a right to be hurt — and labeling something as "microcheating" messes with that. 

We all know cheating isn’t just physical 

The bottom line is: why aren’t these things cheating?

OK, maybe not looking at your ex’s Facebook profile — but is that really a big deal anyway? Most of the behaviors — sending sexts, meeting with someone and lying about it, taking nudes for someone else —  those sound like straight-up cheating to me. Sure, it might not be sleeping with another person — but we all know that cheating is about a lot more than sex anyway. You can have emotional infidelity. You can cheat without ever even touching someone else. And most of what we call “microcheating” seems to fall very clearly into that category. Cheating is cheating is cheating. 

Microcheating is very much a thing to talk about at the moment, but that’s just because the internet loves trends. It doesn't make it a real thing. You and your partner should have an understanding about what behaviors are OK — and what crosses the line. Once you know that, then it shouldn’t matter how you label things. It’s all about your partner’s trust. If you betray that, then what you call won’t make a difference. So let’s drop this microcheating BS — when something’s cheating, it’s cheating. 

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