This Is The Difference Between Micro-Cheating & Cheating, & TBH, It’s Not That Big

As time goes on, it seems like relationships are becoming harder and more complex to navigate. Our constantly evolving dating sphere has led to a steady stream of new trends and verbiage around dating, and let's be real, staying up-to-date on everything can get extremely confusing. However, for the sake of clarity, it's important to continually recognize and analyze even the most nuanced behavior that can negatively impact relationships. While some people, myself included, believe that there is a huge difference between micro-cheating and cheating, you might be surprised by the similar ways in which both of these behaviors can sabotage a relationship.

For those of you who don't know, micro-cheating is any "inappropriate" behavior that you know your partner would be upset about if they were to hear or witness.

“Micro-cheating [can be] sexual flirtation via social media from someone who’s already in a relationship," NYC relationship expert Susan Winter told Elite Daily. “And, it may also be an in-person office flirtation that remains verbal, rather than physical.”

Well, if you've just started profusely sweating and freaking out about whether or not that one time you flirted with your co-worker at last year's Christmas party actually counts as infidelity, relax. Although being overly flirty certainly isn't something that most partners would be OK with, micro-cheating and full-blown cheating are different in a few key ways.

"Full-out cheating involves physical (sexual) contact," explains Winter. "Whereas micro-cheating is confined to inappropriate flirtation."

So, if you've crossed the line verbally by leading someone on, or conversing in a way that could make them think you're single and interested, then this would fall into the category of micro-cheating.

Now, I'm sure plenty of you are wondering if flirting is such a huge deal that it deserves a title that even has the word "cheating" in it. Don't most people have sexual thoughts about someone besides their partner and occasionally say something flirtatious? The short answer is maybe, but the bigger problem with micro-cheating is the fact that it could lead to actual cheating later down the line.

"How do you know the difference between normal human behavior and 'playing with fire?' It's too bad there isn't one sign or line to cross that tells you you're on the brink of cheating," noted psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, tells Elite Daily.

According to both Winter and Wish, even if micro-cheating behavior feels harmless in the moment, things can cross the point of no return much quicker than you might expect.

"Think of how slowly it takes for white paint to change color when you add, let's say, red to it," explains Wish. "At first, you don't see any change. And then slowly and then suddenly the paint color is red."

Another thing that separates cheating from micro-cheating is that most people don't take it very seriously. Thus, these small breaches of trust aren't addressed until something more destructive happens.

"Though on different levels, micro-cheating can be just as destructive as full-on physical cheating," warns Winter. "It indicates some level of partner dissatisfaction, discontent or boredom. This blatant level of disrespect will erode the self-esteem of one’s partner."

Yikes. When you put it that way, it's clear that even the smallest compromises of trust have the potential to add up and cause some serious damage. This is why it's extremely important to be completely honest with your partner. At the end of the day, not everyone defines micro-cheating and infidelity in the same way. Instead of assuming anything borderline is OK, a great way to avoid conflict is to make sure both you and your partner are on the same page about any potential grey areas.

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