Adultery vs Concubinage

Adultery vs Concubinage.Persons engaging in other relationships outside of their marriage are often referred to as engaging in adultery or concubinage. The similar contexts in which they are employed often lead to the mistaken belief that they can be used interchangeably or as synonyms. There is, however, a difference between adultery and concubinage, which refer to two different concepts. 

Adultery vs Concubinage
Adultery vs Concubinage

To learn how to differentiate between the two terms, we’ll show you what you need to know today. Here we go!


  1. What is Adultery?
  2. What is Concubinage?
  3. Difference Between Adultery and Concubinage?
  4. Who can File for Adultery and Concubinage?
  5. What are the Reasons that Make a Person Choose Concubinage?
  6. Conclusion

What is Adultery?

The concept of adultery refers to engagement in sexual activities outside of marriage that is deemed objectionable from a moral, legal, and social standpoint. It is true that sexual activities that constitute adultery and their consequences vary according to context, religion, and society, but the concept remains the same regardless of these differences.

In some cultures, adultery is regarded as a serious offense for which the death penalty, torture, and mutilation are enacted upon the offenders, whereas adultery is not considered as a criminal offense in other societies, although it may be grounds for divorce under family law. Divorce can also be decided based on adultery, including custody of children, property matters, and other matters. 

The punishment for adultery is stoning in ultra-conservative countries like those that practice Sharia law. The woman is usually punished in such cases, but sometimes the man may also be punished. According to the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, adultery should not be considered a crime since it violates human rights. 

What is Concubinage?

What is Concubinage image
What is Concubinage

A concubinage relationship is one in which an individual engages in ongoing sexual activities with another individual to whom they are not married or cannot marry. The incompatibility of social ranking or the fact that either of the two is already married may prevent them from getting married.

Concubinage is a practice that has been observed throughout history. It was common for a man to engage in a recognized, but informal relationship with a woman other than his wife, often of a lower social standing, which was an obstacle to marriage in ancient Rome. A woman who engaged in such relationships was called a concubine or a concubina, and this was not a derogatory term. There has been a long history of kings and men of high social standing keeping many women as their consorts in various societies throughout history. The Islamic tradition allows men to take four wives on the grounds that they can be treated fairly and with justice. 

Difference between Adultery and Concubinage?

By understanding the concepts and basic aspects of both terms, you can begin to point out the main differences between them:

Adultery and concubinage are two words that are sometimes used interchangeably in relation to extramarital relationships. It is important to understand the exact meaning of these two terms when using them in different contexts, however, as they differ significantly. 

  • The practice of adultery is considered an offense and is shunned morally, socially, and legally. In some societies, concubinage is accepted.
  • Adultery is the act of engaging in sexual relations with a partner other than one’s spouse or partner. The term concubinage refers to an ongoing relationship in which an individual engages in sexual activities with a person they are not married to or are unable to marry for a variety of reasons.
  • The concept of adultery has only recently been introduced. Concubinage has been practiced for centuries.
  • A woman who maintains extramarital relationships is in adultery. When such relationships are carried on by a man, it is called concubinage.
  • In concubinage, two people who prefer marriage can form a healthy relationship without causing any harm to either party. It allows you to develop a healthy relationship by requiring consensus between both parties. However, adultery usually damages the feelings of one or both parties due to its consequences and subsequent losses and does not involve the consent of both parties at any time.

Who can File for Adultery and Concubinage?

A husband can file for adultery, while a wife can file for concubinage. As well, they need to include the other party (lover, mistress, or concubine) in the complaint. Cases that fail to comply with this requirement will be dismissed

Concubinage and adultery are considered private crimes, which means they can only be prosecuted upon the complaint of the aggrieved party. As a consideration for the agreed party who might prefer to suffer in silence rather than undergo the scandal of a public trial, this requirement is imposed.

What are the Reasons that Make a Person Choose Concubinage?

As a matter of fact, they are very diverse. The reasons for not being able to marry may be due to social differences, physical separation from the pre-existing marriage, or not having filed for divorce, as well as religious, emotional, and immigration status reasons.

Nowadays, concubinage is very common. It is believed by many couples that marriage is a simple role and does not determine the level of the bond between two people. If each couple is free to think as they please and to exercise their relationship as they wish, concubinage by choice is totally respectable.

As far as the rule of law is concerned, concubinage has effects on both the couple and their children. Additionally, it creates bonds with the rest of the family and gives you legal guardianship status, which would be helpful if you needed to support your partner during medical or legal emergencies.

In concubinage, two people choose to cohabit and live together as if they were already married, maintaining a kind of “free union” but lasting. After a minimum of 10 years of living in concubinage, some couples become legally recognized as a couple. Concubinage may be recognized after a certain number of years, depending on the laws in the country.

Conclusion: Adultery vs Concubinage

Adultery and concubinage are two practices that have a long history and continue to be scrutinized by society. Human nature in all its splendor is commonly found in both interpersonal relationships and both contribute to our understanding of human nature.

Read also: Can Adultery be Forgiven in Islam?; Adultery vs Polygamy; Differences between concubinage and adultery; What is adultery

External resource: Wikipedia

This post is also available in: English Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Nederlands (Dutch) Svenska (Swedish)