A romantic affair, also called an affair of the heart, may refer to sexual liaisons among unwed parties, or to various forms of nonmonogamy. Unlike a casual relationship, which is a physical and emotional relationship between two people who may have sex without expecting a more formal romantic relationship, an affair is by its nature romantic. Affair may also describe part of an agreement within an open marriage or open relationship, such as swinging, dating, or polyamory, in which some forms of sex with one's non-primary partner(s) are permitted and other forms are not. Participants in open relationships, including unmarried couples and polyamorous families, may consider sanctioned affairs the norm.
Extramarital affairs are relationships outside of marriage where an illicit romantic or sexual relationship or a romantic friendship or passionate attachment occurs. An extramarital affair that continues in one form or another for years, even as one of the partners to that affair passes through marriage, divorce and remarriage, could be considered the primary relationship and the marriages secondary to it. This may be serial polygamy or other forms of nonmonogamy. Individuals having affairs with married men or women can be prosecuted for adultery in some jurisdictions and can be sued by the jilted spouses in others.
The appearance of computer-mediated communication introduces a new type of communication and consequently a new type of an Affair. There are various kinds of computer-mediated communication that differ in some significant aspects: one-to-one or group communication formats, interrelating with anonymous or identified people, and communicating in synchronous or asynchronous formats. Online affairs combine features of close and remote relationships. Like direct, face-to-face affairs, online affairs can be spontaneous and casual and show intensive personal involvement. However, online affairs can also be more of a planned discourse than spontaneous talk; like written letters, online messages can be stored and thus have permanent presence, which is absent from face-to-face affairs. People participating in online affairs may be strangers to each other in the sense that they have never actually met each other. However, they are also close to each other since they share intimate information. In online affairs, people try to enjoy the benefits of both close and remote affairs, while avoiding their flaws.
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