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‘Micro-cheating’ – is that a thing now?

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Posted by Phill Sacre, 31 May 2018

Phill Sacre comments on a recent BBC article about "micro-cheating", encouraging us to remember that both purity and platonic friendships are possible.

I stumbled across an article this morning on the BBC called “When does micro-cheating become ‘actual’ cheating?” I had never heard about micro-cheating before, although it sounds a little similar to what was previously called an “emotional affair”:

“Dr Graff defines micro-cheating as any act or behaviour by someone in a relationship which might suggest to a third party that they are emotionally or physically available. Before smartphones, micro-cheating might have been the sneaky removal of a wedding ring before a night out, but in the digital age it’s easier than ever to signal to someone that you’re available – anything from ‘deep liking’ (when you go way back into someone’s Instagram feed to like very old posts) to sending sly direct messages.”

In other words, micro-cheating is about signalling to someone that you’re interested / available – via social media – before doing a physical deed.

God calls us to total purity.

Jesus is uncompromising when it comes to sexual purity. He says: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Paul likewise tells the Ephesians, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3).

God cares about our hearts – he cares about what goes on in them, even when no-one else can see. Sexual purity goes way deeper than what we do with our bodies – it extends into our minds as well. So when faced with the possibility of ‘micro-cheating’ – I think Jesus wouldn’t say it’s micro- cheating, I think he’d say it was proper cheating.

This is why I can’t agree with this ‘relationship expert’ who says: “Fantasising about someone isn’t cheating. Fantasy is a private affair, and as you don’t act on it, that’s fair. However, if you message them afterwards, that is bad form. Ultimately, your fantasy is your own business.”

Even worse is what the other ‘relationship expert’ says: “If you’re going to be in a monogamous relationship with someone, the very least you can be allowed is porn and fantasy. I would actually argue that fantasies are safeguards against cheating.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. And no. Pornography is highly destructive to relationships – see the Fight the New Drug website for some facts.

Our minds are not simply our own business, our own private affair. What happens in our minds spills out into our actions. If you’re constantly fantasizing about someone – whether you’re already in a relationship or not – you will do damage to yourself and potentially them as well.

Purity is possible

If you think about Jesus’ words, they seem impossible to us: who can keep themselves free of lust in that way? How is that degree of purity possible for us – surely Jesus is expecting too much?

Well, fortunately for us, purity is possible – to quote the title of a (very good) book by Helen Thorne. Purity is possible in Jesus Christ, who died to forgive us of all that we do wrong (including sin in our minds), and who sends us the Holy Spirit to live in us to transform us.

We are not stuck with our flaws and failures – we have help. I’ve written more about this here.

Friendship is worth it

The BBC article talks about the dangers of ‘platonic’ friendship, and once again I have to disagree with the ‘relationship expert’: “You’ve got to be honest and decent about it. If you are in a stable relationship and you do these things, such as building a relationship with someone else or texting other people, it’s out of order.”

Part of the assumption here seems to be that a platonic friendship between a man and woman isn’t really possible – anyone who gets involved in one is simply wanting there to be more. (I blogged about this before – Can you overcome attraction to be friends?) I agree that it’s not good to hide things from your spouse or partner, but it’s way too much to say even building a relationship with someone else is “out of order”.

What Friend Zone is all about is saying that friendship is not just a good thing, but it’s possible. Healthy friendships are needed in all areas of life – they are even needed for good marriages. Let’s hope and pray that society comes to see that.


Phill Sacre is the founder of FriendZone, where this article was first published, a website to promote healthy male-female friendship.

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