Can a relationship survive sexting? With technology becoming a staple in our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that sexting has become a factor in infidelity.
In this article, we discuss how sexting impacts relationships and what to do if your spouse is involved in sexting another person.
This is part of a series we call, Can A Marriage Survive. We address the most challenging aspects of married life with practical insight to help you navigate those issues.
Tad and Joanna’s Story
I first met Todd and Joanna through mutual friends. We had a cordial relationship, but I wouldn’t call us friends in the technical sense. We didn’t hang out a lot.
I was surprised to see his phone number pop up on my cell phone late one evening. When I answered, I could tell he was distraught .
The first words out of his mouth were,”Man, I’ve blown it and I need your help!”
I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I let him tell me his story. Joanna had seen a text message he received from one of his coworkers that was sexually explicit.
She was devastated and furious. She immediately confronted Tad. To his credit, he admitted he had been texting this woman for several months.
He loved his wife but had gotten caught up in the thrill of sexual tension between he and his coworker. Is conversation with Joanna had escalated as he tried to explain what had happened.
To her, it only sounded like excuses. After trying to talk about it for over an hour, Joanna ask him to leave the house. Which he did. It was at that point. I received the phone call.
He was afraid of losing his marriage, and did not know what to do next. As we talked, a plan of action emerged to help him restore his relationship with his wife and stop communication with his coworker.
It wasn’t an easy process, but Tad and Joanna began to rebuild.
Their process of restoration was unique to their situation. It was something the three of us worked to put together. But the process really evolved when they got honest with one another and shared openly their fears and failures.
Every situation is unique. So the process of restoration has to be customized. That said, there are some fundamental things that need to be in place to rebuild after any kind of emotional entanglement.
The rest of this article discusses The impact of sexting and what to do to rebuild your marriage.
Alarming Statistics on Sexting
According to research done by 2Date4Love, sexting is on the rise. Partly due to the fact that online activity is at an all time high. Our top five takeaway statistics:
- Women sext more than men
- 52.3% of adults have reluctantly engaged in sexting behaviors.
- 70% of women believe that developing an emotional connection with someone else is cheating.
- Infidelity among women has increased by 40% in the last 20 years.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize how easy it is to engage in questionable online activity. These stats indicate a rising trend in virtual infidelity. (I might add that virtual affairs most often lead to physical affairs and are as devastating as physical infidelity.)
What Is Sexting?
Sending sexually explicit photos or messages via text message is known as sexting. While it can be a harmless way to flirt with your significant other, it can also lead to an affair if one of you gets carried away and sends explicit messages to someone else.
Although sexting has been around for a relatively long time, it is not yet clear what its effects on relationships will be. Some experts believe that it can be harmful to relationships as it can encourage people to blackmail or force others into doing something they don’t want to do. Others think it is a harmless way to enhance a relationship.
However, statistics indicate sexting outside of your marriage (when one partner sends sexual texts to someone else) is damaging to your relationship. It is a breach of trust and leads to unhealthy emotional connections.
It’s like throwing a stone in a pond; the ripple effects begin to spread into other areas. It breeds insecurity, distrust, and jealousy.
Can A Relationship Survive After Sexting?
Yes, a sexting affair can survive if both parties are willing to forgive each other. However, it may be difficult to do so because one party might feel betrayed or humiliated by the sext messages sent by the other.
Communication should be open and honest. Without openness and honesty, it will be impossible to move forward.
A Word To The Spouse Who Sexted Someone
If you have been caught sexting someone else, be prepared to answer some tough questions from your partner. They will likely want to know why you did it and whether you are still attracted to them. It will be important to be honest with your partner.
You must ‘own it.’ This means you can’t make excuses or try to justify your actions. You crossed a line and damaged your marriage. The only road to recovery is to take responsibility.
It is unfair to expect your spouse to simply ‘forgive and forget’ and move on. It takes time for them to heal.
How To Fix A Marriage After A Sexting Affair?
If your spouse has been having a sexting affair, it can be difficult to repair the damage to your marriage. However, it is possible to overcome the affair if you’re both willing to work on the relationship. You’ll need to communicate openly and honestly with each other, and it may be helpful to seek counseling.
If your marriage has been harmed by a sexting affair, it will take time and effort to repair the damage. You will need to work on rebuilding trust and communication within the relationship.
This process will require patience and understanding from both partners. It may be helpful to seek professional help in order to repair the damage that has been done.
In the section below, we offer eight steps you need to take in order to get your life and relationship back on track.
It also may be helpful to read our article on why people have emotional affairs.
8 Steps To Help You Deal With A Sexting Spouse
If you discover that your spouse has been sexting, it can be a difficult situation to deal with. You may feel betrayed, hurt, and angry.
It’s important to communicate with your spouse about your feelings. Confronting them is necessary. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s okay. Sexting is a form of infidelity. As I mentioned earlier, it is a breach of trust.
These eight steps will help you work through the process of rebuilding your relationship.
It’s important to be honest with yourself during these steps. Self discovery is a key component of regaining emotional health.
1. Talk to your spouse about why they sent the sexual text to another person.
Some disagree with this step, but I find it is necessary in order to work through your emotional turmoil.
Many therapists advise that knowing the details is not healthy. However, most people want to know. It’s part of the journey.
Although I agree that it’s easy to get stuck and fixate on the details, many times it is an important part of letting go. I agree with Shirley Glass (author of Not ‘Just Friends’). In order to let it go you must fully process it and come to terms with it. If you ignore it or emotionally bury it, you will never confront it and it will reappear down the road. (Check Amazon For Price)
Glass says this about dealing with affairs:
In order for your marriage to heal from the betrayal, your husband (spouse) has to be willing to answer your questions. Until and unless you find out what you need to know, the affair will remain an open wound in your relationship.(Glass, 2007)
I think this advice applies equally to a texting affair.
2. Discuss your feelings about the situation and why it made you upset.
We often talk about the difference in feelings and emotions. Feelings are deep rooted beliefs about yourself. They manifest as insecurities, fear, and self-doubt. Emotions are more based on events and situations. I explore this subject more here.
It’s important (for mental well-being) to learn to manage our emotions and anchor our feelings on solid ground. We are more than what we feel. In one sense, we must learn to control what we believe about ourselves instead of being driven by our feelings and emotions.
At the same time, I do not want to leave the impression that feelings and emotions do not play a role in our life. They do.
Negative feelings and emotions serve as indicators that something is ‘off.’ Much like physical pain occurs when you touch something hot, emotional pain lets you know something is damaging your heart. Because of this, we should not ignore those indicators.
Discussing your feelings – especially in the case of a sexting affair – is one way to process those hurts and wounds.
You must be willing to be honest about how you feel about what has happened. And your spouse must be willing to empathize, listen, and be part of the healing process.
3. Find out if your spouse is willing to stop communicating with the other person.
This is an important step that cannot be overlooked. In order for your marriage to be rebuilt. After an emotional entanglement, you have to have confidence that the relationship with the other person is ended.
Without this guarantee, you will not have the confidence to move forward.
Simply because this is step three doesn’t mean it’s a lesser importance. We could easily place this at the top of the list. The bottom line is, the emotional entanglement has to stop.
There is no other way to make your marriage work.
I’m often asked, “How will I know if they’re telling me the truth?”
It’s not an easy question to answer. I recommend four things:
Pay attention to your gut. You may have trouble with this at first, because you’re hurt and disappointed. But generally speaking, our intuition gives us clues. Pay attention to them.
Get outside help. It is usually helpful for both of you to see a counselor or a pastor. They are usually trained to help you navigate these situations.
Listen to your friends and family. I generally do not like to share struggles with family members. They are often imbalanced in their perspective. Yet, those closest to us see things that we often overlook .
If you’re closest friends and family members, tell you your spouse is unfaithful, pay close attention.
The biggest way to know is simply talking to your spouse. As you work through the issues, you’ll get a sense of where your relationship is headed. If there’s genuine remorse and obvious changes in their behavior, this could be a good sign.
4. Discuss what kind of communication is acceptable behavior going forward.
Emotional affairs and sexting entanglements are difficult because they most often begin in the workplace. We spend so much time around our coworkers that we establish bonds. These can often cross boundaries.
For that reason, you need to have clear ground rules about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
At this point, the spouse who has been hurt because of a sexting relationship, gets to make most of the rules.
Of course you need to work together, but the guilty party needs to understand the damage that they’ve done emotionally to their spouse. Reconciling and healing. A relationship takes precedence over all other things.
5. Set boundaries and expectations.
This step goes along with the previous one. Proper boundaries are important to ensure emotional safety, and protect your relationship from further damage.
I highly recommend three books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Boundaries (Find on Amazon)
Boundaries in Marriage (Find on Amazon)
Safe People (Find on Amazon)
There is a wealth of wisdom and encouragement in these resources.
6. Communicate openly and honestly with each other about your needs and desires.
Open and honest communication is one of the walls we can erect that protects our marriage.
We are bombarded with sexual images through television, music, even social media. Has the slogan goes, ‘Sex Sells.’
Because of this, we need high walls that protect our heart from temptation. After working with hundreds of couples, one thing I’ve realized is that the couples who have an open and honest relationsh – those who connect and communicate on a deep level – are generally more healthy and stable in their marriage.Communication is about connection. Connection is based on trust. Trust happens when we're open and honest with one another. Click To Tweet
Shirley Glass puts it this way:
If you can see through each other’s eyes and empathize with each other’s pain, then you can be guided in how to co-construct your stories to help you understand the meaning of what has happened. But you need to do this in a healing environment with mutual empathy and understanding. An atmosphere of interrogation and defensiveness will derail your recovery.(Glass, 2007)
Communication is about connection. Connection is based on trust. Trust happens when we’re open and honest with one another.
Make it a habit, perhaps a new habit, to share openly with one another as you rebuild your relationship.
7. Seek counseling if needed to help address any underlying issues in your relationship.
Counseling is another tool and step toward reclaiming your emotional health and rebuilding your relationship.
Let’s face it, sometimes we need help- outside help- to deal with internal issues.
Again, Shirley Glass weighs in on this concept. When she deals with couples who have experienced infidelity in their marriage, she doesn’t do traditional marriage therapy. Instead, she treats it as trauma.
I think this is a better way to approach the issue. Infidelity, even a texting affair, is traumatic for a spouse. It needs to be dealt with as trauma. This often requires professional help.
I recommend both partners get counseling to help them work through their issues.
The final step is forgiveness. It’s not the final step because it’s the last thing you do. Often it needs to be the first thing. Yet, many times people have trouble forgiving and letting go until they work through the previous steps.
After all, it is a process. At the end of the day, you need to forgive.
We’ve written about this before, but forgiveness is not letting the other person off the hook necessarily. It is as much about you not allowing their failure to ruin your life. That’s why you need to let go.
You cannot control what another person does. But you can control if that ruined your life or not.
It’s okay to give yourself room to grieve, hurt, and work through the pain. Pain. Do not get stuck there. Forgiveness get you unstuck.
These eight steps are certainly not all that’s involved in recovering from a text affair. They are, however, important steps that you must take.
If you’re in a relationship and your partner has been sexting with someone else, it can be difficult to trust them again.
However, if you’re both willing to work on the relationship, it is possible to overcome the betrayal. You Will both need a strong commitment to your marriage, and dedication to the steps necessary to rebuild.
There is no rapid recovery. But these eight steps can help you walk the path of rebuilding your marriage.
- Tad and Joanna’s Story
- What Is Sexting?
- Can A Relationship Survive After Sexting?
- How To Fix A Marriage After A Sexting Affair?
- 8 Steps To Help You Deal With A Sexting Spouse
- 1. Talk to your spouse about why they sent the sexual text to another person.
- 2. Discuss your feelings about the situation and why it made you upset.
- 3. Find out if your spouse is willing to stop communicating with the other person.
- 4. Discuss what kind of communication is acceptable behavior going forward.
- 5. Set boundaries and expectations.
- 6. Communicate openly and honestly with each other about your needs and desires.
- 7. Seek counseling if needed to help address any underlying issues in your relationship.
- 8. Forgive
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