MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Social media and dating apps have made it easier to explore new relationships. However, now questions are surfacing as to if it could be creating new problems with existing relationships. Some are now calling that gray area between a full-on healthy relationship and separation/divorce "micro-cheating."
Relationship experts say micro-cheating is a term for a series of seemingly small actions you do that could have whispers of infidelity, without even being physically unfaithful, and can take you into a space you might regret.
Should you even be worried?
Thanks to online dating apps and social media connecting with others can happen no matter how busy you are.
"You can see people from all over the world as opposed to just someone in your neighborhood or at the grocery store, so there are just more options out there," Sarah Cooper said.
Thirty-three-year-old Cooper is a prime example of how technology can impact your love life.
"I am with someone. We did meet through an app. And about 50 percent of my friends met their significant other through an app," said Cooper.
This is why when she was "off the market," and in a committed relationship her dating app reflected that.
"Don't just delete the app. Take yourself off the app. Unsubscribe or whatever it is," Cooper said.
In this new age of building romantic relationships online, Derek Ward, who has been married for 10 years, believes you always have to go back to the basics.
"I believe in marriage the old way. There is just those two that are involved. You get third parties involved then it is always a problem," Ward said.
Behavior on social media by people who are married or in relationships is drawing new concerns and creating some gray areas.
"I have a couple friends who are in serious relationships and kind of get in trouble with their loved ones for simply liking a pic. It just depends on what the pic is," Dre Massey said.
Small actions like liking a "sexy" Instagram or Facebook picture of a friend or acquaintance of the opposite sex may seem harmless. Others, however, view such behavior, called micro-cheating, as infidelity or a path to it.
"I have definitely heard about it. The way I see it is don't start nothing and there will be nothing," Cameron Reese said, who is not in a relationship.
"People now are making up stuff, I think, to be convenient. When your focus is not on that one person, you are cheating," said Sondra Hill-Ward.
Sandra Segall is a licensed professional counselor here in Montgomery. Over the last several years she has seen more couples dealing with the aftermath of cheating.
"The problem has escalated exponentially," Segall said.
Statistics show infidelity rates have increased in the past 25 years. A new study shows that 41 percent of all marriages have dealt with infidelity, either physical or emotional.
Segall feels the reason behind the widespread issue of micro-cheating is we have social media at our fingertips.
"It is just so easy to do it. You get your phone. Everything is on your phone. Facebook is on your phone," Segall said.
Even though micro-cheating falls into the category of emotional cheating, Seagal says is something to be worried about.
"Once you start that pattern it can continue. If the couple gets married, what is to stop one or the other from keeping and contact with new people or exes," Segall said. "It drains a relationship of its vitality. It takes energy away from a couple if someone is busy texting and talking to someone else."
Experts say the biggest tell-tell sign of micro-cheating is secrecy.
"If somebody is stepping outside to get on the phone. If someone is deleting text messages. Those are key signs that something is wrong in the relationship. That creates a huge lack in trust," Segall said.
Segall says the best way to prevent any misunderstandings in your relationship is by simply setting relationship boundaries.
"People need to sit down in the very beginning of the relationship when they are becoming romantically involved, and talk about what is OK and not OK if there is going to be trust and the relationship is going to go forward," Segall said.
Statistics paint a pretty gloomy picture with only 31 percent of all marriages lasting after an affair is admitted or discovered.
Segall believes, with counseling, a couple can bounce back if they learn what is expected and what is not expected and become transparent.