What Constitutes Infidelity In A Marriage?

What Constitutes Infidelity In A Marriage?

Determining why people cheat is a difficult answer to narrow down. People commonly have affairs because they feel they are lacking something in their current relationship, be it attention, sexual gratification, affection or emotional support. People with addictions to drugs or alcohol are also more likely to be unfaithful to their partners.

Those facts considered, some people in happy relationships have affairs for the simple reason that they can. Are you concerned that your marriage mate is being unfaithful? If you have suspicions that an innocent flirtation has morphed into something deeper than you might be asking yourself: What constitutes infidelity in a marriage?

Learning what constitutes infidelity in a marriage

Everyone expects fidelity when they enter the marriage union, but bonding to one another under the law doesn’t always mean you get what you want. So what constitutes infidelity in a marriage? Infidelity is whatever you and your partner decided it meant when you became a married couple.

You may feel like your husband kissing another woman is wrong, but is not necessarily cheating. You may feel that your wife having an emotional affair with your friend is worse than her having a purely physical relationship with someone else. Or perhaps you feel there is no leeway and cheating is cheating in any shape or form.

Signs of infidelity

Noting the signs of infidelity can help you decide how you want to proceed, either by entering marriage counseling and deciding to stay together or filing for divorce.

If you suspect your marriage mate is cheating on you and you’re looking to file a case against them, it’s best to note the signs of infidelity as early as you can. Common signs include:

  • Emotional distance
  • More time spent at “work” or out of town
  • Overly critical spouse
  • Spending more time on their appearance (going to the gym, buying new clothes)
  • Increased desire for privacy, especially with tech devices
  • Lack of sex or drastic change in sexual behavior

Different types of cheating

Legally, cheating in a marriage often constitutes two people having a sexual relationship with at least one party being married to someone else. Unfortunately, in real life cheating isn’t so simply defined.

There are many avenues of infidelity ranging from emotional attachments to cyber dating. No matter what form it takes, all types of cheating are devastating to a marriage. Here are some of the most common forms of cheating today:

1. Emotional affairs: Emotional affairs can sometimes hurt worse than sexual infidelity. Having an emotional affair meant that while your partner did not necessarily have a sexual relationship with this person, their feelings had crossed the line into emotional intimacy. This often involves sharing personal details with this person and treating the connection as they would a romantic relationship.

2. Physical affairs: This includes mutual sexual touching, oral copulations, anal sex, and vaginal sex. These involve both parties being present. Infidelity in a marriage is painful whether the affair lasted three days or three years.

Physical affairs


Here are the most common forms of physical affairs:

  • One night stands: A one night stand means that your partner only cheated once and it ended there. This was likely nothing more than a physical attraction that was about sex and nothing more. Regardless of the circumstance, the affair ended after that night.
  • Long-term affairs: Opposed to a one night stand, this kind affair goes on for many years. Instead of simply being in a physical connection, when your partner forms a romantic relationship with another person and in a sense, creates a separate life with them, that is a long term affair.
  • Revenge cheating: After being cheated on, some may find a surge of anger that creates a need to “get even” with the cheating party. If you have cheated in the past and your partner wasn’t able to deal with their feelings on the matter they may have lashed out and cheated out of revenge.
  • Online affairs: The internet has opened up a new world of cheating. This could include sexting, sending nude or explicit photos to someone other than your marriage mate, pornography addiction, watching cam girls, having phone sex, indulging in explicit online chat rooms, or pursuing a relationship via dating app.

What legally determines cheating?

The unfortunate fact is that you and the law have different definitions of what constitutes infidelity in a marriage. If you are legally pursuing action with your spouse after discovering their affair, you and the law may have conflicting ideas about what constitutes infidelity in a marriage.

For example, the law commonly does not accept emotional affairs as grounds to file under adultery. However, States like Massachusetts consider cheating to be a felony that can land your straying spouse with $500 worth of fines and up to 3 years in jail. Laws vary greatly by country and state. Sometimes things that you consider as a grievous break in your marriage vows may not be recognized by the court system.

Common questions regarding adultery and the law

Is it Adultery if your partner cheated with the same sex? Yes. Most states consider physical acts of sex to fall under infidelity regardless of what gender the marriage mate is cheating with.

Online relationships: Many courts do not recognize emotional affairs or online relationships to be grounds for adulterous divorce. Even if the affair has been going on for 10 years, courts usually require the physical act of sex to have occurred to dissolve the marriage under the flag of adultery.

The bottom line

What constitutes fidelity is between you and your marriage mate. Discuss in an open and honest fashion what both of you consider the breaking point of trust in your relationship. If you are reeling from the aftermath of an affair do not be afraid to seek

Learning what legally constitutes infidelity in a marriage is important information to know, especially if you are considering pursuing legal action against your partner. If you are dealing with the fallout from an affair you may want to pursue infidelity therapy to regain control of your life either with or without your partner.