Being friends with, and contacting our exes or people we have a ‘connection’ with, whilst in a romantic relationship isn’t necessarily bad. Like with all things, context is key. But justifying bad behaviours or playing them down will only lead to hurt and pain. This post directly shines a spotlight on 4 behaviours that weaken our relationships.

The word micro-cheating has been receiving a lot of attention recently.

The psychologist Melanie Schilling says that micro-cheating is ‘a series of seemingly small actions that indicate a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone outside their relationship.’

For me, this definition means we shouldn’t be doing it

For me, this definition means we shouldn’t be doing it. It breaks trust and causes someone to look outside of their romantic relationship to gain things that should come from within.

However, the debate has opened up the discussion as to whether being friends with an ex is a good idea at all. If people should even be messaging or texting close friends they ‘connect’ with.

Does Context Matter?

I do think context is key. Sometimes people justify bad actions or worry about innocent ones, but context can reveal our real motives.

For example, if someone is friends with an ex, it may seem dodgy. But if that ex hangs out with the person and their partner, everyone is aware of the history and open about the communication, and the communication isn’t excessive, that would be okay if everyone feels comfortable with it.

How do we know when these relationships start to negatively impact our romantic relationship?

However, if someone is hiding the communication from their partner, wondering if the grass is greener, sharing things with their ex or ‘friend’ that they hide from their partner, that’s totally different. This person may make excuses to make it seem like the first scenario, but it isn’t okay.

Where’s The Line?

Having friendships and talking to people outside of our romantic relationship is important. No one person can be the source of all our fulfilment and happiness. But how do we know when these relationships start to negatively impact our romantic relationship?

Being friends with people we connect with isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can be. I think both sides of the coin need to be acknowledged. But I think there are 4 things we should think about when we evaluate our actions:

  • Our Rule, Not My Rule
  • Little Steps Lead To Big Breaks
  • Secrecy Is Serious
  • What’s The Real Motivation

1. Our Rule, Not My Rule

It seems obvious, but a relationship is about two people. It’s not about ‘me’ and ‘my needs’, but ‘us’ and ‘our’ needs.

So we may think it’s okay to text an ex, or that friend because there is genuinely nothing happening, but our partner may feel uncomfortable.

We may be used to sharing things with lots of people, but our partner might not like it.

What may have been okay when we were single, changes when we start dating or get married.

Sitting down, and being clear on what your rules and expectations are for your relationship is key. It may mean compromise or not doing something because a relationship is about ‘our needs’ not ‘my needs’.  (Read How Pausing To Reflect Could Save Your Dating Life)

2. Little Steps Lead To Big Breaks

No-one just wakes up and has an affair. It’s usually one little step, one more little step, until eventually, they have an affair and/or break up with their partner.

What starts as messaging a little bit, then leads to messaging every day, then it gets more intense, and then….

Cutting out all the things that can cause trouble later

The reason I think some people, rightfully, got upset with this whole micro-cheating debate is because they realised where little steps lead. Maintaining a truly mutually enjoyable, mutually fulfilling romantic relationship takes work, and cutting out all the little things that can cause big trouble later.

Being aware of this may mean some of us need to cut down on who or how often we message others, so we can protect the relationship we have.

3. Secrecy Is Serious 

For me, nothing should be hidden in relationships. If someone isn’t telling their partner about the person they’re messaging, or hiding it, or changing the name of this ‘friend’ on their phone so their partner doesn’t know, there is something going on.

Something is going on that isn’t right, which is why they’re hiding it.

This behaviour cannot be justified. Going outside of the relationship to gain intimacy or excitement that should be coming from our partner, then hiding it, will only make the relationship weak. (Read Should I Be The Source Of All Their Romance?)

4. What’s The Real Motivation

This point may be the hardest one to process for some. It requires looking at ourselves and being very honest.

We need to ask ourselves ‘What is the real motivation?’

Am I contacting them because we’re friends that get on? Or is it because I like to reminisce and fantasise about what life would be like with them?

Do I like the ‘escape’ they offer?

Am I just texting them once in a while because we’re friends, or am I texting them every day because I like the ‘escape’ they offer?

If the motivation is anything other than a genuine friendship, it’s heading somewhere that will cause pain and harm, and needs to stop. (Read Texting An Ex Is Always A Bad Idea, But There’s One Exception)

Imagine if…

Imagine if we realised being friends with people outside of our romantic relationship is healthy. No one person can be the source of our fulfilment. But this cannot be used to justify behaviours that cause us to take our eyes off of our romantic partner.

Our Rule, Not My Rule; Little Steps Lead To Big Breaks; Secrecy Is Serious; What’s The Real Motivation. This can cause us to stop and make sure we’re protecting our romantic relationship, and relating appropriately.

What other behaviours would you shine a spotlight on? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 12/2/2018