Adultery and Cheating Spouses: When Married People Become Unfaithful

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What is adultery?

Adultery is generally defined as the voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not their spouse. In the most basic sense, adultery is cheating on your spouse. In most cases, only the married party is said to have committed adultery.  If both parties are married (but not to each other) then they both have committed separate acts of adultery. Adultery is also referred to as: Extramarital sex, philandering, infidelity or cheating.

In addition to cheating, other slang terms include creeping, “on the down low”, sleeping around, and others.

Adultery does not include fornication. The term “adultery” carries a moral or religious association, while the term “extramarital sex” is morally or judgmentally neutral. Many would consider that a married person has committed adultery by simply having impure thoughts, or confiding in a member of the opposite sex. Some consider that a married individual who has inappropriate chats with others online is guilty of being adulterous.

For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.

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