Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Macro-Impact of Micro-Cheating

Micro-Cheating has garnered Macro-Attention. It’s a peculiar tension inducing oxymoron stirring as much uncertainty as these more familiar ones.

  • Open secret
  • Act naturally
  • Jumbo shrimp

It’s difficult to know which half of the term has it right. Is it the first half that suggests that Micro-Cheating is just a small, insignificant and harmless matter? Or, would it be the second half that suggests it rises to the level of full-blown infidelity?

Micro-cheating involves ongoing romantically tinged interactions between a person in a committed relationship or marriage and a person outside of that relationship. The interactions can be mildly flirtatious and evoke feelings of closeness.  Communications reside somewhere in the safe zone of friendship, acquaintance or colleague.

When a person is accused of Micro-Cheating, the behaviors that rattle their partner can easily be portrayed as perfectly benign and innocent.  The uneasy feelings they provoke are readily dismissed or minimized with responses that sound perfectly logical and reasonable –  on the surface.

Technically, the person in the committed relationship or marriage has not engaged in any overt behavior that would be considered an unquestionable act of betrayal, and yet something just doesn’t feel quite right. In other words, it just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Micro-cheating lurks in that slippery gray area provoking strong emotional responses, yet hard to pin down with precision.

To clarify, it’s more than a single momentary glance or fleeting attraction. It’s about ongoing interactions with someone outside the primary relationship that is categorized as a friendship or work associate.

Micro-Cheating interactions send shockwaves of worry through the committed relationship as the communications are intuitively recognized as precursors to the formation of a more significant romantic, emotional or sexual bond.


If you whittle a committed romantic relationship down to it’s most essential elements, the romantic relationship primarily exists to meet the need for emotional and sexual intimacy. And when they overlay one another and operate in unison they serve to bond the couple helping them to form an attachment that is secure and certain.

When emotional and sexual intimacy needs are nurtured and protected they serve to help maintain a secure bond. A characteristic of a secure bond is found in the words of the old song lyrics that profess  “I only have eyes for you.”

When the couple can create ‘a private world for just we two’ calm, comfort and peace of mind ensue. Each party rests assured that they are the single most important person to the other.


To protect the romantic relationship and maintain the required safety and security they require an impenetrable fortress of protection and air-tight safeguards need to exist. In general, nurturing both emotional and sexual intimacy (and not one or the other) tends to secure it. When partners can consistently turn to one another for emotional and sexual sharing – and repairs are made when there is difficulty – it tends to keep the relationship safe from outside interference.

The reverse is also true: when a romantic relationship has devolved into the dreaded ‘friend zone’ and couples find themselves ‘living like roommates’ it leaves one or both individuals vulnerable to the possibility of connecting with a person outside the relationship. Since romantic relations are just that – romantic – they need to be a place where softer, tender, sentimental and romantic feelings can have expression.  When the sex and sentimentality fall by the wayside, neglected,  it’s all too easy to turn one’s focus toward another who providing even just a small hint of attention.


The need for a wall of protection and safeguarding is much higher than most people realize.



The foundation of a secure connection is comprised of high levels of safety and trust.  The relationship itself rests upon this all-important secure base. When a full-blown affair is discovered, it tosses the couple into a major crisis as it blows up the foundation placing the future of the relationship in jeopardy.

Micro-Cheating places a hairline fracture in the base and creates a dangerous fissure in the protective fortress leaving the relationship vulnerable to a greater intrusion.

Infidelity often begins with the less-threatening behaviors before it expands and develops into something more.

Micro-cheating sends tiny shockwaves and small cracks through the relationship holding the possibility that a greater connection could develop.


In my work with couples healing from the trauma of infidelity I have observed that the affair partner and the needs that are met in the outside-relationship precisely correlate to the unmet emotional needs within the primary relationship. The affair relationship serves as a type of mirrored reflection to the unmet emotional needs in the primary relationship with a great degree of predictability.

Here’s an example. Let’s suppose a relationship has progressed to the next level of commitment and one of the partners, recognizing the implications of this increased responsibility and the prospect of a future together, starts behaving more seriously. Their personality becomes more rigid, and a stern gloominess starts to appear.

The changed behavior is noted by the partner, but it isn’t understood or processed. They are not sure how to approach their loved one about their needs. They just feel frustrated, disappointed and confused.

Instead of addressing this change in their partner’s personality directly they begin to gravitate in a slow, mindless slide toward someone with whom the exchanges are lighter, more relaxed and playful.


The outside person and the nature of the connection is almost always a direct reflection an unmet need within the primary relationship


This phenomenon holds true whether it is a full-blown affair or is an act of  Micro-Cheating.


If you find yourself engaged in Micro-Cheating behaviors, then you might ask yourself what relationship needs are being met with the Micro-Cheating partner. What feelings do they elicit in you? How do you feel about yourself when you interact with this person? What do you like about the feeling you get when you communicate with this person?

Pay close attention to what’s happening within your own relationship. What changes have taken place and how have they impacted your relationship? Which issues need to be addressed? What are the things that are causing you and your partner unease and distress? What things make you feel close and connected?

When you start to pay attention, you will likely find a direct correlation between your unmet relationship needs (the places where you are frustrated and disappointed) and the needs being met with the person outside your primary relationship.

If you are concerned about your partner’s ongoing interactions with another, rather than attack or accuse (as this just results in a defensiveness), try to talk with them about why the interactions trouble you. Include the fact that you love your partner and want to protect your relationship with him or her.  Together, explore what it is your relationship that needs attention or adjustment.

Likewise, in examining the interactions between your partner and the other party pay attention to what needs your partner seems to be getting met from those communications. Do the interactions make your partner feel attractive? Are they paying attention to particular accomplishments or talents?

The best response to Micro-Cheating is to engage in an open and honest discussion with your partner about your relationship, your needs, your partner’s needs and how you can best meet those needs within your relationship.


Terri DiMatteo, LPC is the relationship and couples counselor at Open Door Therapy in Westfield, NJ. She specializes in helping couples ‘find their way back’. 

How to Write a Love Letter

Flowers wilt and chocolates melt, but the Love Letter lasts forever

On the next special 0ccasion – or for no occasion at all –  instead of signing off on a mass-produced card for your sweetie,  why not pen your personal,  intimate, endearing, love letter to personally tell your beloved precisely what they mean to you?

The secure romantic relationship is built on emotional bonding. Daily and in small ways intimate partners need to continuously turn toward each other and communicate directly and through gestures that indicate, “You matter to me,  and I will be here for you  — no matter what — because you are the most special person in the world to me.”

Dr. Susan Johnson author of  the book,  Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, writes:

We are emotionally invested in these [love] relationships and they penetrate key aspects of our lives. These bonds have incredible survival value. We are healthier, happier, psychologically stronger, and we live longer when we are close and connected. This deep desire to matter to another, to be able to turn to another as a safe haven, gets lost in our culture of mine, me and myself. 

As it is an intimate expression of soft sentimentality, writing a love letter to the one who is most dear to your heart strengthens your love-bond and relationship.

For the love letter to convey that the recipient feels loved and cherished the writer must focus his or her attention on the loved one and consider what it is that endears them to their beloved. As you concentrate your sweetie, good feelings and memories will flood your psyche as tender emotions rise to the surface. This will help you to find just the right words that will capture precisely what it was that drew you toward your beloved in the first place and how your own life has changed as a result of their presence in your life.

The love letter recipient will be emotionally touched that their special someone has put in the time and effort to prepare and deliver something as endearing as intimate as a love letter. The letter is sure to hold a unique place in your loved one’s heart and is sure to be kept for many years to come.

The process of preparing, planning, crafting and mailing the letter – as well as the eager anticipating of witnessing their response upon receiving it – is a romantic gesture that is sure to get noticed!

How to Write a Love Letter

The good old-fashioned romantic love letter is intended to reach the soul of the recipient. You are opening your heart to the power of the pen and attempting to reach the heart of your sweetheart through your words, sentiment, and presentation.

Set the Mood

You will need to find a private and personal space to write without distractions to set the mood to put yourself in the right mindset. Lighting a candle and playing soft music will help. Perhaps you have a song or two that you associate with your loved-one that will stir fond memories and soft feelings. Let the setting stimulate the literary lover in you!


Take special care that your love letter looks and feels as beautiful as the words and sentiment that adorn it. Select a high-quality paper in a neutral, soft color. Write only with either black or brown ink and nothing brash or harsh. The love letter must be handwritten and not be typed, sent via email, or texted.

Your efforts will demonstrate to your loved one that the care you are placing in the letter and its presentation reflect the love, respect, appreciation and the high regard you feel for them.

The Greeting

Select an intimate, personal and endearing salutation. Don’t be formal. Embellish the theme of your loved one’s first name. Here are a few suggestions for the love-letter salutation:


My dearest _____________________

To my beloved __________________

Darling ________________________



In the body of the letter include the reasons you fell in love in the first place. Recall how you first met or when you knew you had fallen in love with them. You might list qualities about your sweetheart that inspire you or mention a meaningful memory that the two of you share. Think of a moment that you felt especially moved by your sweetheart and write about it in great detail that includes your own feelings and perceptions from your point of view.

The love letter is to express direct and sincere feelings and sentiments. It’s about romantic inspiration The content should not include silly or casual jokes nor should it be sexually suggestive.

The love letter is about the heart, not the loins.

If you want to add something about your lover’s physicality, make it something sentimental such as about their ‘beautiful eyes’ or your desire to embrace them or hold them close.

What matters in a love letter is that you mean what you say and that genuine sentiment is expressed. It’s a deliberate and intentional gesture designed to stimulate tender feelings of love and to strengthen the intimate emotional bond between you and your loved one.

The Closing

Conclude your love letter with something upbeat and romantic. Close with a genuine signature such as ‘With all my heart…’ or ‘Forever yours…’  Avoid formalities or the simple, ‘Love’ — instead, make it personal and memorable.

Extras: The Personal Touch

To add a little extra touch to your love letter you might like to spray it lightly with your favorite perfume or cologne. Adding dried rose petals or small sparkly hearts from a craft shop adds a nice touch. For women writers, you might like to put some red lipstick on and then kiss the paper for a  ‘sealed with a kiss’ imprint. For men, you might consider tracing your hand on the back of the letter suggesting to your beloved that she might ‘take your hand’ and place her own hand within the tracing. A decorative postage stamp placed upside-down on the envelope is a European custom that signifies “I love you.”

When it comes to a love letter, it’s the little details that count!

Have fun writing your love letter! And, even if you live in the same house with your loved one — consider mailing it! Imagine how exciting it will be for you to anticipate your loved one’s response as he or she collects the mail and discovers that a carefully crafted love letter from you has arrived!


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