Justin returned from a business trip earlier than expected.  As he unpacked his suitcase he heard his wife, Ashley’s cell phone ringing.  He picked it up out of curiosity. He didn’t expect to find a sexting message from an unknown man with genital photos in full display.  Scrolling through the history, he found photos of Ashley  naked with flirtatious come-ons.  He was shocked and disturbed and he had certainly never seen that side of her before.

It takes a congressman sexting on Twitter, to bring to light something that has been causing couples to fight since the earliest days of the Internet and social media.

The Internet is an invaluable communication tool, but also one that allows the illusion of intimate privacy with a stranger.

The combination of intimacy and anonymity makes it easier for people to behave like exhibitionists.  Sexting usually begins with playful online flirting, but for some people the thrill of increasingly naughty behavior can distort good judgment.

Sexting (or sending suggestive photos or phrases via text message or Internet) allows the sender to indulge in sexual fantasies that provide validation and stabilize self-worth.  Nevertheless the boundaries between fantasy and reality become blurred when using technology, making it easier to behave in sexually provocative ways with anyone.  The illusion of intimacy, privacy and anonymity can override morality and values that keep risky behaviors in check. Virtual reality relaxes these controls.

Justin decided to ask his wife about these messages and how they could mend their marriage.  They decided to try sexting each other to stimulate their bedroom routine.  His wife did not like this idea. She felt too uncomfortable sexting him.  She believed that you don’t do “dirty” things with someone you love.

Justin and Ashley were stuck in sexual boredom.  Introducing novelty into an established routine increases anxiety and the chances of criticism and rejection. Although both wanted to end this boredom, they were relinquishing passion for the security and safety of love as they knew it when they married.  There was no place for passionate sex in a marriage that could not tolerate risks.  Both of them relied too much on their partner’s positive regard to fool around with it.

The fact is that sexual problems are not always a result of serious problems or widely different sexual desires.  Some psychologists believe that sexting outside of a commited relationship can be used to keep passion in virtual reality and love in a separate compartment.

If you are in a committed relationship and sexting with someone other than your partner, you and your relationship may be suffering.  A psychologist can help you face the problems within yourself and with your partner.

Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Ada Wasiak.

Copyright © Dr. Eva Fisher