Is Online Infidelity Just Micro-Cheating? Research Might Have The Answer To This

online infidelity micro cheating

A survey carried out in 2013 questioned 2,400 UK respondents who had either been unfaithful themselves or had found out that their partner had been unfaithful. The survey found that a staggering 41 percent reported that the infidelity came to light through evidence revealed via a phone (Waterlow, 2013), strongly suggesting that partner surveillance may be justified. 

Want to know more about online infidelity? Check this video out below!

Online infidelity

Does Partner Monitoring Improve Relationships?

Whether needless partner monitoring actually sustains relationships is another matter. Kelly Derby, David Knox, and Beth Easterling gave a 42-item questionnaire to 268 students, with the aim of investigating the degree to which they monitored partners — how often they did it, their reason for doing it, and what happened as a result.

They found that two-thirds of respondents confessed to ‘‘snooping’’ through their partner’s text messages and logging onto their social networking sites.

The reported reasons were curiosity and suspicion, with females reporting more monitoring than males. Incidentally, monitoring behavior was reported as taking place most often when a partner was safely in the shower. They warn that monitoring a partner’s behavior should be done with caution, as they noted that 28 percent of relationships worsened as a result of partner monitoring, while only 18 percent improved as a result (Derby K, Knox D, & Easterling, 2012). 

Related: 33 Ways He’s Micro Cheating You (and totally getting away with it)

What Difference Might Relationship Length Make?

By the time people are happily married, it would seem plausible that the effort involved in constantly monitoring a partner’s behavior might have ceased. Yet Ellen Helsper and Monica Whitty present evidence suggesting that partner monitoring continues into married life (Helsper & Whitty, 2010).

The researchers collected data from more than 2,000 married people, who were asked whether they had monitored their partner’s activities by doing any of the following:

  • Reading their emails.
  • Reading their text messages.
  • Checking their browser history.
  • Reading their instant message logs.
  • Using monitoring software.
  • Pretending to be another person.

They found that in almost a third of couples, one or both had looked at their partner’s emails or text messages without the partner knowing, and in one in five couples, one or both partners had checked their partner’s browsing history.

Overall, then, it can be said that micro-cheating, at least via online communication, is not defined in terms of action but rather the motive for that action. In other words, liking an ex-partner’s post on social media is not micro-cheating if a person’s intention is simply just to like the post.

However, social media and online communication have made such communication more ambiguous. Sadly, this may motivate us to compulsively check out our partner’s online activity. Yet, as pointed out in the study by Derby et al. (2012), this doesn’t make things any better.


Derby, K., Knox, D., & Easterling, B. (2012). ‘Snooping in romantic relationships.’ College Student Journal, 46, 333–343.

Graff, M., G. (under review). ‘The salience of rival attractiveness in online infidelity.’ Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Helsper, E. J. & Whitty, M. T. (2010). ‘Netiquette within married couples: Agreement about acceptable online behaviour and surveillance between partners.’ Computers in Human Behaviour, 26, 916-926.

Muscanell, L., Guadagno, R. E., Rice, L. & Murphy, S. (2013). ‘Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Green? An Analysis of Facebook Use and Romantic Jealousy.’ Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, 16 (4), 237-242.

Waterlow, L. (2013). ‘Dial I for infidelity: Checking partner’s mobile phone is most common way affairs are exposed.’ (accessed Jan 17, 2018).

Written By Martin Graff
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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Is Online Infidelity Just Micro-Cheating? Research Might Have The Answer To This
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