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elbanditoroso's avatar

Word question: Do you have to be married (or with a SO) to have an affair?

Asked by elbanditoroso (33141points) January 1st, 2024
11 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

This is a nomenclature / word usage question.

Can two single / unattached people have an affair? Or is that just a fling?

Does the word “affair” imply that one (or both) of the participants are married (or in a relationship with a SO)?

Is the implication of ’“affair” that you’re breaking promises with someone else?

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JLeslie's avatar

I think I only use affair for married people, but this is a good question. I’m curious what other jellies will say. I actually don’t use the word affair much at all anyway. I usually say someone cheated.

With committed relationships not married I would say the person cheated.

smudges's avatar

An affair is between two – or more – committed people, married or not. Affairs usually involve love, whereas cheating is most often just sex. They can also be said to have a fling, which to my understanding is a short period of time; 1 to a few times together. It definitely involves breaking your word, vow, promise, etc., unless it’s an agreed upon part of the relationship.

My word for two unattached people is “dating”. all just my opinion

Zaku's avatar

Yes. “An affair” means “a love affair”. There is no implied infidelity in the original meaning of the term.

But some people don’t know that.

It does tend to mean an affair of limited duration, but not necessarily.

q.v. a dictionary, e.g.

jca2's avatar

I would only use it if one of the participants is married but I see I was mistaken, and it doesn’t have to be. I think people might assume that one or both of the participants is married from the word “affair.”

@JLeslie I think from the definition, cheating could be just a brief fling whereas the word “affair” implies it’s more of a lengthy relationship.

I would say “dating” or “in a relationship” or “seeing each other.”

JLeslie's avatar

@Zaku When I read the Q I hadn’t thought of using the word affair to mean a love affair without infidelity to another, but I have heard it used that way now that you mention it. It feels odd to me though. Affair sounds like it is verboten or scandalous. Like 50 years ago hearing that two people had a summer affair when sex outside of marriage was still seen as something kept secret because of harsh judgment from so many in society.

On a side note, the show named Family Affair just popped into my head, so I’m thinking in the 1960’s and before maybe the word affair was used more often. I used to love that show.

flutherother's avatar

I wouldn’t use the word “affair” to describe a relationship between two single people as to me it implies that one of them is cheating.

LadyMarissa's avatar

According to the Cambridge Dictionary it means a sexual relationship between two people when one or both of them is married to someone else.

Forever_Free's avatar

In a word, YES.

Zaku's avatar

@LadyMarissa Wow, that’s really interesting. Merriam-Webster just says, a romantic or passionate attachment typically of limited duration

Well, and it also offers a third definition as a matter occasioning public anxiety, controversy, or scandal (but for that meaning, it offers Watergate as an example).

Zaku's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah that’s the thing – an unmarried affair between singles used to be scandalous!

Pandora's avatar

I’m with @Zaku. Affair is a very old word for a love interest. Other words used in the past would be mistress. But now that having relations with someone while single isn’t a big thing people use it primarily for married people because its still frowned upon. A fling is kind of its own thing. It can apply to married or single people who are having sex and they both pretty much agree to the sex with no real attachment. Doesn’t mean it always works out that way. But affairs usually either involve feelings or money. For instance if a person is paying for someones apartment but has no intention of breaking off with a spouse. Flings usaully have no commitments outside of sex and maybe a freindly ear or a few dates. Its not meant to last. Just think of what the word fling means. To toss something violently. So you agree to toss each other asside.

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