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After the affair: How to move on from micro-cheating

Almost daily I support people who tell me ‘My husband has cheated on me’ or ‘or I have found my wife sexting another man, what should I do? When I discuss this with couples further, I often find that there is normally a huge difference between what one person sees as cheating compared to the other. No one can deny having sex with someone outside of the marriage if you did not agree to an open marriage is cheating right?

However, more complicated than this, are areas such as sexting, texting, flirting, and porn. Some count this as infidelity and others choose not to. Personally, my take is if you would not do it with your husband or wife present and or you are hiding or lying about it then it is cheating and trust will be broken.

This is why today I am covering the super important topic of micro-cheating and what to do if your partner has cheated on you and how to save the relationship.

Micro-cheating is where you take part in less obvious or what some term smaller forms of infidelity – things that on a larger scale or over a longer period of time would be considered full-blown cheating. These small things can have a huge emotional and even physical impact on your relationship, like “harmless” friendly flirting with a colleague, speaking to members of the opposite sex on social media, or even keeping in regular contact with an ex that you have not fully got over.

This is where the problems begin to show and why the word “cheating” is a part of this term. If you are spending more quality time with someone of the opposite sex other than your partner, or if you find yourself thinking about someone else more than your relationship, it becomes harder to stay faithful or dedicated to your partner – which means it becomes easier to cheat on them. What may have started out as an innocent conversation, can, over time turn into something more heartbreaking for your loved one.

We are now living in a time where we are spending more and more time on technology in all aspects of our lives, from professional situations to relaxing at home or socialising with friends and family. Technology has made it easier for us to feel closer to our loved ones, however, this also makes it so much easier to take part in micro-cheating as there are more ways to keep conversations hidden or believe they are less harmful or hurtful because they are “only” messages online.

Whilst some of these behaviours may not seem like a cause for concern initially and may start out innocently, it is when those lines are blurred that problems can start to arise. This is where the term micro-cheating comes into play.

I know some of you may be wondering “How do I know if I’m micro-cheating?”. I will share a few of the most common examples. But first I want you to remember that every relationship has its own boundaries of what actions are considered cheating, so it is important to have a conversation with your loved one on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour when it comes to interactions outside of your relationship.

Here are the most common examples of micro-cheating:

  • Flirting with someone other than your partner

  • Paying more attention to the clothes you wear or how you look when you are around a certain someone, wanting someone to want you

  • Sending unnecessary and friendly emails or texts to someone

  • Lying to your other half about who you are spending time with outside of your work/home life

  • Unnecessarily complimenting someone

  • Signing up to dating apps behind your partner’s back

  • Speaking to members of the opposite sex on social media apps

  • Sending gifts or spending money on someone in a more than friendly way

  • Hiding or deleting conversations from your partner

  • Allowing your boss to cross into your personal life

    So now you know what constitutes as micro-cheating I want to touch on the reasons why people find themselves in this position.

    Although there is a difference between full-blown infidelity and micro-cheating, it is so important to remember that both can cause real problems in any relationship. More often than not when someone is taking part in smaller activities that are considered the lesser damaging than full-on cheating, it is still a form of betrayal or hurt to the other person. This is why I want to share with you the reasons why a person might commit micro-cheating.

    Why do men/women micro-cheat?

    It is common for people to believe that if someone is micro-cheating then they are bored or they are no longer into their partner, however, a lot of research indicates that micro-cheating does indeed start off as something innocent, it may be an innocent interaction with a colleague, or getting a bit of extra attention on social media. But over time the level of excitement or buzz increases with each interaction or an extra bit of attention you give or receive. Soon it becomes hard to identify the safe zone of being friendly and being flirtatious.

    It’s also extremely easy to micro-cheat when you are stressed or struggling in your current relationship. I have worked with clients who turn to social media or dating apps with no intention of doing anything serious but need to distract themselves from their relationship, financial, or work problems.

    Low self-esteem comes up all the time when micro-cheating has come up, a lack of self-confidence can turn to need attention and validation from outside. Sometimes men and women have admitted to me they wanted to test and see if they are still attractive.

    Then I have had many men and women blame alcohol or drugs that led them to start flirting beyond what they would normally do.

    Lastly, one of the most common reasons for micro-cheating is the element of passion. More often than not, we tend to get extremely comfortable in our relationships and this may mean the passion can fizzle out, if you are not taking the actions to keep that passion alive.

    Although both partners are so deeply in love, one may miss that excitement of something new and getting to know someone deeper and may turn to a colleague, friend or talk to someone on social media to fulfil that excitement without physically cheating.

    Now I’ve explained what micro-cheating is and the possible reasons why it can occur, I will share now what you can do if your husband or wife has cheated on you.

    What to do if a husband or wife has been micro-cheating? Communicate and take action. Sounds simple right? Communication is SO important in any relationship. When a person has micro-cheated, it is more evident than ever that a couple need to communicate better. The partner feeling betrayed will need to understand why their partner has been micro-cheating, what has happened and what they will do to protect the relationship now and in the future. Before thinking about moving forward and trying to heal themselves and the relationship.

    When both partners can discuss why they think the micro-cheating has occurred, it can make it easier to figure out a solution together – including identifying any gaps or issues in their relationship and sometimes there are none, it can be the pull of something new rather than the push of something wrong if that makes sense? Sometimes people don’t know why and often they come to me to help them find out, so they can give themselves and their partner some comfort.

    If you are the person who has micro-cheated, it is important to now be open and consistent with the actions you agree upon. I usually take couples through rebuilding a connection, trust, and passion program full of actions. Sometimes couples get stuck talking it over too much with no positive steps forward. Trust is key in all intimate relationships discussing steps for this is essential. Even if the person who has been micro-cheating sees it as harmless trust in the relationship will be damaged – regardless of the reasons why micro-cheating occurred or what type and how long for.

    If you have been cheated on and you find that your partner is not sensitive to your needs and not understanding your pain as a result of his or her micro-cheating, it is time for you to decide what your next steps are – whether that is seeking professional relationship counselling, taking steps to heal and release resentment to become closer or perhaps moving away from this relationship.

    There may be situations where a relationship is breaking down and one or both partners start to seek comfort or happiness in others as an escape hatch, however, this is far from healthy practice and can do so much more damage to your soul than being honest with one another and discussing if it is the end of your relationship or not. Micro-cheating can be used as an escape hatch to a distant relationship.

    What counts as micro-cheating is definitely something that varies from relationship to relationship so it is beneficial to have these kinds of discussions throughout your relationship to understand what the emotional, physical and social boundaries are to one another – this helps to prevent people from misunderstanding what behaviour is okay, as well as being helpful when you need to have those difficult conversations should one person go past those boundaries. For example be transparent about keeping in touch with ex’s, mention to each other if a work colleague, boss, or friend is flirting with you. Sharing is key.

    So how to create more passion after discovering cheating? This is often a one month program I run so I cannot get into huge detail here but let me give you this. Do new activities in the home together or outside when can Engage on interesting topics, so often communication can become a bit routine like our lives. Keep it interesting and flowing, this is important for the relationship to have meaningful conversations. More often than not we can end up only talking about things like dinner, bills, children, and family arrangements.

    Lastly, no matter how easy or uncomfortable it may be for you; talk about your sex life, what you love, don’t like, how it is going, whether you want more or less, share fantasies, and any other ways to bring the spark and passion back.

    If you would like to explore what the relationship and transformation programs look like you can book a free 30-minute consultation with Nicola Beer by clicking here or email me nb@nicolabeer.com

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