What Is Micro-Cheating?

While the term cheating is nothing new, the term micro-cheating might be. This term has come to light in recent years, and there’s a lot of speculation surrounding it. Sometimes also referred to as emotional cheating, micro-cheating pushes the boundaries of many relationships and can cause serious emotional consequences. 

Here we’ll detail the definition of micro-cheating, talk about what classifies as micro-cheating, and also discuss the differences between cheating and micro-cheating.

what is micro-cheating?

So, what’s the definition of micro-cheating?

According to Licensed Professional Counselor Alicia Muñoz, micro-cheating can be defined as the act of cultivating inappropriate intimate connections outside of your relationship. While micro-cheating is not physical in the way that cheating is, it is still a violation of any monogamous relationship and should be taken seriously. With micro-cheating—AKA emotional cheating—this breach of trust is when you break emotional fidelity with your significant other.

Oftentimes, micro-cheating takes place in the workplace, school, and at the gym, where temptation is present for many.

Having platonic friends you confide in is not micro-cheating. Emotional cheating occurs when a line is crossed from platonic to intimate interest, such as sharing secrets, desires, or finding yourself attracted to that other person. Above all, most who take part in micro-cheating make a conscious effort to keep this relationship under wraps—especially from their significant other.

In addition to that, others who are around two people taking part in an emotional affair can often sense the strong bond between those two people, such as coworkers who are in close contact on a daily basis. For this reason, emotional affairs at work often have serious consequences given that gossip spreads quickly in the workplace. 

It is true that people define cheating in different ways, but someone who is having an emotional affair should seriously consider what the situation would be like should their partner be committing the same act. Because chances are, they would be hurt if the roles were reversed. Emotional cheating often occurs because a person in a relationship is looking for a way out, feels lonely, or feels as if their relationship is lacking an emotional connection so they take it upon themselves to look elsewhere for it.

what is micro-cheating?

What is classified as micro-cheating?

If you’re curious to know what classifies as micro-cheating, relationship professionals say that this occurs when you become close with someone else outside of your partner and this disrupts the focus and connection you have in your existing relationship.

Generally speaking, micro-cheating occurs via messenger, email, and social media platforms. Micro-cheating can occur once the line is crossed from completely platonic to that of one with sexual undertones.

It is important to have people that you can confide in, who can help lift your spirits during hard times, and that you can laugh and share with. However, these people play a supporting role in your life and not a leading one. And when this boundary is broken with a person, this is the first step on the way to micro-cheating.

The following tell-tale signs indicate micro-cheating behavior:


In the context of micro-cheating, inattention refers to when one partner becomes emotionally distant or less invested in the relationship due to the diversion of their emotional energy toward someone else. This can manifest as a lack of interest in spending quality time together, reduced communication, or diminished engagement in shared activities. The person may seem preoccupied, disinterested, or emotionally detached. Inattention could also involve being mentally or emotionally absent during interactions with your partner, suggesting that your thoughts and emotions are elsewhere, possibly with someone outside the relationship.


Secrecy in micro-cheating involves deliberately withholding information about interactions, conversations, or behaviors with others from your partner. This can include hiding text messages, conversations, or online interactions that you know might be perceived as inappropriate or questionable. It might also involve downplaying the significance of certain interactions, even though you know they hold emotional weight. Engaging in secretive behaviors suggests a conscious effort to keep certain aspects of your interactions hidden, which can erode trust in the relationship.


Defensiveness occurs when one partner becomes overly protective or guarded when questioned or confronted about their actions, especially if they relate to potential micro-cheating behaviors. When asked about certain interactions, behaviors, or choices, a defensive person might react with hostility, avoidance, or deflective responses. They might quickly justify their actions, deny wrongdoing, or blame their partner for being overly suspicious. This defensive stance can hinder productive communication and increase mistrust, making it difficult to address concerns openly and honestly.

Keep reading to learn other common signs of micro-cheating:

  • You spend a significant amount of time thinking about that person when you are away from them
  • That person makes you view your significant other differently, i.e. you make notice of flaws and make comparisons between the two in your mind
  • You suddenly feel less physically and emotionally attached to your partner
  • You feel a sudden sense of urgency that you want out or are unsatisfied in your relationship
  • You make a point never to mention this person to your partner
  • You choose to open up to the other person about your problems/issues/feelings and keep open communication with your partner at minimum
  • You start to think of this person more than you think of your partner
  • You know that this person is sexually attracted to you, and the feeling is mutual
  • You wish that your partner had qualities similar to this other person
  • You feel an obvious connection when you are in the presence of this other person
what is micro-cheating?

Unconscious Signs of Micro-Cheating

Here are some signs that you might be micro-cheating without noticing:

  • Liking, commenting, or frequently engaging with someone else’s social media posts, especially if they are of a romantic or flirtatious nature, can be a sign of micro-cheating.
  • Engaging in private chats, direct messages, or online conversations with someone outside of your relationship, especially if you hide these interactions from your partner, could indicate micro-cheating.
  • Continuously comparing your partner to someone else, either in your mind or in conversations with others, might suggest that you look for qualities outside your relationship.
  • Suppose you’re deliberately omitting details about your interactions with others from your partner. Even if you think those details are insignificant, it can be a sign of micro-cheating.
  • Making frequent inside jokes or comments of a suggestive or flirtatious nature with someone other than your partner, even if you think it’s harmless, could indicate micro-cheating.
  • Sharing personal details, problems, or complaints about your relationship with someone outside your partner might suggest that you seek emotional intimacy elsewhere.
  • Sharing personal details, problems, or complaints about your relationship with someone outside your partner might suggest that you seek emotional intimacy elsewhere.
  • Suppose you downplay the significance of your current relationship to others or make it seem like you’re available. In that case, it can signify keeping your options open.
  • Frequently daydreaming about a specific person or imagining a romantic connection with them can indicate that your thoughts are drifting away from your current relationship.
  • If you’re consistently seeking validation or advice from someone outside of your relationship instead of your partner, it can suggest a deeper emotional connection.

What is the difference between cheating and micro-cheating?

There are two main differences between cheating and micro-cheating. The first main difference between cheating and micro-cheating is that there is no sexual content, i.e. sexual infidelity. Unfortunately, many affairs begin with micro-cheating. Micro-cheating is still hurtful, despite the lack of physical contact. And many argue that a continued breach of trust and a drawn-out emotional affair is just as painful, especially if micro-cheating occurs in a marriage.

Additionally, the difference between cheating and micro-cheating is that oftentimes, the two parties involved in micro-cheating generally care about the well-being of all parties affected. In these relationships, there are typically clear boundaries established to keep the relationship from escalating. But again, micro-cheating is a slippery slope.

Many who commit micro-cheating choose not to view it as officially cheating, but it is in fact cheating regardless of the fact that sexual contact is not taking place. This is because micro-cheating violates trust. It is betrayal and the secrecy surrounding it proves this fact.

Remember, despite the “micro” portion of the definition, “cheating” is the operative word here. With that being said, micro-cheating is still rightfully considered cheating.

Social media is certainly to blame for the rise in micro-cheating for its tendency to encourage you to reconnect with old friends, flames, etc. A person you are not presently committed to but keep sporadic interactions with is a sure-fire recipe for disaster and can often lead to micro-cheating. These types of relationships have been expertly coined as “back burner relationships” given their nature. And, as we know, the internet makes it easier than ever to keep tabs when curious about these people.

Maintaining friendships with an ex often causes issues when you move on, and most of the time, your current significant other would be hurt to know if you were maintaining a relationship with an ex. Should you choose to maintain a relationship with an ex once you begin a new relationship, carefully consider your current partner’s feelings first. 

The Difference Between Micro-Cheating and Emotional Cheating

Micro-cheating refers to subtle behaviors and actions that, while seemingly harmless on their own, collectively suggest a breach of emotional boundaries in a committed relationship. These actions might include flirty texting, maintaining secret online friendships, giving excessive attention to someone else, or engaging in seemingly innocent gestures that carry a romantic undertone. The defining characteristic of micro-cheating is that the actions are often intentionally kept hidden from the partner and can lead to feelings of discomfort or mistrust when discovered.

Conversely, emotional cheating involves a deeper level of emotional connection and intimacy with someone other than the partner. It typically goes beyond harmless flirting or small gestures. It involves sharing personal thoughts, feelings, and problems with the other person that would normally be reserved for the primary partner. Emotional cheaters might turn to this other person for support, companionship, or understanding they may not be getting from their partner. This form of infidelity can be as damaging to a relationship as physical cheating, as it involves the creation of a strong emotional bond that can threaten the existing partnership.

Micro-cheating can cause pain and suffering to those affected

The discovery of micro-cheating often leads to a break of trust, and many times, a dissolution of the relationship. If losing the person you love isn’t worth the risk, then be sure to maintain clear boundaries and steer clear of forming relationships with individuals that can lead you towards dangerous temptation.

When a relationship has issues, turning to a person outside of the relationship is never going to resolve the issues. It will only magnify them and create a new–and far worse–set of problems. When a partner discovers that their significant other is micro-cheating, this usually causes irreversible damage. However, if both parties are willing to talk it out and work through issues together, then the broken relationship can begin healing.

Knowing how to identify micro-cheating is the best way to stop it before it starts. So always take a proactive approach to protect yourself, your partner, and the relationship the two of you share.
Should you suspect that your partner is micro-cheating, performing a name search on a particular person in question can help to give you more insight into the situation. It’s easy to do and you can get results in seconds when you rely on the PeopleFinders name search tool. You deserve to know the truth, so find out here.

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