I have a bit of an unusual relationship with my ex. Not only are we best friends (and roommates), but we make it a point to go out to dinner every year in July to celebrate the anniversary of our breakup (or "breakup-iversary," as we call it). I like to think that having such a deep and meaningful friendship with an ex-girlfriend makes me quirky, but according to several articles that came out this week, it actually makes me a cheater.
The trouble started with a Daily Mail article, in which a psychologist defines "micro-cheating." It's essentially what it sounds like: tiny actions that seem insignificant, but could actually mean that your partner isn't all-in on your relationship, or is emotionally invested in someone else.
While it seems like a legitimate problem from this basic definition, some examples of what constitutes micro-cheating are honestly ridiculous.
Do you share inside jokes with someone who isn't your partner? Then you're a micro-cheater. Did you confide your feelings in someone else before you talked to your partner about them? That's micro-cheating. Did you tell someone who isn't your partner that they look amazing? Micro-cheating.
And the micro-cheat that's apparently damning to my relationship with my current partner: sharing special memories with an ex.
So, is micro-cheating a real thing? Kind of, says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City, but it's nothing new and definitely not something you should suddenly start worrying about.
"Cheating has been going on since the beginning of time, I don't see why we need to give it a different name now," Fleming says. And, actually, she's not convinced that what many people are calling micro-cheating constitutes cheating at all.
Micro-cheating by any other name is an "emotional affair," a term that experts have been using for years and for which there's no strict definition, because only you and your partner can decide what crosses the line. So these very specific examples that have been making the rounds on the internet — and often just sound like the definition of being a good friend — are total BS. And rolling them into an ever-expanding subset of cheating will never make sense for every relationship.
Fleming, for one, believes that flirting with someone outside of your relationship can actually be healthy, as long as the flirting isn't coming from a place of secrecy or deception. She's not the only relationship expert who believes this, either. Esther Perel, best-selling author of The State Of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, told Refinery29 in 2015 that flirting outside of your monogamous relationship is only a problem if you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
"If you flirt because you like to know that you still have that mojo, that’s fun. If you do it every time you see something that’s alive and moves, or you need to check, 'Do I exist? Am I noticed? Am I worthy?' then flirting is not the issue," Perel told Refinery29. "The insecurity is the issue."
Yet, the idea of micro-cheating nips even fun flirting in the bud. If you can't tell someone that they look good without worrying that makes you a cheater, then flirting just to check if you still have mojo is definitely off-limits.
So let's all make a pact to take ideas like micro-cheating or an emotional affair with a grain of salt. No good comes out of worrying about or questioning everything your partner does — and especially worrying about your own relationships with friends, colleagues, or exes.
When it comes to my own friendship with my ex, Fleming assured me that our breakup-iversary dates by no means constitute cheating on my current girlfriend — but I already knew that. So rest assured that you're probably not micro-cheating, either.