What Is Micro Cheating and How Does It Impact Divorce?

Accusations of infidelity and emotional affairs are commonplace leading up to and during divorce. People have been cheating on their spouses since the Stone Age. In recent years, social media has made it easier to reconnect with an old flame or flirt with someone exciting and new. If you’re single, that’s great but if you’re married, your spouse could view those flirtations as cheating or micro cheating, and that could be problematic during divorce.

What is micro cheating?

Let’s start by talking about what micro cheating isn’t. It is not considered adultery, which is what the state of Texas defines as the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a woman or man who is not their spouse. Those who are in the know about micro cheating psychology generally don’t believe it rises to the level of an emotional affair.

Consider the definition of an emotional affair provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT):

“In the age of social media and technology, a new crisis of infidelity often referred to as the emotional affair has emerged. People who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships, particularly in the workplace and on the Internet. Emotional affairs differ from platonic friendships in that there is 1) greater emotional intimacy than in the long-term relationship, 2) the involved partner engages in secrecy and deception, and 3) there is often sexual chemistry.”

What is micro cheating considered in most circles? It’s usually something that appears more flirtatious in nature, and lower on the emotionally intimate scale. It may also be one-sided and not rise to the level of a romantic relationship like an emotional affair.

That’s not to say micro cheating couldn’t escalate into an emotional affair at some point, it often does. Micro cheating may involve activities like exchanging personal texts with a work crush, meeting an ex for happy hour or flirting with someone on Facebook.

It’s important to note that what one person construes as micro cheating could be viewed as no big deal by someone else—it’s very subjective. For example, someone who isn’t confident and secure in their relationship may view their spouse’s lunch date with an ex or Facebook flirting cheating, while it may not phase a confident individual who trusts their spouse implicitly.

So, is talking with an ex cheating? Different couples have different boundaries, and respecting those boundaries is critical if you want to keep your relationship going strong. If you think talking with or otherwise interacting with an ex would bother your spouse or make them feel insecure, you’re probably crossing a line. Your actions may not necessarily be considered cheating but it could undermine your relationship.

Micro cheating signs to keep an eye out for

As a divorce attorney Fort Worth, I regularly hear different examples of cheating in a relationship from clients who engage our firm, including micro cheating. While I agree that micro cheating doesn’t rise to the level of an emotional affair, it does share similar characteristics. The involved party usually engages in secrecy and deception, and there may be a sexual chemistry between the parties involved.

Common micro cheating signs include:

  • Spouse won’t let you look at their texts or social media messages.
  • Spouse gets defensive when you question their activities with a co-worker, ex or someone else they’ve been interacting with.
  • Spouse prioritizes activities with others over those with you.
  • Spouse never mentions you on social media, in their social circles or at work.
  • Spouse crosses the boundaries of trust in the relationship (see above).

Examples of micro cheating

When it comes to questions like, what is micro cheating, what is micro flirting, is seeking attention from others while in a relationship cheating or what is considered cheating on social media, again, it can all be very subjective. However, most people will agree there are some actions that clearly cross the line.

An article in Psychology Today provided several examples that people would tend to agree constitute micro cheating. Psychology Today’s micro cheating list of examples includes:

  • Interacting with an ex-partner in a manner that makes their partner feel uncomfortable.
  • Flirting or fueling sexual energy with someone besides their partner.
  • Not making it clear to others that he or she is in an exclusive relationship, particularly when someone else is making advances.
  • Allowing and even encouraging others’ sexual advances.
  • Secretly communicating with an ex-partner.
  • Gifting others with private or prized possessions or money.
  • Seeking emotional comfort and confiding in someone besides one’s partner.
  • Joining a dating site.

When it comes to what is considered cheating on social media specifically, the flirting and fueling of sexual energy can include repeated suggestive comments on posts or private messages through social media apps. If your spouse is constantly liking an ex’s posts, that may be annoying and disrespectful (meaning it crosses the line in your book), but is it cheating? Maybe not but it warrants a conversation about boundaries for sure.

How might allegations of micro cheating, emotional affairs and adultery affect divorce?

Let’s consider how Texas courts deal with adultery issues first. While Texas is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you don’t need to prove a party was at fault in order to get a divorce, the courts will consider fault grounds when determining the just and right division of the marital estate. Adultery is one of those fault grounds in Texas.

Has your spouse’s adultery got you thinking about retaliating and doing the same? You better think twice if you hope to be awarded an unequal share of the community estate based on the fault ground of adultery. Texas is of the mindset that you are married until you get divorced

and doesn’t limit acts of adultery to those that occur prior to separating or filing for divorce. Legal separation is not an option in Texas.

If you’re hoping to use adultery as a fault ground, it’s really important to understand that retaliatory cheating can negate the impact of your spouse’s infidelity. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction in the Texas Family Courts.

When it comes to micro cheating and emotional affairs, those actions may fall under the umbrella of another Texas fault ground, cruel treatment. Again, there is a lot of subjectivity involved when it comes to cheating that doesn’t cross over into full-fledged adultery.

If you want to allege that micro cheating or an emotional affair qualifies as cruel treatment, you will need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the actions in question were egregious enough to be considered cruel. You generally don’t see divorce attorneys trying to prove micro cheating in court, except to support claims of cruel treatment or use as circumstantial evidence to try to prove adultery.

By the way, you don’t need to record somebody on video committing the act of adultery to prove it occurred. You may be able to prove it circumstantially. When someone stays in a hotel room with another party and they send inappropriate text messages and/or nude pictures to that party, that may be enough to prove by clear and convincing evidence that adultery occurred.

What to do if micro cheating signs start popping up

In my experience as a family law attorney, it’s generally best to address micro cheating (and different types of affairs) head on. You don’t want to let feelings of mistrust marinate too long because that can lead to anger and animosity, which could in turn stoke the fire that ultimately pushes the other party into a full-scale, adulterous affair.

If your spouse is reaching out to another person in any way, shape or form, you need to be proactive. Try to get into counseling, figure out what’s going on and open up the lines of communication. If your spouse won’t go to counseling or be open to making changes to save the relationship, it may be time to think long and hard about the viability of staying together.

Victims of micro cheating and emotional affairs usually need to establish more checks and balances in their relationship in order to rebuild trust, like getting access to their spouse’s phone. If the micro cheating spouse really wants to make the relationship work, they should be open to this.

However, you don’t want to take things to a point where you become a hovering spouse who turns into an aggressor, making the relationship intolerable for both parties. When any form of cheating is involved, couples need to work on rebuilding that trust over time. A counselor can help by providing tips and guidance on setting appropriate boundaries to foster mutual respect, instill security and reestablish trust.

Are concerns about cheating weighing on your mind?

If you have been the victim of micro cheating or an adulterous affair and have questions about your legal options in Texas, the Sisemore Law Firm is here to help. While we hope your marriage can be saved, our Fort Worth family lawyers can provide the insight you need if you’re unsure what the future holds. Contact us today to learn more.

To schedule a confidential case review with a family law attorney at the Sisemore Law Firm, please call our office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

Photo Source: Canva.com

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