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Adultery is "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse." Some legal jurisdictions have defined it as a "crime against marriage", opposed to infidelity.

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An affair is a form of nonmonogamy and describes a situation where two or more people are involved in a relationship perceived as inappropriate or that breaches a monogamous agreement between an affair partner and their excluded spouse. What is inappropriate depends on the point of view. Many agreements in a marriage are implicit or unspoken and taken as given until they are breached. The word affair is often a euphemism and in some usages adds glamour to an illicit liaison. Describing a relationship as an 'affair' may be inaccurate or intentionally damaging. It may or may not involve either or both romance or sex.

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With regard to human relationships, couples may expect sexual monogamy of each other. If so, then cheating commonly refers to forms of infidelity, particularly adultery.

Many people consider cheating to be any violation of the mutually agreed-upon rules or boundaries of a relationship, which may or may not include sexual monogamy. For example, in some polyamorous relationships, the concepts of commitment and fidelity do not necessarily hinge on complete sexual or emotional monogamy. Whether polyamorous or monogamous, the boundaries to which people agree vary widely, and sometimes these boundaries evolve within each relationship.

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