What Is Micro-Cheating? 6 Behaviors That May Cross The Line In Relationships

There are many reasons why people cheat, according to sex therapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D. “A person may be cheating because they like who they are when they’re with their affair partner. They might feel sexier, smarter, more charming, and more alive when they cheat. With their spouse at home, they might feel invisible, dull, boring, or old,” she writes at mbg.

Zimmerman says this subtler form of cheating often starts by accident. “What begins as a work dinner, a message from an old friend or flame, or a shared workout at the gym can be developed into a flirtation and an intimate affair,” she writes. “Many people have these interactions without it turning into cheating. Others, especially those who aren’t completely fulfilled in their own relationships, begin to indulge the feelings of validation, attraction, and excitement.”

Micro-cheating can be caused by a momentary lapse of judgment, but it could also be a sign that the relationship isn’t right for you. “Some affairs are what I call ‘can openers’—a way to end your partnership even when you didn’t know you wanted out,” Nelson says. “It’s an unconscious way to wake yourself up to the fact that it really is over.”

All that said, a relationship isn’t necessarily over if there’s been micro-cheating in the past. “If both people are open to learning about their own contribution to the problems in the [relationship], if they’re willing to learn how to take responsibility for themselves, they can actually create a much better relationship than they had before,” psychologist Margaret Paul, Ph.D., previously told mbg.

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