Infidelity is a breach of faith and occurs in a number of contexts (e.g., in religious contexts). Also called cheating: 'any violation of the mutually agreed-upon rules or boundaries of a relationship'. What constitutes an act of infidelity varies between and within cultures. It does not depend on the presence of sexual behaviour. Even within a close relationship, people might have very different ideas and perceptions of infidelity: see Blumstein. A man cheated on by his wife is referred to as a cuckold but no equivalent word exists for a woman cheated on by her partner. The term describes a married man whose wife has sex with other men.

Fidelity refers to the accuracy and integrity of self-representation, honesty or candor in an intimate, committed relationship. Integrity may be defined as 'the inner sense of wholeness deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character.' Infidelity is a breach of that integrity through the use of deception by one party to a committed and not necessarily monogamous relationship. This breach is experienced as a betrayal of an explicit or implicit agreement between the partners to not keep secret those matters now the subject of deception. Deception is 'the covert manipulation of perception to alter thoughts, feeling, or beliefs.'

Adultery is "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse." Fornication is sexual intercourse between consenting unmarried partners. An open relationship allows for open sexual choice. Polyfidelity on the other hand refers to closed choices among a defined group. In either case, when the rules are broken any of these may constitute infidelity. Some consider these forms of nonmonogamy. The psychology of monogamy addresses some of the issues that may underly infidelity in a monogamous relationship.


Relationship counseling and Family therapy have been successful interventions in cases of marital infidelity. Committed relationships might be irreparably damaged by infidelity, but research indicates that for couples dealing forthrightly with underlying relationship problems, a healthier relationship, based on trust and mutual understanding, can result. However, multiple and ongoing cases of infidelity on the part of one partner tend to make reconciliation more doubtful. An effective counselor will help both partners make informed choices about reconciliation by avoiding criticism and pre-judgement.

Some authorities (for example Frank Pittman in 'Grow Up' Golden Books) observe infidelity is involved in 90% of first time divorces. A 1997 study with Kristina Gordon found 'more than half of the marriages that experience infidelity ended in divorce'. By contrast John Gottman with his 35 years of research into marriage, is reported as saying "Only 20 percent of divorces are caused by an affair. Most marriages die with a whimper, as people turn away from one another, slowly growing apart." Fifty United Kingdom divorce lawyers were asked to name the most common causes of their cases in 2003. Of those who cited extramarital affairs, 55% said it was usually the husbands and 45% said that it was the wives who cheated. In addition between 10-15% of children are conceived as a result of an affair. Infidelity that does not involve sex or conception may be referred to as a romantic friendship or an emotional affair. Sometimes infidelity at home occurs on-line, where it may be known as virtual sex. On-line infidelity can sometimes signify deeper problems of addiction that may need to be addressed in addition to any marital problems that might emerge from this behavior.

An office romance, work romance, or corporate affair is a romance that occurs between two people who work together in the same office, work location, or business.

Office romances are generally believed to be unhelpful to the welfare and effectiveness of the business and to the network of relationships that comprise it. Thus they are discouraged and even prohibited by company policy. The suspicion that an advantage is gained by 'sleeping with the boss' in a competitive environment ensures that these transactions occur by stealth.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Infidelity. The Official Guide to Infidelity is Stephany Alexander.

Stephany Alexander, B.A. Comm, B.A. German; aka "Little Miss WomanSaver"; Date Screening Expert, Online Dating Expert, Relationship Expert, Infidelity Expert, Women's Speaker, CEO/Founder of (World's Largest Database Rating Men); Founder of the C-301 Non-Profit Abuse Prevention Foundation, A Charitable Foundation for Women, Children and Animals Founder of the #1 Most Popular Abused Women's Forum; Best-selling Author of “Sex, Lies and the Internet,” An Online Dating Survial Guide;Women's Speaker

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