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The scary truth about TikTok's micro-cheating trend

Is TikTok's resurgence of this trend harmful to relationships?

TikTok is a virtual breeding ground for viral relationship trends; we've witnessed boyfriend inflation, beige flags, 'ick' lists and even some strange Roman Empire phenomenon no one really understood but the menfolk.

Well, brace yourselves for the next iteration of intense overthinking; the revival of the 'micro-cheating trend', a concept that explores small behaviours that can be perceived as infidelity.

TikToker @teo.sol's viral list of 10 things she considered micro-cheating
TikToker @teo.sol's viral list of 10 things she considered micro-cheating included such actions as flirting, secret friendships and maintaining contact with exes. Photo: TikTok/@teo.sol

So, what exactly constitutes micro-cheating? This infamous term first emerged in 2018, and it's currently staging a resurgence. The micro-cheating hashtag has garnered a whopping 25 million views, and content creators are diligently churning out lists that describe behaviours they consider unfaithful.

When small actions spell trouble

One TikToker, @teo.sol, recently went viral for her list, highlighting ten things she considered micro-cheating. These actions included secret friendships, staying in contact with ex-partners or former crushes, and even lying about your relationship status.

"I will in NO WAY accept any of this," one social media user responded to the viral list, with another adding, "some of this is straight up cheating, not micro-cheating."

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Although some of the items on these lists that could be considered 'micro-cheating' may seem extreme, they're gaining traction on the platform. Other TikTok users have included seemingly innocuous acts like liking photos of the opposite sex or venting about their partner to a friend.

As this trend gains popularity, one relationship expert has voiced concerns about the 'micro-cheating' lists and content, warning that they could lead to problematic behaviour.

Signs you are being 'micro-cheated' on
TikTokers have been sharing their 'micro-cheating' lists on the platform. Photo: TikTok/@erinnicoleofficial

Relationship expert's warning

Relationship psychologist Limor Gottlieb from Brunel University in London, speaking to the Daily Mail, advised against closely following this trend, particularly for those already feeling insecure in their relationships, especially those with an anxious attachment style.

"People who are drawn to this type of content may already be insecure in their relationships, especially people with an anxious attachment style. Anxious people are already constantly preoccupied with their relationships and constantly scanning their environment for threats to their relationship. They want to closely monitor their partners and seek to be in close proximity," said Gottlieb.

Furthermore, Gottlieb cautioned that this trend might "potentially increase conflict in relationships, which, in some cases, may lead to violence." It's a troubling aspect of the micro-cheating trend, which, while offering some valid relationship insights, might unwittingly steer people in a direction that leads to more serious consequences.

While boundaries in a relationship are essential, overzealous adherence to the micro-cheating trend may inadvertently harm a relationship, especially for those who are new to the dating scene or who tend to be more anxious. Communication, as Gottlieb pointed out, is the key to addressing concerns related to micro-cheating.

"Ultimately, every couple needs to have an open dialogue about what cheating means to them, and they need to negotiate their boundaries. What one person defines as cheating may not be the same for the other," Gottlieb concluded.

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