What ‘Micro-Cheating’ Does to Committed Relationships

Today’s video will give you a simple test to figure out if you’re in a backburner relationship, and provide you with the mindset you need to give your current one its best shot.

 Would love it if you left me a comment with your thoughts. What does “micro-cheating” mean to you?

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There’s no shame in a relationship not working out, but it’s a shame if it doesn’t work out because the whole time you spent your time in it, you didn’t actually go all in.



So this was an article in Psychology Today that talked about how “back burners” are people with whom one maintains contact in the hope of someday pursuing a romantic or sexual encounter. And what it basically said is that roughly 70 something percent of singles have back burners, but more troubling, basically over half, about 56% of those in committed relationships have, according to this survey, let’s always take these with a pinch of salt. These are limited surveys, et cetera, but it is in Psychology Today. About 56% of those in committed relationships reported having a back-burner person or relationship. That does seem kind of high, doesn’t it, 52%? Or do you think that’s fairly human that people would have some kind of backup option in mind?



Well, it depends what you call a backup option. I think that it’s probably not high if you just define that back-burner thing as someone who you just haven’t explicitly said, no, there’s nothing between us and they also don’t know that you’re with someone and you kind of even casually keep the thing alive by texting. Then if that’s considered a back-burner because you know that there is some underlying attraction there, even if it’s not spoken, then it’s probably not high. That probably is fairly realistic.



And do we count that as a form of… I mean, is that just another shade of infidelity? Is it just a kind of micro cheating as they might say?



If you’re continuing to engage someone and you’re in a relationship and you, especially, if it turns flirtatious, you avoid telling them you’re in a relationship and in truth, if you find yourself going out of your way to not tell those individuals that you are in a relationship, I think that’s where you have to suspect yourself, is if you’re talking to someone who you claim is just a friend, but you’re not actually making it explicit that you are in a relationship. That, to me then strays into that territory, especially if it would be organic to do so. If someone says, what have you been up to and you happen to have been with your boyfriend or girlfriend for the last two weeks, or you’ve just been on vacation with them and you fail to mention that, then that to me, starts to stray into that territory.



Yeah, I think that’s right. But you also have these people where they would know you’re in a relationship, but if there’s some kind of subtle way where you are both keeping in contact as a like, well, we do have something and maybe we’ll see if we’re both single again, maybe we’ll give each other a call. And you’re kind of just keeping them there to know, “Hey, I’m here, if you break up with that person.”



Well, yeah, I mean, it’s tricky. If you’ve hooked up before with that person, then firstly, your partner in my opinion, deserves to know that, oh, this is, I’m maintaining a relationship here, but I have actually been with this person. That then should be something that you’re sensitive to with your partner. If it were the other way round. And our partner was friends with someone that they had been with, and now they’re staying friends with them and it’s an active friend. It’s one thing to be cordial with someone. It’s another thing to have an active friendship with someone that you’re maintaining, that you’re regularly texting them. You’re regularly having conversations with them. That’s a different thing. And I think it becomes, if you’re not careful, people can turn it into a form of, it’s like not really committing to the person you’re with.



Yeah. And it can almost be a way of slow self-sabotage because you’re inviting another presence to create jealousy, to create conflict and create problems that otherwise wouldn’t exist if you weren’t maintaining this.



Exactly. And then you have to say, well, how important is it? How worth it is it? What’s the reason I’m doing this?



Yeah. I think for some people, I think just the times we live in, it becomes irresistible for people to… I think they start with keeping tabs on their ex and then it might be checking in occasionally. And then it might be commenting and saying, hello. And I think it can become this kind of just keeping tabs. Like maybe if they’re ever single again, we’ll, I’ll hit them up or something. It’s just, there’s so many shades of gray. And it’s a thing, because I don’t want to create paranoia or anything. And I think that is a problem with our time where people have so many sources to talk to other people, everyone becomes so paranoid of, is someone cheating on me, is someone on social media flirting with other people, but they just think, well, I just want to keep a hand in the-



Yeah. I’m a big believer that when you’re still leaving the door open to those different options, you’re actually denying the relationship you’re in the chance to be all that it can be, because you’re not actually seeing who you are when you cut off your options and go all in. You’re not seeing how the relationship can evolve from a place of true security, true safety, real commitment. And there’s no shame in a relationship not working out, but it’s a shame if it doesn’t work out because the whole time you’ve spent your time in it, you didn’t actually go all in. That to me is time… That’s time wasted because you’re not going and doing other things. You’re not dating other people. It’s not like you are actually going out with any of those people that you’re “keeping on the back burner.”

You’re not, but you’re also not fully invested in the situation you’re in. You’re somewhere in no man’s land. Now that I’m thinking about it, when you talk about the whole back burner thing, that is an indication of our unwillingness to be present with the situation we’re in. It’s a way of not choosing. And, on our Retreat, we talk about how answers are a reward for doing things. We talk about this on day one of the Retreat. If you want answers in life, you have to actually go and do something. If you want answers about what the right career is, you do actually have to taste some careers. You do actually have to go and try something. You do actually have to immerse yourself in something. And that starts to give you answers. You can’t get answers by just sitting there and intellectualizing everything.

And I don’t think you can get answers from a relationship by being halfway in. You get answers by, if you decide, you know what, I’m actually going to give this a shot. I’m not talking about on day three of meeting someone or week three, even. But if you’ve decided to have a committed relationship with someone, then that’s the time to say right now, I don’t know if this is going to be forever or not, but right now this is what I’m going to do. And I’m going to do it really well. And I’m going to see what it can be.





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20 Replies to “What ‘Micro-Cheating’ Does to Committed Relationships”

  1. Uh. Doing a version of this with two guys online. But … the actual guy right here who wants to be THE man in my life is married. Separated. Wife with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. A FRIEND of mine. What am I supposed to DO? Life’s just got more confusing as I’ve got older. The guy here keeps hinting “We’re not getting any younger” … But he’ll post things at Christmas time, anniversaries etc. with his family, & mutual friends ask him over & not me. I feel ostracised. Yet otherwise, he’s so sweet & wants to take me out & tells me he loves me etc. It’s got to the point where one of the guys online is somehow now my primary relationship. In fact I got into the online stuff because I was feeling so hurt, confused & desperate as a result of the situation here. I thought I was totally off the planet until recently I found three close girlfriends were doing or had done similar things.

    1. I think people should assume the relationship they’re in. They should dive all the way in. Stop being afraid of giving it all or suffering. The more you give the more you get. That’s the only way things will work long term. If you are only half way in, it will show and the relationship will always be soft and mean less… Never gets to the big deeper level of real soul mates

  2. Hey Mathew and Stephen
    This is a great topic as many of us deal with subtle acts of dismissive and covert behaviors while the other is making us appear to be cherished, and while we question and doubt ourselves our loved ones and friends think we have a great relationship.
    Rachel I hope you read this comment I have called off my engagement after 3 years of questionable behaviors. He was a”nice guy” Please just keep listening to Matt and I promise you are better off alone a while, opening your life up to great possibilities and a future love that you will trust!

  3. What about micro-cheating with porn? I’ve recently discovered my husband spends 2-5 hours watching porn. He’s autistic, so I suppose it’s the easiest thing. He promised he’d stopped but he had not. It reduces his desire for intimacy with me, and on the rare occasions we do come together, it affects his ability to come to orgasm, which didn’t used to be a problem. He’s also brought some rough even dominating ideas to our unions, which was what made me suspicious that he hadn’t stopped porn. He didn’t ask me about it, and I felt used afterwards. He goes right to his internet women even after being intimate with me. I no longer desire him since I discovered that. But we live together. I think there’s no hope – we used to have a wonderful sex life, in the early years. He refuses to discuss it but just lies he’s stopped. But he hasn’t. I suppose he lies to himself about this. I consider it micro-cheating, or even just macro cheating. I find myself having a wandering eye now, which I did not before. But I’d like to find affection and connection with a real person, and he seems to be satisfied with getting those needs met with women online. Sigh.

  4. My fiancé has blocked me on his Facebook because I found some questionable comments etc. Yeah I snooped but he’s really shady with his phone. That made me suspicious. Since then I’ve found even shadier things in messages. He changed his lock code. This relationship is breaking me. I am so easy to infuriate because of all that’s gone on.

    1. My bf of one year kept “like” and “love” other women’s profile on fb and having banter with them instead of me. Chatting to different women all over the world on messenger till after midnight, then invited them as “friend”. He added about 200 women after I found out what he was up to since February this year. I raised my concern twice in 6 months, he said I shouldn’t need to worry because he didn’t intend to date them. But he wouldn’t stop chatting to his “friend” he said. When the discussion went pear shape, he blocked me. He made me feel so insecure. He had so many back burner women, he was just waiting for one to move forward with him. This micro cheating had ruined my relationship.

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