Difference Between Infidelity and Adultery

Infidelity vs Adultery

Human relationships are delicate matters. Especially when it comes to romantic relationships, there are many issues that rise due to various reasons. Adultery and infidelity being two such issues, it is common for these two words to be used interchangeably since both these words are used in similar contexts. However, one must discern the true difference between them in order to use them properly in certain contexts.

What is Adultery?

Adultery can be defined as extramarital sex that is highly looked down upon based on social, religious, moral or legal grounds. Although the concept of adultery exists in almost all societies, the definitions and the consequences vary from one community to another. Although adultery used to be considered as a crime sometimes even punishable by death in historic times, it is no longer a criminal offence in western countries. However, adultery tends to have legal consequences, particularly in divorce cases where there exists a fault-based family law. In such cases, adultery is considered grounds for divorce.  When considering alimony, property settlement or the custody of children, adultery in such cases may be a deciding factor.

Adultery is criminalized in some countries where, mostly, the dominant religion is Islam, and some ultra-conservative countries with the Islamic Sharia Law in operation may even implement stoning as punishment for adultery.

What is Infidelity?

Infidelity is known by many names, having an affair or cheating being just two of them. Infidelity occurs when one partner in the relationship has violated a set of norms or rules pertaining to the relationship resulting in sexual rivalry and jealousy. Infidelity can be either physical or emotional, but mostly to sexual relations outside committed relationships. According to the  National Health and Social Life Survey, 16% of cohabiting men,  4% of married men, and 37% of dating men engage in sexual infidelity whereas 8% of cohabiting women, 1% of married women, and 17% of women in dating relationships were found to be infidel.

Causes for infidelity are found to be sexual dissatisfaction, emotional dissatisfaction and is found to be common among individuals possessing sexually permissive attitudes. Being well educated, being less religious, living in an urban centre, having more opportunities to meet potential partners, having a liberal ideology and values, and being older are found to be factors that contribute towards infidelity among human beings.

What is the difference between Adultery and Infidelity?

Adultery and infidelity may both refer to the act of not remaining faithful to one’s partner. Both situations arise when one or both parties involved in the relationship are not satisfied of the quality of their love life or the emotional bond they share. However, the two words have a distinct difference that makes it extremely important to recognize the difference between the two.

• In adultery, at least one of the sexual partners must be married to someone else. Infidelity can occur among both married individuals and committed relationships.

• Adultery means engaging in physical sexual activity. Infidelity can be either being emotionally or physically engaged.

• Adultery is considered a criminal offense and as grounds for divorce in certain jurisdictions. Infidelity is not considered as a criminal offence, and neither is it considered grounds for divorce.