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Sexting and Relationship Satisfaction

The way a couple sexts tells us much about their relationship.

Key points

  • Sexting styles are related to sexual satisfaction in committed relationships.
  • Relationship satisfaction appears to be unrelated to sexting styles in committed relationships.
  • Many individual and relationship characteristics are strongly related to sexting style.

It is no secret that sexting has increased significantly with the increased use of technology. Texting and sexting styles certainly enter into just about every relationship. The question of whether or not sexting is beneficial or detrimental to a relationship seems to be an unanswered one.

Perhaps sexting/texting style has little impact on the quality of relationships, but this seems unlikely. Additionally, sexting style and individual characteristics must be connected. The question is how. We are all curious about the answers to these questions, yes?

Well, we have good news. A study by Galovan et al. (2018) shed a bright light on some of the very complicated but interesting relationships between sexting/texting styles and relationship satisfaction and individual characteristics.

The population for this study was a group of 615 Canadians and Americans ages 18-85 in committed relationships. The group was broken down by their sexting style into four subgroups which included non-sexters, word-only sexters, frequent sexters, and hyper sexters. Interestingly, most individuals fell into the non-sexting group, followed by the word-only sexting group.

The groups were defined by the researchers as:

  • Non-sexters who reported never or rarely sending or receiving sexually explicit texts.
  • Word-only sexters reported sending and receiving sexually explicit messages in words only a few times per week. Additionally, they reported rarely sending or receiving nude and/or nearly nude pictures.
  • Frequent sexters reported sending and receiving sexually explicit word texts slightly more than a few times per week. Similarly, they reported sending and receiving nude or nearly nude pictures slightly less than a few times per week.
  • Hyper sexters were those who reported sending and receiving sexually explicit word texts and nude/nearly nude pictures either daily or many times per day.

The relationships between sexting styles and relationship satisfaction, and other relationship characteristics were then examined. Surprisingly, frequent and hyper texters reported a level of relationship satisfaction that did not differ from the non or word-only sexters. However, sexual satisfaction was significantly better in the group of frequent and hyper sexters than in the groups of non and word-only sexters.

Regarding other individual and relationship characteristics, frequent and hyper sexters scored higher than non and word-only sexters on measures of ambivalence about the relationship and reported lower levels of relationship commitment.

They also reported higher levels of relationship conflict. Levels of self-esteem and depression did not appear to differ among the different groups. Furthermore, those who sexted more frequently appeared to have greater difficulties with attachment issues, including attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety.

Some of the most important results of this study were related to sexting style and media use. Sexters were more likely than non-sexters to view pornography. Not surprisingly, the sexting group was most likely to use media overall. Sexters were more likely to permit technology to interfere in their relationships. This was labeled as technology interference or technoference by the researchers. This refers to checking phones and other forms of media during time spent together.

Finally, sexters were more likely to be involved in infidelity-related behavior on social media. This refers to sharing intimate information on social media with those outside of the relationship and to discomfort with having partners access their social media behavior with others.

The results of this study certainly reveal the differences among the various types of sexters. Keep in mind, though, that there are limitations in this study. The data were collected by self-report measures, and self-reporters tend to underreport. The data is correlational, and therefore directionality is unclear. Finally, sexting was looked at in committed relationships only.

Further studies should focus on how sexting affects the development of relationships.


Galovan,A.M.,Drouin,M.,&McDaniel,B.T.(2018) Sexting profiles in the United States and Canada:Implications for individual and relationship well-being. Computers in Human Behavior,79,19-29.

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