Is your spouse thinking about having an affair? In today’s digital age, the answer to this question could be hiding in plain sight on social media.
Microcheating, a term coined by Gen Z, refers to subtle online actions and behaviors that, on their own, may seem innocuous, but collectively may raise concerns about one spouse’s commitment to the relationship. Microcheating actions often fall short of explicit cheating or physical involvement with someone else. Instead, it revolves around emotional or digital interactions that add up to relationship red flags. These can include actions like regularly “sliding into the DMs” of someone they find attractive or obsessively liking their social media posts.
Staying in Contact with an Ex on Social Media: Unless the pair are co-parents or have some other vested interest that offers a legitimate reason to stay connected (ex: a family business), maintaining active communication on social media with an ex-partner can raise eyebrows, as it could suggest an ongoing emotional connection that extends beyond the current relationship. Even worse: a partner who uses an ex as their go-to for venting about their current relationship.
Close Friendships with the Opposite Sex: Developing particularly close online friendships with individuals of the opposite sex (or sex/gender they are attracted to) could be a sign the partner is seeking emotional fulfillment outside the relationship. The concern is that in the private atmosphere of one-on-one social media contact, it is easier to blur the line between a friendly chat and an emotional affair.
Flirting: Brazen flirting, even when it’s online on social media for everyone to see, is often considered a clear sign of microcheating. Beyond leaving a trail of heart emojis, microcheaters are notorious for leaving flirty comments just shy of crossing the line, especially on provocative content.
Personal Social Media Never Features the Relationship: A spouse who is active on their personal social media accounts, but who never posts photos of their partner or shares even the simplest of “Happy birthday” messages, or who has still not changed their relationship status from “single,” could be a sign they’re still living the single life on social media.
Secret Social Media Accounts: Some microcheaters create an entirely hidden social media world with no connections to their partner or others in the partner’s friend group. By maintaining separate and/or private accounts, the microcheater may feel free from the constraints of the relationship.
Opening the lines of communication
Why does microcheating matter? Trusting your spouse or romantic partner is integral to a fulfilling and happy relationship. In fact, science tells us that having trust in a partner is crucial in predicting whether a relationship will remain free of troubles and turmoil.
Since microcheating does always add up to blatant instances of cheating, it can be tricky to confront or deal with a partner engaging in these behaviors. Unfortunately, this can lead to a slow erosion of trust, which can spell disaster for the relationship.
If you are not comfortable with your spouse’s online behavior, rather than let your feelings fester, consider bringing the topic out into the open and have a calm conversation about what is making you feel uncomfortable. One workable solution is to create sensible ground rules around social media that you both accept and agree to abide by.
Social media is an ever-present part of modern life. Posting, sharing, liking, subscribing… These things are not going anywhere, and this makes it essential for couples to engage in open and honest communication to define their own boundaries and expectations from each other in all aspects of life — including that part of life lived online.