Microcheating: A term that has become commonly used in the digital age of social media, sex-positivity and dating apps. “Microcheating,” as defined by Melanie Schilling, “is a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focusing on someone outside of their relationship.”

I consider myself an extremely confident and painfully non-jealous person in a relationship. While I was researching microcheating, numerous examples came up: Lying about your relationship status to somebody of the opposite sex, deleting text messages, liking photos of attractive Instagram models, and changing the name of the person you’re texting to hide their identity from your partner.

Some of these seemed a little left field to me; however, I could understand how many of those examples would make some people uncomfortable. So, I took this topic to a group of people – which blurred the lines for me even more.

There is one thing that’s for sure though: This caused a HEATED debate.

Everyone that had a say in the matter had a good argument for WHY they were either pro-microcheating or anti-microcheating. And the conversation always came down to two things: intent and communication.


Let’s begin by saying that none of the people that condoned microcheating actually condoned physical or emotional infidelity. They just simply had a sharp line between cheating and harmless interactions that make you feel good.

“In a world where everything we do is scrutinized, why would we look for more reasons to be judged? Especially like a harmless ‘like’ on Instagram?”

Their argument centred around still behaving like an independent, stand-alone individual who can appreciate the beauty of other people – as long as it takes them home at night.

Another pro-microcheater that I spoke to felt that there was a correlation between insecurity and jealousy.

There was critique over the mention of the topic “microcheater.” The argument? Such an absurd term didn’t exist before the digital age. Our mothers and grandmothers saw it black and white: Do not engage in a physical relationship with another woman. In the 1920s, relationships likely didn’t stress about the grey area. Why put more boundaries, expectations and stress on something already fragile (such as a relationship)?

Or, as I explained to one of my subjects, he responded: “Just the way she goes, I guess.” He acknowledged that social media is just another part of society and didn’t understand why there was added weight to something as insignificant as a ‘like’.


The anti-microcheaters were especially passionate when pleading their case.

“If you’re signalling availability, then you’re out of bounds.”

“Anything that you would feel uncomfortable telling your significant other about should be considered microcheating.”

“If you begin to lean on outside sources for anything, then you’re unfaithful to a degree.”

“All examples of microcheating would be a huge betrayal of trust in my relationship. My significant other and I also consider watching pornography inappropriate behaviour.” Another person I spoke to had experienced a steady progression in their relationship – from microcheating to a full-blown affair.

The anti-microcheaters acknowledged that the new generation is in a different age. However, with new methods of communication, should come new rules of appropriate conduct in a relationship.

With new advances in technology, other “signals” can be given through text message and/or social media. The argument was that once an impression of opportunity has been set with a third-party, then you’re in breach of your relationship. One woman that I spoke with insinuated that we, as a society, have learned to read online gestures now.

If a man, single or not, is liking all of our selfies, we may conclude that they either are – or will be – available to us.

Similarly, by downplaying our relationship to somebody, in the form of, “Oh, it’s been rocky” or “Oh, it’s just casual”, then we are signalling a potential relationship (to some degree) with a third party.

On the flip side, if a stranger that you’re not attracted to approaches you, you may tell them that you’re in a relationship – even if you’re not – in an attempt to signal that you’re unavailable.


First and foremost, trust is a vital part of any relationship. Breaching that trust is always room for disaster. However, it’s important to note that your significant other’s boundaries may be different from other peoples.

With leads us to COMMUNICATION.

It’s clear that when asking people what their opinion of microcheating is, there was a strong divide between people that were against it and those that found it irrelevant. Which is to say: there is no right or wrong way to feel about this “grey area”.

It’s important that you have an open and honest conversation with your partner about what crosses your boundaries. It’s crucial that you both understand what is appropriate and what isn’t to maintain mutual respect and comfort.

‘This is also a conversation that has to be renewed on the regular. Things change and boundaries change,” was a piece of interesting feedback I received. Of course, with the ever-changing nature of the digital world, it’s essential to follow up with our partner frequently to ensure that they are still comfortable with your behaviour in the relationship.

I followed up with the question, “What if my partner is insecure, and I believe that what they feel is inappropriate or ludicrous, and stunts my growth and/or personality? How do you navigate it when you blatantly disagree with what your partner sees as cheating?”

“Then you should re-evaluate the relationship. If your partner sees something as cheating, and you disagree with respecting their boundaries and restraining from that behaviour, then maybe the relationship isn’t a good fit.”

Another important thing to consider is the INTENT behind the action.

Do you intend for other people to feel lustful toward you? Is it your intent to betray or disrespect your partner?

If you are going into situations innocently, then I don’t believe you’re microcheating. HOWEVER, if you are deleting texts, lying about where you are, or changing people’s names in your phone, then I genuinely believe you aren’t entirely innocent.

It’s human nature to be attracted to people outside your relationship; however, I think the general consensus is that you can navigate your relationship with honesty and trust.

Regardless of your stance on microcheating and whether or not it’s crossing a line in your relationship, I think the most important thing you can take from this is:

– Don’t delete your texts.
– Talk it out.
– Be honest.

Written by Celina Dawdy