Is having an affair necessarily cheating?

You might think this is a strange question to ask. Of course having an affair is cheating... or is it?

By definition, cheating means to deceive, trick, mislead or to be dishonest. When used informally it means to be "sexually unfaithful".

Obviously a married man is cheating on his wife if he visits prostitutes, has flings, gfs or ONS then goes home to his wife and pretends that he never did it and even denies it when his wife finds out and questions him about it. There's deception here, so of course that's cheating.

However, I don't consider all affairs to be cheating although, legally speaking, they are still considered as adultery. (I am not discussing religious beliefs here and neither am I discussing whether the thought of having an affair is as bad as physically doing it).

1. Couples who are separated or going through a divorce
If a couple is separated or finalising a divorce AND it is clearly communicated that there is no intention of reconciliation, if they have affairs I do not consider them as cheating on each other.

Marriage to me is just a legality and getting a divorce is a formality. The emotional and physical part of the marriage is what matters. If it is clear that the marriage is over, either party should not be surprised to find out about the affairs. I'm not saying whether people should or shouldn't have affairs before the legal part of the marriage is concluded. All I'm saying is: if there's no deception or trickery, then it's not cheating.

Note that I used cap for "and" in the criteria above. If there is clear communication of the intention and possibility of reconciliation, then I think having affairs would be cheating.

2. Couples who marry for convenience
There are couples who marry not out of love but for mutual benefits such as financial benefits or to raise one's social status. I'm not referring to women who marry rich old men for money or old men who marry young women for sex. [Read #1 Idea of a person vs a person in my post, Why couples split up].

There are couples who do not love each other but get married so that they can jointly afford to buy an apartment. There are others who marry someone of similar social status without love because their parents want them to. Of course some of these couples may go on to develop love for each other, but in many cases there is no love or sex involved. It is clear to both parties that love and sex are not part of the arrangement and they are free to do what they want as long as it is discreet. There's no deception or trickery between the couple - so I don't regard this as cheating on each other.
(Marriage for convenience is illegal).

3. Closing one eye
Consider this scenario: A married man is having affairs. His wife knows about it but pretends not to know. The man knows that his wife knows about it and is "closing one eye" to his affairs. His wife is distressed but does not say or do anything to communicate her distress.

Is the man cheating?
I don't think so. The man did not deceive his wife. She knows. And he knows that she knows.
Therefore, no deception = not cheating.

One may say that through the ceremony of marriage and signing of the papers, it is implied that the man has agreed that he would not have affairs. But, on the other hand, if his wife knows that he is cheating on her but ignores it and behaves as per normal, can it be implied that she accepts his behaviour?

The only cheating I see is this: the woman is cheating herself.

Previous posts:
[Extramarital affairs]
[A society without monogamy and marriage]
[Marriage: the necessary evil]


Banshee said...

I agree that not all "extra-marital relatioships" shoud be considered "cheating".

Personally, I believe on the general rule that would say: "If both parties are aware of the extra-marital sex and accept it, not bothering about it" such intercourse should not be socially (or by morals) considered "cheating".
On the other hand, I believe that no "medium term" or "long term" relationship should be soccialy accepted, by moral.

Under that preset, your "couple going through a divorce" case would be accepted under the scenario of your first paraghraph. The scenario no. 2 would also be acceptable.

It also allows scenario no. 3. About the "through the ceremony you accept not to cheat"... in Brazil, legally speaking, through ceremony you only accept that you shall not perform bigamy or poligamy (since it is forbidden by Brazilian Law). However, an ONS would not be considered bigamy from a legal perspective.

Lastly, I should ask:
1) You used "legally". Is "adultery" still considered to be a crime or misdemeanor in Singapore? In Brazil, there has been quite some years since it's not legally enforced.
2) About the "marriage for convenience" being illegal in Singapore, can you tell me why? Can you explain to me or indicate me some reading?
In Brazil, of course, marriage for convenience could be annuled due to lack of real intention to enter into this legal status. However, the only ones that would be able to legally complain about this legal problem would be the husband and wife, and... as for real exceptions, it would never happen.

vanlarsen said...

At the end of the day, it all depends on what kind of circumstances or arrangements, if any.

David said...


If one takes repsonsibility for ones own actions then any extra-marital relatioship, while married or in another committed relationship is CHEATING!

Any other explanation is merely an attempt to turn the culprit into the victim.

The scenarios you pose as examples no doubt occur. The little plot lines you develop read like they have been taken from television dramas. What happens in life when a man or women cheats on thier partner is a tradegy. The emotional trauma and damage when a family has children and the youngsters have to live through the marriage of parents failing around them almost always damages the children for life.

This is not the kind of legacy most people want to leave. But is all to common today.

Marriage has been cheapened by immature young people and immature adults who enter into marriage for the wrong reasons, (among the reasons safe & easy sex).

At the end of the day cheating is simply WRONG!

Few if any will agree with me.

I have seen to many failed marriages, men and women grasping at even worse relationships after a failed marriage, children ignored and left to flounder with poor if any adult role model.

The price society pays for this is far to large to expound on here.

Yu-Kym, you have posed a provactive and important question here, and the first responses show the effect that todays trend towards situational ethics generate!


Banshee said...

I just think it´s interesting to add a comment on how David´s comment, which has a great merit seems to develop an argument that "cheating" would be a "todays trend"... which is clearly not true.

Fruther, I must disagree that partners who has extra-marital will develop "emotional trauma and damage when a family has children" . Although it´s likely to happen, that is a non-logic consequence, a clear moral sophism. It will all depend on the "will" of the parents and their own interest on their family (that might not be lessened by an extra-marital affair).

~Pink Miu Miu~ said...

Hi Kym, i agreed with no. 1 thou it's hard not to constitute as cheating (contradicting ah) coz legally, they are still husband & wife. Divorce itself is already a painful process when there's no ground for reconciliation and we shld give both the parties a breathing space and move on in life.

Having affairs (出轨/越轨) can be divided as 精神越轨 OR 身体越轨.

精神越轨: emotionally attached with someone

身体越轨: physically attached with someone

For ladies, 精神出轨比身体出轨更加不能接受,精神越轨更严重,肉体越轨或许只是生理需要..


David said...


I will credit Banshee for being partially correct. Cheating in not new behavior. Cheating on ones partner is an ancient behavior. The difference is that today much of society and media glamorize cheating on ones partner, sexual adventure and other behaviors. Never mentioned is the price the individual and family ultimately pay for such behavior.

Behold, a study that supports the benefit of marriage.


Couples living together before marrying have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they were engaged or married, according to research out Tuesday in the Journal of Family Psychology.

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Denver, also found that couples who lived together before marrying reported lower marriage satisfaction.

"We think that some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting," said senior researcher and study co-author Galena Rhoades.

"It seems wise to talk about commitment and what living together might mean for the future of the relationship before moving in together, especially because cohabiting likely makes it harder to break up compared to dating," said another researcher, Scott Stanley.
..."Cohabiting to test a relationship turns out to be associated with the most problems in relationships," said Rhoades."


Divorced people have 20 per cent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people, according to the study of 8,652 people aged between 51 and 61 by Professor Linda Waite of the University of Chicago.

They also have 23 per cent more mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances.

And no, simply remarrying after divorce won't do, either:

But while the health benefits of marriage – which are believed to stem from financial security and the positive impact of wives on their husbands' diets and lifestyles – are well known, the new study shows that they are significantly reduced the second and third times around.

People who divorce and then remarry still have 12 per cent more chronic problems and 19 per cent more mobility problems than those who have been continuously married, the analysis showed."

Banshee is trying to show shades of grey in something that is yes & no, wrong vs. right.

While the research quoted details the benefits of marriage, the danger of cheating, playing around or whatever one chooses to call such behavior is the cause.

Many people seek what appears to be the easy and convient path to happiness.

I can speak from years of marriage, that working and growing together with the one women who gifted me her love has been the greatest gift I have recieved in this life!

Warren, Michigan

Banshee said...


That was a great exposition and I shall study over the material you presented.

I, myself, was raised in a Catholic family, although I do not consider myself one anymore.

Of course, I am still young and I respect greatly your experience. I also understand... that as a general rule, this should be (or... is) a clear black & white situation.
However, while trying to do an "academic" approach to subject... I can´t help to consider shades of grey. Even more, they come to my mind while I think over any subject.

Personally, I do agree that cheating on marriage is wrong. However, I do not think my opinion should be made as a rule...
I am a loyal fan of democratic society, where, in a very logic way, bigamy is not allowed... but an occasional affair... is not.
As I stated many times... in the end, it will depend on the "will" of the couple.

Roberto, Brazil.