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Would kissing be considered adultery?

Kissing someone who is not your spouse is often seen as cheating in a marriage. But would a kiss really be considered adultery from a legal or ethical standpoint? There are differing opinions on where to draw the line between innocent affection and crossing into adultery territory. This article examines multiple perspectives on if and when kissing should be viewed as adultery.

What is adultery?

Adultery generally refers to voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than their spouse. However, there are varying cultural, religious, and legal definitions of what exactly constitutes adultery.

Many legal systems only consider penile-vaginal intercourse to meet the definition of adultery. Outside of legal contexts though, adultery can also encompass other intimate physical acts besides intercourse, including kissing, fondling, oral sex, and emotional affairs where romantic love and attachment occur without physical intimacy.

Why kissing could be considered adultery

There are several arguments for why kissing someone who isn’t your spouse may be classified as a form of adultery:

  • Kissing is an intimate romantic gesture that implies affection, attraction, and bonding between two people. Many feel it has no place outside of one’s marriage.
  • Allowing physical intimacy such as kissing can lead down a slippery slope towards more intense and explicit acts of cheating.
  • A kiss with passion and intent behind it violates the vow of fidelity in marriage to reserve romantic love and sexual desire exclusively for one’s spouse.
  • Consenting to kiss someone demonstrates a willful betrayal of trust and commitment in one’s marriage.
  • A spouse may experience hurt feelings and emotional damage from their partner kissing someone else similar to if they had engaged in intercourse.

For those who hold strict views on marital fidelity and adultery, passionate kissing would likely be considered adultery even in the absence of further physical intimacy. The act itself crosses a boundary into infidelity.

Why kissing may not always be adultery

On the other hand, some would argue kissing does not necessarily constitute adultery for the following reasons:

  • Brief, closed-mouth kissing may be a cultural greeting or sign of friendship, not an act of cheating.
  • Light flirting involving some body contact like kissing may occur outside relationships, but not progress to actual sexual activity.
  • One-off kiss with a stranger, such as at a party, could be regretted immediately rather than an ongoing affair.
  • An individual forced or coerced into kissing may be blameless for adultery.
  • Affairs require secrecy and hiding behavior from a spouse, whereas openly communicated kissing may not violate trust.
  • If both spouses consent to some level of physical intimacy with others, kissing may fall within negotiated marital boundaries.

Under these circumstances, a kiss may be seen as either meaningless interaction or a minor infraction, but not a severe act of adultery compared to sexual affairs.

Religious and cultural views on kissing as adultery

Social norms and religious codes also shape perspectives on adultery. Here is an overview of some common positions:


Traditional Christianity heavily condemns adultery of any kind based on Bible passages commanding faithfulness in marriage. But some modern Christians are divided on if kissing constitutes adultery or just temptation that can be forgiven.


Any extramarital romantic contact is strictly prohibited in traditional Islamic thought. Kissing someone other than a spouse would violate marital fidelity codes.


Hindu texts historically permit men greater sexual freedom than women. So extramarital kissing may be overlooked for husbands more than wives.


Orthodox Judaism considers any intimate contact outside marriage as adulterous. But more liberal Jewish thought defines adultery specifically as intercourse.


Buddhist ethics emphasize not harming others or one’s spouse. Since kissing could hurt a partner’s feelings, it may be discouraged or limited.

These religious perspectives illustrate the variation in both rigid and flexible stances on if kissing outside of marriage equates to adultery across faiths.

Legal view of kissing as adultery

Legally proving adultery through kissing alone can pose challenges. U.S. criminal adultery laws often require sexual intercourse as qualification. However, kissing could provide supporting evidence of an affair in civil divorce cases. Some key legal considerations include:

  • Only about 15 U.S. states still have adultery laws on the books. Enforcement is rare though when no other crimes are involved.
  • Military codes may penalize adultery more broadly, potentially including kissing when conduct is deemed inappropriate.
  • A few states still recognize alienation of affection civil lawsuits against third parties who interfere in a marriage.
  • Adultery can impact divorce proceedings and settlements, especially if one spouse claims emotional distress.
  • Explicit digital messages or photos exchanged alongside kissing may bolster legal claims of cheating.

So while kissing itself may not be prosecutable, it could serve as supporting evidence in civil adultery accusations during divorce.

When kissing becomes cheating

Drawing a definitive line between innocent kissing and adulterous kissing depends a lot on intent and context. Some general principles to consider:

  • Brief, non-romantic kissing is less adulterous than sustained, passionate kissing.
  • Kissing combined with other intimate touching and emotional investment is more adulterous.
  • Repeated kissing over time indicates a greater betraying of fidelity.
  • Secretive kissing implies knowledge of harming a spouse, versus open communication.
  • Cultural context influences if casual kissing carries meaning or not.
  • Level of sexual exclusivity expected within the marriage also affects boundaries.

Ultimately the spouses themselves must decide through honest communication when kissing becomes cheating in their relationship. There is no absolute threshold that universally distinguishes between innocent and adulterous kissing.

Healing from adulterous kissing

In marriages where one spouse feels betrayed by the other kissing someone else, healing can occur if both partners are willing to work at it. Some helpful strategies include:

  • The offending spouse ceases all contact with the other person involved.
  • Both spouses participate in counselling to rebuild trust and intimacy.
  • The couple recalibrates expectations for fidelity and boundaries in the marriage.
  • Genuine remorse and behavior change are demonstrated over time.
  • The hurt partner extends grace and forgiveness when ready.
  • Professional or spiritual guidance facilitates reconciliation.

With compassion and effort, couples can sometimes move past adulterous kissing when it’s recognized as a mistake rather than the demise of the relationship. But both parties must be willing to acknowledge pain caused, make amends, and grow together.


Whether kissing constitutes adultery depends greatly on circumstances and personal boundaries. A kiss may be an incident of cheating or a forgivable transgression. Often the act itself matters less than the deception, dishonesty, and breach of trust displayed through it. Spouses must communicate openly and directly about what fidelity looks like for them. With understanding and compromise, couples can potentially recover even from adulterous kissing and achieve a renewed sense of intimacy.