Are You Micro-Cheating?

Louanne Ward

Relationship Expert

May 24, 2021

What seemingly harmless behaviours we all do or have done to us could actually be considered cheating?

Millionaire Matchmaker and Dating and Relationship coach Louanne Ward shares how you could be cheating and not even know it? Find out the most toxic modern dating habits that could have your relationship on the verge of a breakdown.

Could you be cheating and not even know it? Micro cheating is amongst some of the most toxic modern dating habits that could have your relationship on the verge of a breakdown.


Infidelity used to mean one thing: sneaking around with someone other than your partner. From emotional cheating between Rachel and Joey on Friends to movies titled My Best Friend’s Wedding, many of us are familiar with the tale of the cheating partner and the heartache they leave in their wake. 

But there’s a new type of cheating making its way into modern dating. It shows up in the most harmless of places. The one-off conversations, seemingly benign hair twirls and glances that last just a second longer than usual. The ‘you look great’ comment while scrolling social media that leads to checking out and commenting on other posts. Most often they’re behaviours that wouldn’t be considered cheating at all. It’s incidental, harmless, and on a macro level it seems like nothing at first, but these are micro-behaviours that have the potential to create long-lasting issues in a relationship. 

This modern dating phenomenon is called micro-cheating. 

What is micro-cheating?

Micro cheating is defined by small affectionate or romantic behaviours toward someone other than ones’ partner that could be interpreted as flirty and therefore, a subset of infidelity. It’s the secret Tinder profile you never deleted, the flirty water cooler conversations with a coworker which lead to regular lunches, the seemingly harmless wink at the waitress in your favourite local. 

social media

Additionally, COVID-19 has seen a resurgence in the use of the term as we shift to a predominantly digital dating world. We are no longer connecting as easily ‘in the wild’, so a simple swipe, ‘like’ or DM becomes the best form of connection between loved up partners with wandering eyes and the (attractive) strangers that catch them. But aside from the pandemic, why is micro-cheating such a common affliction to modern dating?

Why is micro-cheating happening?

Our phones have become our new best friend and favourite accessory, with the potential of ruining our relationships. The scary part is that despite all the positives of convenience and connection, partnered men and women can also talk to people they probably shouldn’t. They can join apps they probably shouldn’t. And they can arrange meetups with connections they probably shouldn’t. Additionally, with the blurred lines of modern online dating derived from the dating app culture which challenges exclusivity by providing temptation on tap, micro-cheating is especially prevalent. It is difficult to agree (or even discuss) boundaries around dating, loyalty and respectful behaviours, so the non-existent rules of the relationship (or situation-ship) are easily broken by micro-cheating and its loose, subjective definition. 

Are you a micro-cheater? Or suffering at the hands of one?


16 of the most common examples of micro-cheating

and the 5 least talked about.

What counts as micro-cheating? 

Here are some common scenarios that could be interpreted as micro-cheating. Whether you’re actively dating or partnered, are you guilty of any of these or have you experienced them?

  1. Following or talking to an ex on social media or stalking someone’s profile regularly.
  2. Deleting messages so your partner doesn’t see them.
  3. Dating someone on an ongoing basis who believes you’re exclusive, while still talking to other people.
  4. Dressing differently when you know a certain person is going to be at an event.
  5. Planning to catch up with someone who is interested in you and not telling your partner.
  6. Sharing sexual fantasies or kinks with someone outside of your relationship.
  7. Being overly protective of your phone 
  8. Keeping an active dating profile 
  9. Lying about who was at a social gathering.
  10. Regularly making plans to go out in a group of singles without inviting your partner. 
  11. Making flirty or overtly complimentary comments on other people’s social media.
  12. Not sharing your relationship status for extended periods of time when someone is interested in you.
  13. Messaging people in secret, building emotional connections.
  14. Listing someone by a fake name in your contacts
  15. Sharing regular lunches, coffees or after-work drinks with someone. 
  16. Paying more attention in a flirtatious manner to someone else in front of your partner.

5 surprising least talked about forms of micro cheating.

  1. Watching porn to fulfill your desires in preference to sharing sexual fantasies with your partner.
  2. Massages with an attractive masseuse, or one leading to a happy ending.
  3. Visiting strip clubs when you know it upsets your partner.
  4. Talking to other people about your relationship problems without resolving them with your partner.
  5. Looking at your partner’s mobile phone, iPad or computer in secret

Micro-cheating may be growing more prevalent in the era of online dating and COVID-19, but it’s a subset of infidelity with the same amount of power to tear down the strongest relationships. Even behaviours as harmless as a flirty emoji or after-work drinks can, when repeatedly engaged in, create lasting divides. As a result, open communication and clear boundaries are crucial to navigating this modern dating phenomenon that looks like it’s here to stay. 


By Louanne Ward

Relationship Expert

Louanne Ward is a relationship and dating development specialist with over 25 years experience. She writes about love, dating and modern relationships.



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