How To Get Over Micro-Cheating In A Relationship, According To Experts

Ad failed to load

If you've somehow yet to hear of it, micro-cheating is a new term for a relationship behavior that, unfortunately, isn't at all new itself. In an article for HuffPost Australia, dating expert Melanie Schilling defines micro-cheating as "a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone outside their relationship." For example, if your partner is being shady about how much they communicate with a certain friend, or if they downplay how serious your relationship is to someone else, that could fall under the micro-cheating umbrella. And, while some people don't necessarily agree that micro-cheating is a real thing — after all, every couple has different boundaries for their relationship — the issue at the heart of micro-cheating is very real.

"I think the root of micro-cheating is deception," Bruna Nessif, Founder of The Problem With Dating, tells Bustle. "If you're feeling the need to lie about something to your partner, whether it's small or big, then ask yourself why? We hear that communication is key time and time again, and yet so many of us struggle with opening up to our partners about issues, either within ourselves or our relationships, and that's what snowballs into bigger problems."

While not as overt as a full-blown physical or emotional affair, micro-cheating can nonetheless have a significant impact on your relationship. It's OK to have close relationships outside of your romantic relationship, but if you feel the need to hide aspects of your other relationships from your partner, that's a sign that there are bigger problems in your relationship that need work.

Ad failed to load

"Having intimate connections in the form of friendships with both sexes outside of your relationship can be very healthy," Nessif says. "Often times, we tend to expect our partner to meet our every need, sexual and emotional, forever — but that's a lofty ask and can become very suffocating. Seeking emotional guidance or clarity in someone else is not synonymous with cheating on your partner. The key is to have open communication with your significant other about your relationships with these people, so they're not caught in the dark about who you're confiding in, while also setting clear boundaries with those you create connections with so nothing is left for interpretation."

If you feel that your partner has engaged in behavior that qualifies as micro-cheating, here are five expert tips that will help you and your partner to deal with the fallout, and rebuild your relationship so it's even stronger going forward.

Ad failed to load

1Allow Your Partner To Explain Themselves

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If you catch your partner micro-cheating, don't jump to conclusions: instead, give your partner a chance to explain why they might not have been entirely truthful with you.

"[Don't] assume you know the entire story and create permanent reactions to temporary emotions," Nessif says. "Take a beat. Give the person you love an opportunity to explain themselves before you take control of the narrative."

2Be Honest About How Their Actions Made You Feel

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Honesty is the best policy in life, and especially in relationships. So don't be afraid to tell your partner exactly what about their behavior was hurtful to you, that way they'll have a better chance of really understanding you going forward.

"Don't get defensive and assume your partner's motives," Nessif says. "What may seem as obvious micro-cheating to you may seem completely innocent in their eyes. Express that their actions made you feel uncomfortable and explain why. Allow your partner to explain themselves, and continue a dialogue that promotes understanding from both of you."

3Set Boundaries For The Future

Ashley Batz/Bustle

The number one thing you should do if your partner micro-cheats? Set firm boundaries for the future so that neither of you has any doubt about what is and is not acceptable behavior in the relationship.  

"Express your boundaries to your partner and explore if they are willing to meet them," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, Relationship Therapist, and Founder of online relationship community Relationup, tells Bustle. "Share with your partner how their behavior impacts you (e.g. it make you feel insecure, jealous, worried etc.) and express your desire to have them alter or terminate their behavior."

Ad failed to load

4Ask Your Partner To Examine Their Motives For Micro-Cheating

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

It doesn't make lying and deception OK, but it is possible that your partner didn't even realize that some of their behavior was unacceptable — and they probably need time to reflect on why they might have crossed that line in the first place.

"Encourage your partner to examine their motives for their behavior," Milrad says. "It may turn out that your partner is unhappy with current dynamics in your relationship that need to be addressed and/or they are struggling with their own individual issues. Either way, it is helpful for them to identify what they want to change or need to work on in order not to engage in this kind of behavior."

5Actively Work To Rebuild Trust

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

After any kind of cheating — big or small, overt or subtle — the most important thing you can do is come up with a plan together to rebuild the trust in your relationship.

"Rebuilding trust is about showing your partner that you are in this thing," Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger, Licensed Psychologist at Insight to Action, tells Bustle. "Being open and honest about what you feel is missing in the relationship. Making sure you are asking questions about what your partner feels is missing. Focus [on] strengthening the friendship in the relationship. And keeping open and honest communication at the forefront."

Ultimately, only you and your partner can decide what behaviors count as cheating or inappropriate within the context of your relationship. But if you're able to talk openly about your feelings and set boundaries that you're both comfortable with, there's no reason that you can't both learn and grow from an instance of micro-cheating.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Bustle's Editors On Ice Dancing + Rihanna

For those of you who had a holiday on President's Day, welcome to the start of the work week! And for everyone who worked yesterday, you're one day closer to the weekend, woo! Today's been a fairly chill day so far — we've got more on the Winter Olym…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

Here Are All The Terms You Need To Know If You’re Watching Olympic Ski Events Right Now

Every four years the Winter Olympics rolls around to remind me that A) there are so many important Winter Olympic sports, and B) I know virtually nothing any of them. And I know for a fact, I'm not alone, I bet most people don't know what the differe…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
via Romper

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale

17 Moms Reveal The Most Disgusting Part Of Their Pregnancy

Pregnant bodies do weird-ass things. Weird-ass, gross things. I mean, my pregnant body did (twice), and I have long-suspected I'm not alone. So I asked other moms to share the most disgusting part of their pregnancy and I learned that, not only am I …
via Romper