'Soft cheating' is the icky phenomenon that makes you question your relationship—here's how to work through it

Don't let soft cheating—or any trendy dating buzzword—put you and your S.O. on shaky ground

Young couple having an argument in the bedroom at home
(Image credit: Getty Images/Delmaine Donson)

Where does innocence end and betrayal begin? The 'soft cheating' tech trend is determined to blur the lines. 

It's no surprise that throwing a screen into the mix makes things murkier, but is this so-called digital dealbreaker worthy of the hype we're giving it? Is it possible that scrolling and liking aren't so problematic? Here's what you need to know about the buzzword and where problems come into play.

What is 'soft cheating'?

Soft cheating isn't a physical act of betrayal, but it's engaging with social media accounts, such as an OnlyFans page, without reciprocation. It can lead to a case of mentionitis or completely go unnoticed. It also has the potential to throw your relationship off-kilter and make you question how well you trust your partner, if at all. 

Although cases differ, people tend to engage in soft cheating because of their need for validation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is possible that what one partner considers soft cheating is just another partner simply throwing a like someone else's way. It can be pretty subjective.

How to deal with 'soft cheating', according to the experts

When it comes to anything that might make a romance feel a bit uneasy, Paired’s In-House Relationship Expert, Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT, suggested having a chat about boundaries. What works for you? What makes you feel uncomfortable? The only way to address the issue is to be candid. 

"An open line of communication is crucial to any relationship and ultimately makes your relationship stronger, so if you’re having doubts speak up," she previously told My Imperfect Life. 

However, an open line of communication means that you have to watch your delivery, even if you believe you're in the right. 

"It’s important to navigate this with curiosity, rather than judgment, mistrust or accusation," she warned. "We should endeavor to be curious and enquire in romantic relationships, and be mindful of mistrust—it can erode a once-healthy relationship."

When to wave the red flags

While soft cheating might not be a cause for panic, there are certain times when you might want to consider waving the red flag. If at any point your partner's online behavior interferes with your relationship, it's high time for a chat.

"When your partner’s external relationships begin to negatively affect or take priority over yours, that is when they can be considered problematic," Maria Sullivan, the vice president of Dating.com previously told us.

Should the liking and swiping prohibit you from carrying on a healthy relationship, it might be time to reevaluate what type of communication you need and expect from an S.O.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.