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February 7, 2020

A Rant About Micro-Cheating

Episode 145

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This is a six minute quickie! And it’s a bit of a rant about micro-cheating. From deep-liking to chatting with an ex, what behaviours are considered cheating? And how do you deal with a partner whose behaviour is making you uncomfortable? Have a quickie listen today!

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.

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”.

Drive Her Wild Banner

Rough Transcript

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

A Rant About Micro-Cheating

(00:05):

You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Sex and relationship advice you can use tonight.

(00:20):

Hey, Hey, Jess O’Reilly here on my own day, because I’m on the road. And this is going to be a quickie because my speaking tour is keeping me super busy with flights every morning and speeches at least every night. I have just landed in Vancouver, via Calgary, via Saskatoon, via DC, via Ottawa this week. And I’m here for the Taboo Naughty But Nice show with We-Vibe. I’ll be offering seminars on a range of topics this weekend down at Canada place if you happen to be in the Vancouver area. So I’m gonna keep this brief and share my thoughts perhaps a little bit of a rant on the topic of micro cheating.

Micro cheating. So this is a pop culture term that classifies a huge range of common behaviours as cheating. So some of the behaviours that have made the micro cheating list include using emoticons when you’re texting people, liking too many photos on somebody’s account, posting sexy selfies, having friends of the opposite sex or of the gender to which you’re attracted, which is super confusing for those of us who are attracted to all genders. Having private DM conversations, being in touch with an ex, flirting. And I think this concept of micro cheating is absurd. What specifically constitutes cheating is subjective, but the micro cheating expectations set some very narrow guidelines that I don’t think most those people can stay within. And in fact, I think some of these limitations set by micro cheating are rooted in control and possession, and monitoring. And this has the potential to undermine respect, love and personal autonomy in relationships.

And I guess micro cheating is rooted in the feeling of discomfort. The idea that if my partner does something that makes me uncomfortable, I’m going to classify it as micro cheating. Now, certainly some of the behaviours on the micro cheating list can cause tension in a relationship, but tension itself is not evidence that your behaviour is inappropriate. Compatibility and monogamy are really subjective concepts, as is what is ‘appropriate’. So one person might be fine with their partner dancing with someone else, and another person might find it threatening, and neither response is more valid than the other. But it’s up to you and your partner to talk about your expectations, your boundaries and your emotional response to a range of behaviours. I’ll tell you I’m a lot more concerned with the desire to control your partner’s behaviour than I am about the actual behaviours on this so called micro cheating list.

Now you might disagree on the boundaries of monogamy and you might disagree on the definition of cheating. And you know if if that’s the case you might run into an issue of compatibility, because there is no universal standard. And our expectations of relationships are personal, cultural, even regional. So you have to talk about issues and behaviours from the onset, and it’s a conversation that is ongoing and requires vulnerability and work and compromise. I think what’s important is that we acknowledge that you don’t get to call the shots, and you can’t assume that monogamy means the same thing to everyone, because it doesn’t. We have a wealth of data supporting the fact that monogamy means different things to different people. But you don’t wanna get so hung up on your belief that you are the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, that you make assumptions about what your partner wants, and you force your expectations, your values upon them. And if you talk about monogamy or what constitutes cheating and you disagree, you might be at an impasse, you might be incompatible. But you might also just need to be more flexible if you expect to find someone who agrees with you on everything, stop looking. They don’t exist.

Of course it feels like that when you first meet someone because you’re so in love, and those limerence chemicals are flooding the body, you got adrenaline rush, an endorphin rush, a rush of dopamine, fluctuations in serotonin. It feels so good. But they’re not perfect for you, I can assure you that over time, you already know this, there are going to be significant differences in your definitions of monogamy, your definitions of cheating, and your expectations. So you need to talk about it and you need to dig deep and get vulnerable and talk about your feelings first. Feelings. If something makes you uncomfortable, you need to identify the emotion associated, underpinning that discomfort. Is it insecurity, is it self consciousness, is there a fear? Are you experiencing a threat of loss, or another negative emotion. Talk about the feeling that underlies your desire, or your belief, or your discomfort, as opposed to debating the righteousness of a specific behaviour. So for example, if you don’t want your partner to talk to their ex, talk about how it makes you feel, as opposed to discrediting the person or attacking the behaviour.

When you show vulnerability, we know it leads to these more honest and meaningful conversations in loving relationships. And if you’re the partner that is engaging in a behaviour that causes tension, you don’t necessarily have to stop, but you want to consider your partner’s feelings. Ask yourself why it’s important to you, why do you do it? If you’re chatting with your ex, is it because you’re secretly hoping that there’ll be a re-spark, new intimate connection, or you’re just in touch with them because they’re an important person in your life and you like them. I think conveying the underlying motivation and the feelings attached to the behaviour is going to help your partner to understand why you’re engaging in this behaviour, and maybe help them to be a little bit more flexible. We will all be so much better off if we stopped trying to control one another, especially with the shaming language of micro cheating. So let’s focus on what we feel, what we want, as opposed to attacking behaviours. because that gets us nowhere.

That is my quickie, I have to stop now. I’m heading to the stage shortly at Canada Place. I hope wherever you’re at, you have a great one. If you are in Vancouver, be sure to come say hi.

(07:10):

You’re listening to the Sex With Dr Jess Podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.