Couples who regularly send sexual images and suggestive texts via phone, also known as sexting, may have higher reports of sexual satisfaction than non-sexting couples.
However, a new study found that frequent sexting could also be indicative of an insecure and unhealthy relationship.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta Canada whose aim was to examine sexting to see if it presented a strain on the relationship or strengthened intimacy.
Their results show that regular sexters are insecure, less likely to see a relationship as ongoing, and are more likely to cheat.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 615 Canadian and American adults who were in committed heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
The study participants were of different ages, ethnicities and education levels. According to the researchers, the group represents a much broader sample than those in other sexting studies, which typically focus on young adults or teenagers.
The researchers then categorized the survey responses by splitting the participants into groups based on how frequently they sexted.
Non-sexters made up 72 percent of the group and never sent suggestive text messages. Word-only sexters reported sending sexual messages but never pictures. Frequent sexters sent several sexts a week, and hyper-sexters participated in the activity at least once a day.
Both frequent and hyper sexters reported more feelings of insecurity in their relationships, unhappiness in their relationships, and were more likely to cheat than non-sexters.
“This does not seem to be something that’s part of a normal, healthy adult relationship,” said Michelle Drouin, a psychology professor who oversaw the study. “They had low levels of commitment to their partner, more insecure attachment to the partner — maybe fearing the partner would leave, or not feeling very connected.”
The results show that hyper-sexters may be insecure in their relationships. Dr. Adam Galovan, lead author of the study, says it’s because those partners are focusing too much on one aspect of the relationship and letting others suffer.
“My interpretation is that the sexters are focusing more on the sexual part of their relationship and may be neglecting other areas,” Dr. Galovan said. “They need to put the phone down and have a good old-fashioned conversation – spend some time together nurturing the relationship – instead of shortcutting with sexting to try to get a quality relationship.”
Dr. Galovan and his research team make a point to say that their results do not prove that sexting is unhealthy or leads to cheating in all relationships, and that in their research they found sexting was not as widespread or common as some media outlets make it out to be.