I’m A Chronic Micro-Cheater But I Don’t Think It’s A Big Deal

It’s way better to just break up than cheat on someone you’re no longer feeling, but micro-cheating is all about lightly flirting, perhaps to get attention from someone who isn’t your partner. After learning the definition, I realized I did this more often than not. Here’s why I don’t think it’s a problem.

  1. Getting attention from someone else will remind you that you’re still a catch. There’s a big difference between playfully flirting and openly asking someone to hook up. If someone is receptive to a winky text or a funny inside joke, it’s just a boost of self-confidence that should make you feel good. With boyfriends, sometimes that initial spark dies down. Once you’re locked in, they stop flirting. Flirting makes you feel like you’re a catch, which you still are — even in a committed relationship.
  2. It’s an important communication skill that you don’t want to get rusty on. If you’re in your 20s, there’s a good chance you’ll be dating around until you find “The One.” While I had a few good long-term relationships that could have progressed into more during that time, often times thing sizzled since we got too boringly comfortable. I didn’t want to be the girl who forgot how to talk to guys or forgot how to meet new people just because my current situation required a lot of couch time and Netflix. Plus, a lot of the traits of “micro-cheating” are simply things I see as being social.
  3. I knew I’d never take it to an inappropriate level. They say that micro-cheating is the first step towards an emotional affair. I’ve never allowed it to get to that point. An important part of any relationship is trust, and if I crossed a line that a boyfriend wasn’t cool with, I knew I probably couldn’t easily regain that back. In other words, I knew what I was doing. To me,  it was more “charming” than “cheating.”
  4. I don’t want to be forced to stop talking to guys in general just because I’m in a relationship. You often hear about women forcing men to stop talking to other girls, even lifelong platonic friends. I hate this and I’d never pull that move on a significant other. Likewise, I hope he wouldn’t do that to me. You’re allowed to have a social life outside of a relationship.
  5. I flirt but I don’t hide things. The term “micro-cheating” is still fairly new, and it’s a little questionable about what behaviors fall under it. Liking a bunch of someone else’s social media statuses is up there, as is subtle flirting. Those are things I do. Others think micro-cheating is about hiding phone numbers or deleting sexy texts. Those are things I definitely don’t do.
  6. I’m more than just “Guy X’s girlfriend.” If my partner doesn’t like me dressing up for work (for myself and my coworkers) or trying to look sexy outside of date night, that’s his own insecurity. As for my phone, I feel entitled to my own private conversations — yes, even with a man —  because I refuse to have someone tell me who I can and can’t talk to when I know I’m playing by the rules. Boyfriends don’t own you.
  7. Not being able to joke with others seems pretty sad. Having an inside joke with a guy should be the same as having an inside joke with a girl. It’s a joke, plain and simple. I shouldn’t be allowed to only joke around and share memories with my significant other — that’s just weird. Just because I share a personal moment with a member of the opposite sex doesn’t mean we’re about to jump into bed together.
  8. I have no problem downplaying a relationship if they’re not showing much effort. I’ve dated some guys who’ve wanted to do nothing—and I mean nothing. Any sort of family event, or party, or work event, they preferred to stay home. I get that some people aren’t social, but sometimes you have to take one for the team. I’m never going to say I’m single, but I might downplay things if I feel like he’s subconsciously doing the same.
  9. I don’t think couples need to know about every conversation that goes on. Pretend I message an ex since I’ve heard that his mom had a medical scare. This ex and I were close but became acquaintances when we realized romance wasn’t in the cards. To the world, contacting my ex in secret would be micro-cheating, especially if I deleted that conversation. But really, it’s a conversation that has nothing to do with romance or love. I think contacting exes is totally fine unless that text reads, “Wanna hook up?”
  10. A heart emoji doesn’t mean “I want to have an affair.” We live in a world where a majority of our conversation happens through text. That’s why emojis are so important. To me, sending a heart can mean “I appreciate that” or “I love what you said.” It doesn’t mean “Let’s have sex right now.”  There’s a big difference between loving someone or something they do, and being in love with them. If my partner has trouble differentiating between the two, maybe that’s an incompatibility that we need to work on.
Karen Belz is a New Jersey native who is currently living in Maryland. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication with a focus in Broadcasting and Print Media Studies from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Since graduating, she has written for sites like LittleThings, HelloGiggles, and Scary Mommy and is currently an e-commerce editor at Bustle.

When she's not writing, she enjoys making her phone run out of memory after taking too many photos of her dog. You can find her on Twitter @karenebelz or on Instagram @karenbelz.