Is Sexting and Virtual Affairs a Real Threat To Marriage?

When Dawn caught her husband Mark sexting an ex-colleague on WhatsApp, her whole world came crashing down, so we began marriage counselling in Abu Dhabi to discuss this issue.

Mark argued that it was an innocent pastime, a bit of fun and that the girl lived in another city (Dubai) and no longer even worked for the company they had worked at together.

Dawn had lost all trust in him. She couldn’t understand why he was doing it, why he was sexting another woman and why was this married woman talking to another married man about what underwear she was wearing and making sexual jokes. She said to me “I don’t get it, Nicola, what is the point of it, why is he doing it, am I unattractive, am I not sexual or good enough.

She asked Mark these questions but he told her that it was a game and done out of boredom. That he wanted her and found her attractive although he mentioned that he would like sex more. Great, Dawn replied, “so you are saying it’s my fault, you are doing this”.

It caused a problem in the relationship because each time since the discovery Mark was on the phone she felt uneasy and we had to take to steps to rebuild the trust. We focused on actions to rebuild the trust and connection during the couples counselling in Dubai and online but as suspicions had been aroused it didn’t happen overnight.

7 months later they came back again, this time Dawn had found Mark messaging a girl he went to school with on Facebook. Both of them saying how hot each other looked and sending revealing photos. Dawn was furious after all she explained how upset she was the first time. She accused him of having an emotional and virtual affair.

Again Mark apologised, but in the same breathe said it was not cheating or an emotional affair he just proclaimed that he didn’t know why he did it and that he loved Dawn and their two children more than anything in the world. If he could take it back he would, he never meant to hurt Dawn. For Dawn sorry was not good enough, she was tired and was considering divorce.

This scenario is very common, in fact, I would say that as much as 70% of the couples that come to me for couples counselling in Abu Dhabi or online somewhere along the line a person has been caught sexting and it’s not just men, women do it equally as much.

Despite the devastating impact sexting and virtual affairs have on marriages, it appears clear from my work with many husbands and wives it’s an addictive quick emotional high to sext.

So what is sexting and virtual affairs?


Sexting is sending explicit messages, photographs or videos through digital devices. Virtual and digital affairs can be of a sexual or emotional nature.

SO why do married men and women sext message another person?

This is a common question those who seek my couples therapy in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or online ask me.

Here are the most common reasons revealed during my private counselling sessions:

Low self-esteem

Boredom

Felt unwanted/rejected

Depression relief/escape

Wanting attention

The partner would not engage in sexting

Excitement

Felt unattractive

Enjoy the risk

Addicted to the buzz of it

Drunk and horny

Humour, having a laugh

Uncomfortable with real intimacy in the relationship

Ego, confidence boost

Lack of intimacy in the current relationship

Does Sexting and Virtual Affairs Count As Cheating & What are the first signs of a husband cheating?

What most couples struggle with is whether sexting another person while in a committed relationship is considered cheating.

Today we have access to find and contact more and more men and women than ever before. Do a simple search for people on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and you will find millions of attractive people and will often be able to message them directly.

This instant access makes it far easier for people who get a thrill out of sexting to send such messages and get the attention they crave. Then there are internet dating apps, where in just a few seconds you can sign up and begin sexting with complete strangers.

Sexting outside a relationship can undoubtedly create severe trust and understanding issues. Yet those caught having a virtual affair claim it does not count as cheating because it is virtual and a fantasy rather than a reality. However, many will admit if their partner did the same they would not like it one bit.

No matter what you believe if you are sending something that you wouldn’t want your partner to see and are being secretive about it, it’s definitely damaging to the relationship. Because secrecy is never good, it affects transparency and therefore a couples emotional connection and sex life.

As does messaging someone and fantasizing about having sex with them, it’s not healthy for the marriage. This is because when you cross the lines with another person, you simultaneously neglect your spouse, whether or not it’s intentional. This will lower your spouse’s self-esteem, diminish your closeness and lead to further intimacy problems in the future.

The problem is the fact that sexting can often turn into an addiction and any time you put an addiction before your marriage and future dreams and goals it is going to affect your enjoyment of life long-term.

Sexting and virtual affairs create a false sense of intimacy and anonymity. I have met many men and women who have been sexting others and been caught by their husband or wife, where they promised never to do it again and really meant it at the time, yet fell victim to the instant thrill and high it can give and end up repeating the behaviour again and again.

I am sure many counsellors in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and around the world would agree. That any addiction can impact a person’s work performance, and take time and energy away from the relationship.

In my sex addiction counselling helping men and women to break free and holding them accountable for new behaviour along the way, I have noticed that sexting addiction can be the start of a virtual affair and sex addiction. They begin sexting and then it turns physical as little by little they get used to hiding things, taking a risk and pushing guilt away. So virtual affairs are a slippery slope to physical infidelity. Which is another major reason sexting and virtual affairs are harmful to marriages?

If sexting is done without knowledge to a third-party virtual and emotional infidelity is at play and if the third party has no interest in it then it counts as sexual harassment.

If you or your partner like sexting what can you do?

Do it with your spouse. If either of you are yearning for some sort of rush and excitement in your marriage, there’s no better way to get him or her in the same mentality than to flirt with them by messaging back and forth, most probably like you did at the beginning.

Sexting can be good for married couples living busy lives, as it can add some more passion into the relationship. Spouses can also use the sexting to express themselves in a way that perhaps they would normally shy away from. It can be a form of foreplay to send revealing photos to each other and can be part of spicing up the intimacy.

For couples in expat and long-distance relationships, it really can help create a sense of physical closeness and keep the passion alive, ready for the times they meet. However, you want to make sure you discuss likes and dislikes first, as for many men and women crudeness has a limit, just like seeing a stand-up comedian.

You want to ensure your sexting and virtual flirting is a turn on rather than a turn-off 😊

In summary sexting and virtual cheating is definitely something that is growing and in my experience sexting tends to create huge problems. With technology at our fingertips, smartphones have made this form of virtual cheating and emotional infidelity as easy as one, two, three.

The answer to this problem is to not police each other more, to track and monitor, but to police yourself and agree on this in your relationship. To really think before you press send, STOP and ask yourself would my wife or husband approve of this?

If not, is it really worth the risk?

It’s challenging in a relationship where the couple doesn’t agree what is cheating. Some believe that infidelity begins as early as flirtation, others see a kiss as cheating, while others don’t believe infidelity occurs until there is sexual intercourse.

Personally, I believe what you whether you call it cheating or not is irrelevant, it’s about healing the relationship now and understanding what led to it and how you can overcome it. Rebuilding trust is a must, making sure you discuss what needs to change in order to become closer physically and emotionally and stepping into action.

Repeatedly asking “Why” often doesn’t help it’s about creating a new plan and new way to connect. If you would like to discuss a new way to connect and are considering marriage counselling in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or online get in touch with me. Same if your husband or wife has threatened divorce, I help men and women to take action; to single-handedly turn around their marriage even if they are the only ones trying.

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Looking for Counsellors in Dubai? Nicola Beer offers Private Counselling Dubai, Counselling in Abu Dhabi, many expats fly from different areas for her Counselling Riyadh, Jeddah, Bahrain, Doha and Muscat are the most frequent customers for weekend individual or marriage counselling services.
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Nicola Beer