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January 15, 2020

Is Micro-Cheating A Thing?

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Micro-cheating is a pop-culture term that classifies a range of common behaviours as “cheating”.

Behaviours that have been classified as micro-cheating include: using emoticons, liking too many photos on an account, “deep liking” online (liking old photos), posting sexy selfies, having friends of the gender(s) to which you’re attracted, and having private DM conversations.

I think this is absurd. What specifically constitutes cheating is subjective, but the micro-cheating expectations set some very narrow guidelines that simply are not realistic. In fact, some of these expectations are rooted in control, possession and monitoring that sets off some red flags with the potential to undermine respect, love and personal autonomy.

I sat down with Carolyn and Jeff on Global TV’s The Morning Show to discuss a few so-called micro-cheating scenarios. Check out the video and my supplementary notes below.

Is it fair to say that anything that makes your partner uncomfortable should be classified as cheating or micro-cheating?

Certainly, some of these behaviours can cause tension in a relationship, but tension itself is not evidence that your behaviour is in appropriate; compatibility and monogamy are subjective concepts — one person might be fine with their partner dancing sensually with another person and another might find it threatening. Neither is right or wrong — it’s up to you and your partner to talk about expectations and boundaries.

I’m more concerned about the desire to control your partner’s behaviour than I am about many of the behaviours on the so-called micro-cheating list.

What if you disagree on these boundaries and definitions of cheating?

If you disagree, you run into an issue of compatibility. Again — there is no universal standard. Many of our expectations around relationships are personal, cultural and even regional.

You have to talk about these issues and behaviours from the onset and you need to keep talking. It’s a conversation that requires vulnerability and work and compromise. You don’t get to call the shots and the real mistakes people make is the assumption of monogamy, and the assumption that monogamy means the same thing to everyone. It doesn’t. We have a wealth of data to support this, but people are so hung up on their belief that they are the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong that they make far too many assumptions.

Let’s say you have this conversation and you still disagree. Does this mean you’re incompatible?

It might. But you might also need to be more flexible. If you expect to find someone who agrees with you on everything, you should stop looking. They don’t exist. It can feel that way when you first meet because you’re overwhelmed by passion chemicals, but once you get to know them, I can assure you there will be significant differences in definitions and expectations.

How do you have the conversation effectively?

You dig deep and get vulnerable. And you talk about feelings first. If something makes you uncomfortable, you need to identify the emotion associated with that discomfort — is it insecurity, self-consciousness, fear, threat of loss or another negative emotion? Talk about the feeling that underlies your desire or belief as opposed to debating the righteousness of a behaviour. If you don’t want your partner to text their ex, talk about how it makes you feel as opposed to discrediting the person. When you show vulnerability, it leads to more honest and meaningful conversations.

And for the partner who is engaging in a behaviour that causes tension, ask yourself why it’s important to you. Why do you do it? Do you chat with your ex because you’re secretly hoping for an intimate connection or do you stay in touch because they’re an important person in your life? Convey the underlying motivation and feelings honestly to your partner.

We’ll all be better off when we stop trying to control one another — especially with shaming language like “micro-cheating”.

Want to learn more about vulnerability and how to be more Emotionally Literate? Check out this interview with Karen BK Chan.