7 Kinds Of Micro-Cheating Therapists Say Are Actually OK In A Relationship
Micro-cheating is a buzzy concept. But therapists have different ideas of what is considered micro-cheating, and what behaviors should be safe to do in healthy, communicative relationships. It's important to respect boundaries, of course, but many couples should be able to do these things without risking emotional or physical cheating.
Micro-cheating is a broad term, definitely. It is typically seen less as a concrete set of actions, and more of a threshold. "Micro-cheating is any type of behavior that can bring up doubts about whether or not someone is being unfaithful in a monogamous relationship," psychotherapist and licensed mental health counselor, Michelle Ingrosso tells Bustle. "It's not an 'obviously' unfaithful behavior such as kissing or intercourse, but, depending on the relationship, [one that] can create a threat to the trust between partners." Therapists can help couples and individuals understand why some behaviors cross the line while others may not. But the quickest way to figure that out for yourself is to set boundaries you are comfortable with.
"Boundary setting will keep you mentally grounded and make sure your relationship is growing in line with your values (which, hopefully, you and your partner both share)," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. These micro-cheating actions can therefore be OK in relationships where boundaries and clear and partners are on the same page.
Here are seven kinds of micro-cheating that therapists say are actually OK in a relationship, as long as you're both cool with it.
1. Texting Someone
In a secure relationship, occasionally texting someone outside of the relationship shouldn't be a threat.
"As long as you aren't keeping your communication a secret from your significant other or are choosing to communicate with this person over your partner, these types of interactions aren't harmful," licensed marriage and family therapist, Irene Schreiner, tells Bustle. If there are certain people you don't trust your partner texting, that's important to bring up with them.
2. Sharing Memes
As long as it doesn't become a habit, occasionally texting someone when you think of them should be OK, even if you're in a relationship.
"Sending an article, meme, or gif of something that you think the other person would enjoy [should be OK] as long as the content of the item being sent is appropriate," Schreiner says. "[I]t's normal to share something with our friends that made us think of them." A lot of the time, sending something really is just about sharing a laugh.
3. Looking On An Ex's Instagram
Occasionally snooping on an ex's social media doesn't have to be considered harmful to a relationship.
"Pulling up your ex's Instagram and looking at some recent posts or stories could be a reason for your partner to question your commitment," Ingrosso says. As long as you aren't keeping communication a secret, Ingrosso says, "[I]t's natural to be curious about someone you shared a past with and fulfilling that curiosity can help decrease the interest in the long-run." If your partner has a habit of looking at their posts for long periods of time, that may be a more serious issue, but periodic curiosity can be innocent.
4. Sharing Hobbies With Others
Not every relationship involves a complete alignment of interests. Sometimes, a partner will have to look elsewhere to do the things they like.
"If your significant other doesn't have the same hobbies as you do, it's important to find people who do," psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling, tells Bustle. "If you're in a healthy relationship your partner should understand that and support you." If you trust your partner, it should be OK for them to have a jogging buddy, or someone they like to paint with.
5. Staying Friends With Someone You Met On An App
In the digital age, friends come from all sorts of unlikely places. If your partner has a few friends that originated as matches on dating apps, that doesn't necessarily mean they're micro-cheating.
"It may seem odd to keep people you met on [dating apps] as [online] friends, or even real life friends, but just because you met someone on a dating app doesn't mean that person is someone you currently want to date — or ever wanted to date," Bennett says. Being clear with your partner about how you feel about these friendships, however, is important for the health of your relationship.
6. Having An Acquaintance Your Partner Doesn't Know About
Constantly keeping tabs on your partner's social circle can be tiring. It also doesn't have to be necessary. While keeping secrets from one another isn't always healthy, it's not so bad to have a friend or two who isn't well-known to your partner.
"Just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean you have to share everything about everybody you know with your partner," Bennett says. "It's OK to have people in your life, even attractive people, that your significant other doesn't know every detail about it. It doesn't necessarily mean you're micro-cheating; it just means you don't have time to list every detail about every person you know to your partner. However, if your partner asks, tell the truth, or else you may be straying in the realm of micro-cheating." Again, honest communication and boundary-setting save the day.
7. Having Lunch With An Ex
Hanging out with an ex a lot can cross boundaries, depending on the agreement the current couple has made, but seeing an ex once or twice to settle things should be OK.
"Having lunch with an old interest can help boost an individual's self-esteem, and allow them to resolve or put an end to any lingering emotions or curiosities associated with them," Ingrosso says. If your partner wants to see their ex for any reason, talk to them about it. The act itself doesn't have to be considered micro-cheating.
What constitutes cheating and micro-cheating has to be decided by couples. But therapist can help point you in the direction of what behaviors should and should not be considered OK. In many cases, with trust, things that can be seen as micro-cheating are actually healthy outlets.