Infidelity Terminology 101

apple and booksWhen I first started researching infidelity I used the words infidelity, adultery, affair and cheating interchangeably, but I realized there are some specific differences when used in association with committed, romantic relationships and/or marriages. I’m not sure people give this much thought, I thought I would. The basic breakdown is as follows:

Infidelity: lack of sexual faithfulness or disloyalty, breaking a promise (formally or informally) to remain faithful to your partner, and a violation of the rules of being faithful.

Cheating: to be sexually unfaithful.

Adultery: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.

Affair: a secret sexual relationship between two people.

A footnote to all of the above; definitions can also include romantic friendships, passionate or emotional attachments and all sorts of electronic and social media dalliances. Perspectives and progress brings their own set of terms.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the defined words.

  • Infidelity can be perpetrated by someone who is married or not.
  • Cheating can occur between someone who is married or not.
  • Adultery is only committed by a married person.
  • An affair can be carried out by married or unwed individuals, whereas an extramarital affair consists of having sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse.

As you can see, infidelity and cheating are basically the same and are always present in adultery and extramarital affairs, except in certain circumstances such as open relationships or swinging, whereby sex outside the bond has been discussed and agreed upon.

Adultery and extramarital affairs are similar in that they include sex with someone other than your spouse.

So, there you have it, or at least the gist of it. Make sense? Confused? Either way, it’s probably best not to ever have to use these words in conjunction with your own personal situation. That’s something that definitely deserves serious thought.


This Article on Infidelity Terminology 101 is Written By:

Gary Spivak, Founder Fidelity Dating,

Co-Author: Elda M. Lopez, Author THE (IN)FIDELITY FACTOR,

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Gary Spivak
Founder of, whose mission is to build the largest community of single infidelity survivors who are looking for a safe haven to rejoin the dating pool. Master's Degree in Management from New Jersey Institute of Technology

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