How many times a week do you text an ex-hookup with something cute? Do your emails to that one sexy coworker occasionally walk the line between friendly and flirty? Are you keeping a handful of lovers on the back burner just in case your relationship doesn’t work out? You might be a micro-cheater. Micro-cheating isn’t technically cheating, because there isn’t actual penetration or kissing or anything of that sort, but it’s a semi-sneaky manner of fooling around on your partner. You aren’t boning anyone else, but you’re thinking about it. Or perhaps you resist putting a label on your relationship even though you’re totally dating, or write it off when you’re talking to someone else as, “Oh, we’ve kinda been seeing each other” when in actuality you’re spending every night together.
Our modern view of relationships is really messed up, partially in thanks to technology and social media. We’re barraged with endless options, from Tinder to Bumble to porn to hot girls on Instagram to the ever-present text from an ex. You really can’t get away from it unless you get a flip phone and refuse to participate in social media culture.
Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, explains our tangled view of monogamy like this: “When we are constantly exhorted to replace the old with the new, when sexual images forever portray youth and beauty … when only sex caters to your most idiosyncratic whim, can we reasonably expect to remain contented with the same person for fifty years?”
The battle between monogamy and “free love,” if you will, isn’t anything new. Cavemen weren’t monogamous, and many argue that it’s not realistic for humans to be, either. You can be head over heels in love with someone and still want to experiment sexually with someone else – that’s normal. It’s easy enough to have fun, enjoyable sex with someone you aren’t in love with or even all that connected to. But what does that mean in the context of your relationship? Are you micro-cheating if you’re just considering your options? Can you really be faithful to one person for the rest of your life? Do you want to be shackled to one guy’s penis for 40 years or so? It sounds boring, but if you’re really in love, maybe it isn’t. There’s always toys, porn and your inner fantasies to keep you coming back, literally.
But the concept of micro-cheating throws me for a loop. Is micro-cheating cheating? Is flirting with a stranger at a bar or with a cute coworker cheating? Is sending the occasional boob shot to an old flame cheating when you’ll never act on it? When you’re not getting what you want out of your relationship, it’s now so easy just to send a text or post a hot Instagram pic of yourself and watch your exes come crashing back in in your DMs. Is that just asking for a little validation or is that technically micro-cheating? Is it micro-cheating when your dude is constantly Snapchatting this one female friend outside of his Snap Story?
Maybe micro-cheating is healthy. Does it make you appreciate your actual relationship more at the end of the day? You know that that ex sucked everywhere besides in bed, so is it really hurting anyone if you just send them a quick sexy pic and leave it at that? Maybe micro-cheating actually spices up your relationship instead of hurting it.
The definition of micro-cheating will vary from couple to couple, of course, and if you’re really interested in exploring your options, then you have to have the super fun sitdown chat regarding your status as a pair. Will you remain faithful but have the option to flirt? Or maybe staying together but opening up your relationship to outside partners works best for you. The concept of monogamy and a “real” relationship is always changing, and the boundaries are as fluid and malleable as you want them to be. You just have to figure out what works for you, much like all sex-related stuff. Isn’t life complicated? The caveman times must’ve been so nice, except for that whole “dying at 30” thing. Think of all the weird caveman sex they missed out on!