Is "cheater" the suitable word for calling a wife who cheats on her husband in a secret romantic relationship with another man (no sex included)?

I found that "cheater" is a slang word, and I don't want it to be slang.

I know the word "traitor", but it doesn't explain the situation, even if its definition is "being disloyal".

Note: I have this scenario that I need the word to fit in:

  • I bet that you wouldn't miss this part where a video shows the true face of Jasmine. The face of her being a ______.
  • What do you call a man who cheats on his wife ("no sex included")?
    – TimR
    Aug 20, 2018 at 13:51
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo If I knew, I wouldn't ask this question. But I want it to a wife, as an example and because I write about a one. Aug 20, 2018 at 14:49

5 Answers 5


If you're willing to tweak your sentence ever so slightly, you can refer to the person as unfaithful:

: not faithful:
a : not adhering to vows, allegiance, or duty : disloyal • an unfaithful friend
b : not faithful to marriage vows • suspected her husband of being unfaithful
definitions from m-w.com

There is a strong connotation of physical intimacy (i.e. sex) as part of being unfaithful, but it's not required.

  • I prefer this answer the most since it fits their situation perfectly. They didn't have sex, but they shared a kiss or two. Aug 20, 2018 at 17:14

You can use adulterer which means:

a married person who has sex with someone who is not their wife or husband.

It's gender neutral. Adulteress can be used for a female.

  • But she didn't have any sexual interaction with that stranger; she had a secret romantic relationship with him. Aug 20, 2018 at 9:24
  • 7
    @Tasneem - You'll see this happen a lot on Stack Exchange; you may get an answer that is more focused on the title of your question than it is on the main question – particularly when you leave out important details until after the question has been answered! This is why it's important to include as many details as you can before you post your question, and compose your titles thoughtfully. When people see a question listed as, "What do we call a wife who cheats on her husband?" the answer everyone will think of is "adulteress".
    – J.R.
    Aug 20, 2018 at 10:29
  • @TasneemZh Yes, being in a "secret romantic relationship" was not mentioned at first. I agree with Em. "being in an emotional affair" can be a good choice for your case.
    – helen
    Aug 20, 2018 at 10:36
  • @helen Sorry about that, I appreciate your answer though. This is the first time I know the word "adulteress". However, I will consider adding as many details as I can, next time. Aug 20, 2018 at 11:03

There is emotional affair (Wikipedia):

The term often describes a bond between two people that mimics the closeness and emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship while never being physically consummated. An emotional affair is sometimes referred to as an affair of the heart. An emotional affair may emerge from a friendship, and progress toward greater levels of personal intimacy and attachment. What distinguishes an emotional affair from a friendship is the assumption of emotional roles between the two participants that mimic of those of an actual relationship - with regards to confiding personal information and turning to the other person during moments of vulnerability or need.

Then your example becomes "The face of her being in an emotional affair".

You could call the person an "emotional cheater", but that doesn't seem to be well-established. There are a few examples of that usage out there though, and I think it would be understood from context.

  • Where is the all-important element of being unfaithful? If the emotional affair is caring, loving, nurturing and in secret, the spouse is cheating. To all intents and purposes, it is an extramarital love affair.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 20, 2018 at 16:48

By common use of the words, "cheater" does include sexual relations.

However, a significant majority including experts in the field, disagrees with that and finds that cheating involves intimacy and trust and most importantly, the forming of a conspiracy against your regular partner (network of lies, etc.) as the primary element that defines cheating.

So it depends on which meaning you want to convey. From the wider context of your question, you already say you look for a term of someone who "cheats on her husband". That, of course, would be "cheater".

To illustrate the point: If said husband came home early one day, and found his wife in the arms of another man, sharing a snack and enjoying a movie together, I don't think his emotional reaction would depend on the question of penetration.


"more than a flirt"

There's no word that says someone has crossed the line beyond harmless flirting, but has not progressed to physical adultery. Of course, in these situations, it's often hard to know exactly what has gone on in secret.

"More than a flirt" conveys the notion that a wrong has been done in a relationship, though not necessarily physical adultery.

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