MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Cheating: it's nothing new. It's the subject of some of the most popular books, TV shows and movies in America. Media typically depicts cheating as physical affairs, but WSFA recently spoke with a relationship expert about a different kind of beast.
"Micro-cheating" is on the rise, and it's a term for a series of seemingly small actions partners can do that could have whispers of infidelity— without even being physically unfaithful. This can include flirtatiously texting or messaging another person on social media. Thanks to online dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, it's easier to connect with others, including people in committed relationships.
Reporter Rosanna Smith talked to Montgomery counselor Sandra Segall about the dangers of micro-cheating for couples, and the signs they should look for to know their significant other is being unfaithful, but we decided to dive deeper. We wanted to know what the third party, the person being cheated with, should do in the situation.
The obvious answer is, of course, to not get involved with someone in a committed relationship, and Segall, a licensed professional counselor, said as much, advising the person to find out if the person they are talking to is in a relationship before messaging them flirtatiously or dating them. According to the Associated Press and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 22 percent of men say that they've cheated on their significant other at least once during their marriage, and 14 percent of wives admit to it.
A 2008 poll conducted by Women's Health showed 79 percent of women said having an affair with a taken man was never acceptable. But other than confronting the two-timer and cutting all ties, is there a moral obligation for the other man or other woman to tell the significant other about the infidelity?
Articles from magazines like Cosmopolitan list horror stories from people who find out they are helping someone cheat, including an account from a woman who said the man she was seeing lied about having social media, a different last name, and a live-in girlfriend. The women would leave as soon as they learned the truth, often telling the significant others what was going on behind their backs. But Segall advises caution in this area.
Segall says the other woman or other man does not have a moral obligation to reveal the cheating to the person being cheated on. She said the couple may have set up some boundaries or rules about how their relationship will be, and revealing the truth could cause more strife than necessary. Segall said she could see the situation from both angles, though, and the ultimate decision would depend on the couple.
It's important to note that telling a significant other about a cheater should not be used as a weapon, wielded by someone who knows they are helping someone be unfaithful. Segall said she has had some "nightmare experiences" with the third party in troubled relationships; she recounted one situation where the girlfriend of a married man sent pictures of cards the husband had given her to the wife. Segall said this type of "vengeful contacting" has set couples working on their relationship further back from working through the issues.
Statistics show that 41 percent of marriages deal with infidelity, with only 31 percent of all marriages lasting after an affair is admitted or discovered. Furthermore, people who have cheated before are 3.5 times more likely to cheat again, according to a 2014 study. These are sobering numbers for anyone on any side of the cheating spectrum.