I always used to think of myself as a "natural flirt." Whenever I flirted with someone other than my SO, it didn’t mean anything because I didn’t expect anything to come of it. When I was single and interested, it was a different kind of flirting. At the time, I felt like I wasn't doing anything wrong, until my flirting got me dangerously close to crossing the line between what's appropriate behavior, and what isn't. I started thinking, does flirting count as micro-cheating? The short answer is, yes it can. But really, it depends.
Before we jump into whether or not "harmless" flirting is actually considered cheating, let's rewind a little bit. What even is micro-cheating? I spoke to three experts, and they agreed it can be anything you've done with someone else that you wouldn't want your partner to know about, but without the physicality that comes with outright cheating, like sex, or even kissing.
With such a broad list of things that could fall under micro-cheating, it's important to establish early on in the relationship what lines you and your partner can and can't cross. "The thing about micro-cheating is that it's all relative," Elle Huerta, CEO and founder of heartbreak recovery app Mend, tells Elite Daily. "This is why it's so important to talk with your partner about your expectations and boundaries — someone's micro-cheat might be someone else's innocent gesture, and it might feel like full-on cheating to another person. At the end of the day, it's so important to get on the same page, early and often, about what you're comfortable with (or not)."
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and co-founder of The Popular Man, thinks whether or not flirting is considered micro-cheating is circumstantial. "In some cases, casual flirting could be an example of micro-cheating," Bennett tells Elite Daily. "If you are clearly attracted to another person or have a history with him or her (e.g. you 'made out' once during college or dated), then it’s definitely crossing a line. However, if you are just a friendly and playful person and feel no attraction, then it wouldn’t be micro-cheating."
The thing about micro-cheating is, even though it doesn't consist of anything physical happening between two people, it could lead to that down the line.
"A pattern of micro-cheating, especially with the same person, usually leads down the path to infidelity," Bennett explains. "The more you let yourself become comfortable with the 'little things,' the more you will make excuses to justify 'bigger things,' like cheating."
Micro-cheating can sneak up on you. It could start off as just two friends "messing around," and then turn into something much more than that, which is what happened to me. Sophomore year of college, I met a friend of a friend who I immediately felt drawn to. Even though this attraction wasn't a bad thing in and of itself, the issue was I had a boyfriend at the time. While me and this friend of a friend never physically did anything until after my boyfriend and I broke up, he was there, in the back of my mind, for a big chunk of my relationship. We flirted, and hung out every once in a while, each time getting closer and closer to crossing the line I always swore I'd never cross. It was a dangerous place to put myself, but I justified it by constantly telling myself we were just friends.
"Micro-cheating often starts off as a 'friendship' which then opens the door for a bond to build," Lisa Concepcion, certified professional LoveLife Coach and founder of LoveQuestCoaching.com,tells Elite Daily. "Micro-cheating doesn't involve sex so there's a build-up, even a courtship as a precursor to cheating. Emotional connections can develop with micro-cheating," she explains. And boy, is she right. The emotional connection I felt to that friend of a friend was stronger than I'd ever want to admit.
So, before you start freaking out over whether or not your sly smile to the bartender last night counts as micro-cheating, don't!
If you and your partner haven't sat down to discuss what you are and aren't OK with either of you doing, you probably didn't cross any lines. Like many important relationship conversations (defining the relationship, meeting the parents, "Keke, do you love me?"), the boundaries talk is important, so make sure you and bae have it ASAP. To some, flirting can absolutely be considered micro-cheating. To others, flirting may not count as anything. But it's entirely up to you and your partner to decide.
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