With the social media age very much upon us, the definition of infidelity is changing at a rapid rate. Cheating has become easier than ever. A sneaky message here, a “like” there, all these things can lead you down a road towards an affair. But a newly coined term may be pointing us back to the Biblical view of adultery.
“Micro-cheating” is a series of “seemingly small” actions that show a person is emotionally or physically focused on someone who is not their partner.
“You might be engaging in micro-cheating if you secretly connect with another person on social media, if you share private jokes, if you downplay the seriousness of your relationship to your partner or if you enter their name under a code in your phone,” Australian Psychologist and consultant, Melanie Schilling told FEMAIL, as reported by the Daily Mail.
“These are all signs that you are conducting a “covert flirtation” and keeping it from your partner. If you feel you have something to hide – ask yourself why.”
This is so interesting! Not least because as Christians we know the Bible is very clear on the definition of adultery. The words of Christ are piercingly relevant on this issue:
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” – Matthew 5:28.
Melanie calls this type of lustful thinking “subtle betrayal.” Sure, the little things might not be quite as dramatic or immediately damaging as jumping into bed with someone, but they will start to corrode your relationship over time.
So, when should you be concerned? Well, Melanie points out some things to be particularly vigilant of.
“Things you should look out for are if your partner is having private conversations or online chats that he/she quickly shuts down when you enter the room or if they are reaching out to an ex to mark an anniversary or other significant shared, intimate event,” she explained.
“Perhaps they are offering compliments to other guys/girls that they don’t say to you, or maybe they meet up with someone of the opposite sex under the guise of a business meeting, when you discover no business was actually done.”
But isn’t there plenty of crossover when it comes to both an innocent friendship and a romantic involvement? Well, differentiating between the two may be clearer than you think, according to Melanie.
“It’s the secrecy and deception that accompanies the communication that defines it as micro-cheating,” she explained. “Your partner may have a perfectly platonic relationship with a friend and they may be up-front and open about talking to them and seeing them. This should not ring alarm bells.”
But watch out for the warning signs.
“If they start to conceal their relationship from you or lie to you about it, then start considering the appropriateness of their connection,” she added.
And what if you suspect something sinister? Confront them, says Melanie, but always tread carefully.
“You have an intuition for a reason and it tells you when things are not right. If things don’t add up, if you catch your partner in a lie, if they are behaving in an uncharacteristic way, bring it up.”
As Christians, we should always be seeking to honor, respect and love our partner’s, and must protect ourselves from the snares of lust and temptation.
The internet and accountability and filtering organization Covenant Eyes highlight a great three-step plan for evading sinful desires in relation to pornography, lust and infidelity:
Firstly, flee the temptation. If your phone is causing you to stumble, exchange it for an older one that lacks online messaging or internet browsing options. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul,” reads 1 Peter 2:11. So, we flee.
“Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” – 2 Timothy 2:22.
As Covenant Eyes explains, this “fleeing” may come in different forms.
“This might mean mentally fleeing: bouncing our thoughts away from lustful imaginations. This might mean visually fleeing: bouncing our eyes away from lustful images. This might mean physically fleeing: walking (or running) away from tempting situations.”
Secondly, we must seek to “run to” something:
“It is not enough to flee from youthful lusts. We must run toward a new passion. We are to “pursue,” that is, eagerly and swiftly run toward Christlikeness.
Christ promises His people a heart of . . .
- Righteousness (real integrity, a passion for justice, and a life pleasing to God)
- Faith (strong and welcome conviction and trust in God)
- Love (benevolent affection toward God and others)
- Peace (tranquility in the heart and harmony with God and others)
We are to run hard after these things each day knowing these character qualities are how we were created to live.”
Finally, we must do this all with a strong network of support. Of course, none of us are perfect. But with the right “running partner” we really can find freedom from lust and temptation and can be inspired to value, protect and nourish our relationships.
“We must not only run from lust and toward God’s vision for our lives, we must also run with our brothers and sisters with the same vision. We must all find companions for this stretch of the road, those who share our faith and convictions, those in the common struggle for holiness.”
So, remember to “run with” someone when dealing with a temptation towards infidelity, and ask God for help as you navigate through the lures and enticements of our age.