Here's What You Should Know About 'Micro-Cheating'
Love & Relationships

Here's What You Should Know About 'Micro-Cheating'

Aight, y'all. Are you ready to try and tackle this topic? Where to begin…where to begin? Oh, I got it. Not too long ago, I checked out a clip from OWN's Black Love series. The couple that I was watching was Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Dondré Whitfield. As they touched on the topic of infidelity, something that Salli stated was, "Well, I said if you did something, I don't know. I'm committed. I'm just gonna have to be mad at you for a long time, torture you. As long as you didn't have another family [I would stay]." Both she and Dondré seemed pretty light-hearted about the topic, but check it—the reason why I looked it up at all is because I initially saw the clip referenced in a forum and the women were H-O-T. Salli was called everything from stupid to desperate while the assumption was made that infidelity probably already happened which is why Dondré was laughing about it. (Goodness, y'all!)

Meanwhile, I'm over here on a totally different side of the fence. One, although they were speaking in total hypotheticals, Salli and Dondré have been married 16 years so, kudos to them for even accomplishing that in Hollyweird. Two, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the commenters have never been married before because it's real easy to say what you will or won't put up with until you are in the situation—or need to be forgiven yourself for cheating (ouch). And three, as a marriage life coach, I'm here to tell you that infidelity—which oftentimes includes surviving infidelity—actually happens a lot. Shoot, at least half of the couples I've dealt with have experienced it. Sometimes it's the husband who cheated, sometimes it's the wife—many times it's both. And, a lot of them have worked through it and have thriving marriages now.

Whenever I'm asked what I think about cheating, there are three things that I typically say. One, traditional marriage vows don't only consist of "remaining faithful so long as you both shall live". Sticking it out when your partner is broke and sick, holding them down during good times and bad, remaining until death parts you are up in there too. So, when a spouse doesn't do that, is that also a form of vow-breaking (just sayin')?

Two, we all should take a moment to think about how we'd want our partner to treat us if we cheated on them; sometimes we won't extend the forgiveness and mercy that we wish to receive. Three, what I would advise a married couple vs. a dating one is very different; married people took vows, they signed on a dotted line—it's far more serious. And four, cheating has layers and perspectives. What I mean by that is actor Olivia Wilde once said, "I think that women are more sensitive to emotional infidelity than men. I think men are more scared of physical infidelity." (I think it depends on the man or woman that you ask.) Author Susan Forward once said, "When your lover is a liar, you and he have a lot in common, you're both lying to you!" Dr. Shirley Glass once said, "The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust."

What all of this screams out is you've got to figure out where your line is. With that said, micro-cheating is a form of cheating that can help you to know exactly where your line is.

So, What Is Micro-Cheating, Anyway?


Cheating is a form of betrayal and betrayal hurts. There's no doubt about that. And just how many people are betrayed via infidelity? When it comes to cheating in a marriage, it's been reported that 23 percent of husbands have cheated while 12 percent of wives have. But I'm thinking that 1) some folks didn't tell the truth and 2) that must be related to sex because another study reveals that 45 percent of men and 35 percent of women have owned up to participating in an emotional affair. As far as micro-cheating goes, it's what I consider to be the "gateway drug" to physical and emotional infidelity. It's when you basically ride the pencil-thin line of faithfulness and unfaithfulness.

But where it gets tricky is different people have different definitions of where that line actually is. So, how about I pose some situations and scenarios and you tell me if you think that it's crossing your line or not:

  • Your significant other texting members of the opposite sex
  • Your significant other going out to lunch or dinner with a female friend or co-worker
  • Your significant other buying a woman you don't know a present or paying one of their bills
  • Your significant other communicating with women that they don't reveal to you
  • Your significant other responding to non-professional or strictly platonic DMs
  • Your significant other still remaining in touch with their ex (or exes)
  • Your significant flirting with other people
  • Your significant other dancing with other people (whether they personally know them or not)
  • Your significant other exchanging PG-rated pics to another woman
  • Your significant other giving their phone number to someone of the opposite sex

When you see it in black-and-white like this, now do you see why micro-cheating has the "micro" in front of it and, based on how you define cheating, it can be a bit of a hard call? That's the entire point. Sometimes, it's the itty-bitty-seemingly-harmless acts that can put a person on the path to doing some real damage to their relationship.

When It Comes to These Actions, Check the Motive and Intent


If you go to your favorite search engine and put "micro-cheating" into the search field, you'll see a good amount of articles on the topic (a pretty good one is "Micro-Cheating Could Be Ruining Your Relationship. Here's What to Do About It."). I've read—or at least skimmed—a good amount of them. The conclusion that I've come to is it's all about motive. Well, motive and if your partner is sneaking or not. What I mean by that is (for instance) not everyone who is still friends with an ex is still trying to get with them (see "Why Staying Friends With An Ex Is Okay (& Healthy)" or heck, check out Erykah Badu and Common performing together at the 2019 Black Girls Rock! show). Same point applies to your man telling a female co-worker that she looks nice or him interacting with people on his socials that the two of you haven't had a detailed conversation about.

Where it gets tricky—and by "tricky" what I really mean is shady—is if something or one comes to your attention, you address your man and he blows it off, deflects or gets defensive (also check out "This Is How To Tell If Someone's Lying To You"). Because if everything is innocent, all good and totally above board, what is exactly the problem with you asking (not accusing but asking) and him answering what's up?

But here's the deal—if he does take an issue with your inquiry, that's when we've just entered into the totally uncomfortable world of micro-cheating. And if micro-cheating goes on long enough, there's a good chance that it could transition into full-blown cheating.

What Should You Do About a Micro-Cheater?


OK, so what exactly should you do if you find out that your man is a bona fide micro-cheater? Well, it can't be said enough that it's important that you both discuss a topic like this before you get to cussin' and delving out punishments—I'm sorry, I mean consequences. Because again, sometimes cheating looks different ways to different people. While you may make it a habit to block any ex or person who flirts with you online, don't assume that everyone else processes social media interaction the same way. It's when you and he have come to a mutual decision of what micro-cheating is and he violates it that things get…strange. Because if you've both decided to not do certain things and he does, that is a form of disrespect as well as a violation and, as a novelist by the name of Patti Callahan Henry once said, "Cheating and lying aren't struggles, they're reasons to break-up."

I agree—if you're dating. Because to me, dating is a lot like interviewing someone for a position; if they are showing you that they aren't qualified, it's best to end things before getting more involved. If you're married? I'm not saying to sit and take it by any stretch. But what I would encourage you to do is at least go to counseling first. I know many people who have been disappointed by their spouse, immediately left and went on to regret it whether it was a month later or 10 years down the road (I'll be writing about that soon; in the meantime, an article that address this is "4 Reasons You Might Regret Getting Divorced Down the Line"). Marriage isn't something to enter into lightly or leave without really thinking it through. Speaking with a therapist, counselor or coach may be able to offer up an "outside looking in perspective" so that you can make a decision that you can have complete and total peace about—now and years from now.

OK y'all. It's blatantly obvious that micro-cheating is something that could be discussed for days on end. But for now, at least if it comes up in the break room at work, you'll know what folks are referring to. And, if you want to find a way to "cheat proof" your relationship, you can forward this onto your boo so that the two of you can discuss what you both think micro-cheating is—and come to a mutual conclusion, moving forward.

A wise person once said that one snowflake is the beginning of an avalanche. Apply that here and it's more one act of micro-cheating could possibly become responsible for infidelity. Now that you know what it is, don't let it. Both of you…don't let it.

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