What Is the Definition of an Affair?

affair definition
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An affair is a romantic and emotionally intense sexual or emotional relationship. Generally, affairs do not last long and occur between two people who are not married to one another. Yet, there are also different types of affairs, including those that are purely emotional and those that occur online, known as cyber affairs.

What Is Considered an Affair?

Typically, and with a few exceptions, an affair is considered a betrayal of trust. It has the ability to cause significant distress in the relationship and there are many reasons why people cheat on their partner.

Affairs are commonly called "adultery" among married couples and "infidelity" among married spouses and committed partners. An affair can go by other names as well. You might hear it referred to as a love affair, an emotional affair, a fling, or extramarital relations. Some people simply call it being unfaithful or cheating as well.

Affairs may be romantic, which is also referred to as "an affair of the heart." These are often in the form of sexual liaisons among unwed or wedded parties. It may also be considered some form or another of non-monogamy.

Alternatively, a casual relationship is a physical (and often emotional) relationship between two people who may engage in sexual relations. However, they often do so without the expectation of a more formalized romantic relationship.

An Open Marriage

The term affair might also describe part of an agreement within an "open" marriage (or open relationship). A couple agrees upon which forms of sex are permitted with someone other than their primary partner. It is viewed as a "sanctioned affair."

Terms commonly used for this situation include swinging, dating, polyamory, and menage a trois.

Other Types of Affairs

A platonic relationship can be called a romantic affair as well. Termed an emotional affair, it is one that lacks sexual intimacy but has intense or enduring emotional intimacy. Emotional affairs can easily evolve into sexual affairs and be just as threatening to the primary relationship.

An online affair, or cyber affair, is one that occurs in some other form of "cyber-space." It may be anonymous or with someone the person knows in real life. Quite often, a cyber affair has emotional and/or sexual undertones. This is accomplished via chat, webcam, email, text, and other technology-based mediums.

Affairs Are Personal

The one thing that all types of affairs have in common is that they're very personal for all parties involved. They can complicate long-term relationships and often bring with them many emotions, both bad and good, depending on your perspective. Some people who are involved in an affair even find that it's disappointing and not worth the emotional toll it takes.

Just as in any personal relationship, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to dealing with an affair. Sometimes it can break up a marriage, while other couples may be able to recover from the infidelity and save their relationship.

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