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What is micro-cheating?

Think of it as a close relative of "emotional cheating." It's not sleeping with or kissing someone else; it's texting, flirting or dressing a certain way.
/ Source: TODAY

Cheating is one of those rare words that never has a positive connotation. As we know, there are different types of cheating: physical, emotional, cheating on social media. And now, there's micro-cheating.

Huh? What is micro-cheating?

It can be thought of as a close relative of emotional cheating. It's not sleeping with or kissing someone else. But, according to various relationship experts, it's a term being used to describe a series of "small" actions that indicate you're physically or emotionally interested in someone outside of your relationship.

In other words, you're flirting.

What qualifies as micro-cheating?

It really depends on each person — and each relationship (because every person and relationship has different rules). Let's say you're in a committed relationship that's going pretty well. Then, your company hires a new, attractive co-worker and you find yourself wearing a red dress or sexy lip gloss when you know you're going to see him. That could be a red flag your current relationship isn't what you want it to be — and that you're thinking of dipping a little toe into your co-worker's pond.

Or maybe you've met someone fun and find yourself putting that person under a fake name in your phone so you can text freely.

How do you know if you're just being human or if you're micro-cheating?

This is simple: Mirror the situation, mentally. Ask yourself, would you be OK with your spouse or partner doing what you're doing? If the answer is no, then you should change your behavior.

Another key to determining if it's harmless fun or actually micro-cheating is secrecy. Are you going to happy hour after work, but leaving a certain co-worker's name off the list when you tell your significant other who will be there? Do you say you're texting your sister when you're really texting someone else?

Left unchecked, micro-cheating can lead to actual cheating. But it doesn't have to. If you feel yourself doing this, maybe you need to have an honest conversation with yourself, or better yet with your partner.

If you feel your partner may be doing this, talk about it. If they act very defensively, there may be something to worry about. Most innocent people will respect your feelings and change their behaviors to make you feel comfortable.

This term is a good one to keep in mind because it makes us sit back and take stock of things we might not have been aware of, or might not WANT to be aware of.

If you discuss micro-cheating with your partner, it could help to improve your relationship by unearthing issues that have bothered one or both of you. Or it can make you realize this really isn't the right relationship for you — and avoid putting more time and energy into something that's not good for the long haul.

Dating coach Bela Gandhi is the founder and president of Smart Dating Academy.