I've been dating my boyfriend for almost six years now. It's going well!
We live together, have a cat, and he even took me to see Hamilton (my boyfriend, not the cat). I guess you can say it's serious.
But after stumbling upon Mélanie Berliet's 2016 article, "33 Ways Your Boyfriend Is Micro-Cheating (And Totally Getting Away With It)," I was intrigued. Because hey, who doesn't love getting away with things?
First of all, WTF is micro-cheating? Great question.
According to dating expert Melanie Schilling, it's "a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone outside their relationship."
Some of the examples of micro-cheating from Berliet's article include:
-Reaching out to a girl who’s “just a friend” for a recommendation or advice on an issue he could easily Google the answer to because he feels like bantering.
-Tagging another girl in an Instagram that reminds him of her or references a seemingly innocuous inside joke between them.
-Downplaying a certain woman’s awesomeness whenever she’s mentioned around his significant other as if proactively doing damage control.
-Following up with a “nice to meet you” message unnecessarily.
-Establishing secret code words and/or inside jokes with women outside his romantic relationship
-Closing his eyes when he needs a minute to escape and daydreaming about the girl he’s crushing on because she’s his opium of the moment.
Reading the list almost gave me a micro-heart attack because, admittedly, I have done several of the things on it. Many times. Like, almost every single day.
I've texted friends who are male because I enjoy their banter. I have tagged dudes in memes that I thought were funny. I have shared inside jokes with men who are not my boyfriend... isn't that how friendship works? I never thought of maintaining my friendships with men as potentially harmful to my relationship, but I started to wonder if my behavior was slowly deteriorating the trust between my boyfriend and me.
So, is micro-cheating bullshit? Or can it actually damage your relationship?
I decided to find out for myself by actively micro-cheating on my boyfriend for a week. I mean, what's the worst thing that happens, we break up? How hard can it be to find a nice single man in NYC who loves cats and has Hamilton tickets?
I started off small by doing #6 from Berliet's list: "Going out of his way to tell a woman he met or ran into the night before that she looked amazing or seems to be “doing really well."
Over the weekend, I performed at an alumni event for my school. I decided to reach out to one of the performers and tell him he did an excellent job and tell him he, verbatim, "seems to be doing really well." And honestly, he does!
He responded that it was great to see me too, and that I am "really f'cking funny."
I started to wonder if he has a partner he is micro-cheating on by saying that to me. Am I having a micro-affair right now?
Then I tried something a little more tricky by tackling #4 on Berliet's list: "Sending someone who’s not his girlfriend something blatantly provocative, like an article about sex or the porn industry, because he thinks she’ll find it interesting or whatever."
So I decided to step up my game and send and article entitled, "Actor Who Played Barney The Dinosaur Is Now A Tantric Sex Healer," to my boyfriend's best friend.
I mean, besides the "blatantly provocative" subject matter, I'm pretty sure he would find it interesting. Who wouldn't? The news of Barney's career change really does bring new meaning to the lyrics "I love you, you love me."
His answer? "Lmao."
Eh, not quite the response I was looking for, but fair enough. I hope I didn't make him too uncomfortable, but more than that, I hope he actually read the article because it was WILD.
The next micro-cheat I attempted was #22: "Choosing to do something he knows his significant other would enjoy—like go for a bike ride, eat at a specific restaurant, or see a certain movie—with another woman, even when his girlfriend’s most likely available."
Sure, my boyfriend does like all of those things, but there is one thing he likes much more: watching professional wrestling. As a couple, we watch an embarrassing amount of wrestling together, so it is pretty safe to say that it is "our thing."
So I reached out to a friend of mine who I know also loves wrestling who just happened to be back in town after being abroad for several months. I texted him and suggested we hang out and watch wrestling and catch up. This did not feel nefarious or shady to me. It felt like me texting an old friend to do something old friends do.
In all my interactions, I kept waiting to feel guilty, but those feelings never came.
My next micro-cheat was one of the most controversial: Following a ton of hot girls on social media and beginning to feel like he actually knows them because he monitors their every post that closely.
Can merely following someone on social media be considered a form of cheating?
Author's note: no.
The opportunity to micro-cheat in this instance came completely organically when my boyfriend was scrolling through his Instagram when he stumbled upon a picture of a popular YouTuber we both like alongside a hot, muscular dude.
"Woah," said my boyfriend. "That dude is huge."
I glanced over at his phone and saw the picture. The guy kinda looked like a buff Jesus.
Now's my chance!
"Yeah, he's hot," I said. "What's his handle? I need to follow more hot guys."
He turned his phone to show me the man's handle and said thoughtfully, "I need to follow more cats."
For the record, I didn't follow him. Hot Jesus is not really my type.
Lastly, I chose to try the most ridiculous item on Berliet's list: Closing his eyes when he needs a minute to escape and daydreaming about the girl he’s crushing on because she’s his opium of the moment.
So I began to think of who the opium of my moment is. I don't have a civilian crush right now, so I had to turn to my tried-and-true celeb crush: Steve Martin. I know it's already too late, but please don't judge me.
So I sit there and think about Steve Martin. First we are enjoying a fancy dinner, then we go for a walk on the beach, suddenly we are singing that duet from The Jerk and I am Bernadette Peters with significantly less blush on.
I open my eyes and look at my boyfriend. He is playing some fighting game on his phone. I just micro-cheated on his sorry ass while laying next to him and our bed, and he never suspected a thing.
A few days later, I confessed to him that I had been micro-cheating on him all week. I was nervous for his response, not because I feel that I did anything wrong, but more because exploited our relationship for web content.
"April, I don't know what to say. That is f*cking hilarious," he said. "Also, I think I've been micro-cheating on you as well."
And with that, I am reminded why this dude is totally the 'opium of my moment.'
Sorry, Steve Martin.