Definition of Adultery

What is Adultery in Marriage? Here’s What You Need to Know

Adultery is one of those words that comes with nothing but negative connotations. It’s a dramatic word, and it’s used as an accusation.

But if you asked someone to define “adultery” and be crystal clear on what they mean by it, you might find that it gets more complicated quite quickly. There are different concepts about what cheating is and what is being unfaithful.

It’s important to be clear on what adultery is and what the difference is between adultery and cheating. It’s even more important to understand why someone might commit it so that we can take some of those “end of the world” vibes away from it.

Let’s dive in.

What is Adultery in Marriage?

If we’re going by legal definitions in the UK, adultery is about sex.

If you’re a married man, it means having sex with a woman who isn’t your wife. If you’re a married woman, it means having sex with a man who isn’t your husband. 

We’ll get into the specifics, but adultery is different from cheating because it explicitly states that a sexual encounter has occurred. In UK law, that used to mean that sex with someone of the same gender is not considered adultery.

Of course, the legal definition of what is committing adultery is a pretty narrow view, and there are some differences of opinion.

Adultery Across Different Religions & Beliefs

Generally speaking, the answer to what is adultery is the same in Western religions as it is in the law. It’s also considered one of the major sins. 

However, there are exceptions, most of which favour the guys. For example, religions like Mormonism have allowed men to take multiple wives, although it’s still a sin to have sex with someone outside of that unit.

Adultery is condemned as a sin in Islan, Hinduism, Buddhism and other major religions, although you might find an exception now and again (such as to produce an heir).

But it’s one thing to talk about what religion has to say about this issue. It’s quite another to actually deal with it in daily life. 

Adultery vs Cheating

Understandably, there’s a lot of confusion about what the difference is between adultery and cheating

As we mentioned above, the definition of adultery is that it’s a sexual act with someone of the opposite gender outside of your marriage. Cheating is a much broader area.

Cheating can be physical, of course. But it can also be emotional. It can be about looking for that intimacy and connection outside of sex. A neat definition of that is a lot trickier.

Now, it’s going to be harder to find an official religious viewpoint on the idea of texting someone that they are the only ones who really understand you.

Adultery is a form of cheating, that’s for sure. But cheating is a lot broader, and different people have different ideas about what constitutes it.

Definition of Adultery

What is Considered as Committing Adultery?

We’ve covered the definition of adultery already as far as the law and the dictionary are concerned.

But different people might have different ideas about what an adulterous act may be. Some of which include:

  • Having sex with someone else outside of your marriage.
  • A physical encounter with a third party that may not have included sex.
  • Emotional cheating, such as texting.
  • Cyber cheating.
  • Watching pornography.

Once you get away from the essential definition, the waters start getting murkier. For example, some people might view their partner watching pornography as an adulterous act. 

What it often boils down to is what constitutes a breach of trust in the relationship. Does the partner feel like they have been betrayed?

Is Adultery a Crime in the UK?

The short answer to this question is no; adultery is not a crime in the UK.

Adultery hasn’t been a crime in the UK since 1857. There is no legal punishment for committing it. 

However, adultery is something that people do take seriously, and it can be a major factor in divorce cases, as we’ll get into shortly.

You won’t be hauled up in front of the judge for committing adultery. But it may be something that your spouse decides to use against you.

couple signing divorce decree

What Happens When Someone Commits Adultery?

Relationships can be tricky and turbulent things. When a partner commits adultery, it can sometimes be the biggest sign that the marriage is about to end.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

There are so many reasons why people commit adultery, and these days there are a lot of relationships where sexual relationships outside of the marriage are permitted and even encouraged by the partner. 

There’s no legal penalty for committing adultery. There’s no official next step. What happens when someone has committed adultery is really down to the two people in the marriage. Some people decide to talk the matter over and discuss what’s next for the relationship. Others decide that it’s a point of no return. 

Why Would Someone Commit Adultery?

There are so many different answers to this question, but one of the most common is that there is a need that isn’t being met. 

Adultery can happen because the person in question feels like they aren’t getting what they need sexually or emotionally. They may feel isolated and neglected and look for people who understand. 

They may also feel like adventure and excitement are lacking in their lives. Adultery is a thrill for some people; it shows them that they are still capable of surprising themselves.

Adultery can also occur because a person has realised that they aren’t ready to settle down yet

romantic couple engaging in adultery

How Does Adultery Affect Divorce?

In legal terms, adultery in divorce is no longer the dealbreaker that it once was.

Adultery is generally not a major factor in any part of the divorce proceedings in the UK. It won’t necessarily impact things like the financial settlement or child custody (unless it’s been shown to have an impact on child care).

Adultery can be one of the factors that lead to a divorce, and it can certainly help to paint the picture of what the marriage was like. 

But it isn’t necessarily the major dealbreaker that people think it is.

Summary: What is Adultery, & What are the Consequences?

So, what have we learned about adultery? 

We’ve learned that in very strict legal terms, it’s when a spouse has sex with someone other than their partner with someone of the opposite gender. But we’ve also learned that adultery and cheating are much bigger than dictionary definitions or what religions think of them.

While adultery and cheating aren’t necessarily the same thing, they are about fulfilling a need that is not being met at home. It’s about looking for a physical or emotional connection or about needing to experience something new.

People use sites like Illicit Encounters to find people who understand what they are going through so they can connect and meet those needs.

There are so many reasons why someone might choose to commit adultery, and there are lots of people out there who feel the need to reach out and find someone who is in the same position as they are.

romantic fun couple


What is Committing Adultery?

In strictest terms, committing adultery is when a married person has sex with someone who isn’t their spouse with someone who is of the opposite gender.

What is Considered Adultery?

The definition of adultery is narrow, but different people see it differently. Some people might consider emotional cheating to be adultery, texting suggestive messages or committing a cyber affair.

Is Adultery a Crime in the UK?

Adultery is not a crime in the UK. It hasn’t been for a very long time, and there is no punishment for committing it. Committing adultery does not have a massive impact on divorce cases anymore, either.

What is the Legal Definition of Adultery?

The legal definition of adultery is a married person having sexual relations with another person of the opposite gender. It used to be that sex with someone of the same gender wasn’t considered adultery!

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