What is the distinction between infidelity and adultery?

Just as all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, so is infidelity and adultery. Infidelity — whether it’s an affair, a affair, or a one-night stand — is usually defined as crossing a line or breaking a vow related to the romantic or sexual relationship you’re in (via brides).

“Adultery,” explains Dr. Talal Alsaleem told The List, “Often used to describe affairs involving married persons whose marriage contract is both civil and spiritual in nature.” When the additional relationship involves one or more married persons, the term is equivalent to an extramarital affair rather the definition of adultery (via Verywell Mind). In this way, all adultery involves infidelity, but not all infidelity is adultery.

Don’t let a marriage license be the only reason to elevate the term adultery to infidelity. That’s because, says Dr. Alsaleem, “that the words we choose can set the stage for how we clinically conceptualize the affair and why it happened, which is critical to preventing relapse.”

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