When I was living in Indonesia, I instantly hit it off with a man named Rob from the Netherlands. He was very sweet, intelligent, adaptive, and responsible – and I knew we could be best friends after we stumbled on a great cultural conversation about sexting 24 hours into knowing each other.
In America, we view mutually desired and respectful sexting in relationships as an opportunity to create intimacy and connection with our partner from afar.
Allowing someone else into our internal landscape of eroticism and desire feels like passing notes in class, written in our own secret language.
Rob said people in the Netherlands didn’t see it the same way. Sexting wasn’t as big of a thing there – and when it did exist, it looked very different. Our conversation led into a terrific cultural analysis of America as we explored how these “dirty” exchanges could be seen as a sign of love.
Many of my clients feel the same way about sexting as Rob and his country did. They don’t find it appealing or sexy to send naked photos to their partner through an unprotected, easily hacked, internet file transfer.
However, sexting itself – dirty talking through a text platform, not inclusive of sending nude photos – is another story.
Mutually desired sexting can be a very effective way to improve relationship satisfaction.
Let’s talk about why that is. But first let’s just very quickly and clearly define mutually desired.
“Mutually desired” sexting means both partners are open, willing, and wanting of this form of communication. They might feel a little more comfortable with receiving than sending because they aren’t sure how to make it sound natural or sexy. But either way, they are consenting to talking dirty with their partner through text.
Any scenario outside of both partners consenting in openness, willingness, and wanting of dirty talking through text means that one partner is not consenting. If one partner is not consenting to sexting, this is unwanted interaction and can feel intrusive, pressured, or disrespectful.
Unwanted sexting will harm the relationship.
If one partner is not wanting to sext, do not sext. Respect them and don’t do it. Period.
Another important note:
Sexting is NOT an effective strategy if:
- You or your partner have expressed feeling pressured into sex or obligated to have sex within your partnership.
- Your relationship is currently in turmoil, feels unsteady, or has frequent and escalating conflict.
Sexting is MOST effective if:
- There is trust and respect surrounding sexual desire within your partnership.
- You are feeling mostly connected with your partner.
- Sex is lackluster or infrequent and you feel like passion has dwindled away.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about those couples who are mutually desiring some more passion and connection in their relationship and are open to doing this through means of dirty talk over text.
10 WAYS SEXTING BENEFITS YOUR RELATIONSHIP
- It creates connection and intimacy even while apart in our busy-addicted lives.
- It generates distance where there isn’t any – which can help us feel more intrigue and desire for our partner.
- It separates our responsible side from our fun side, allowing our relationship to more closely imitate our courtship and early dating.
- It is a “safer” way to integrate our personal (sometimes secret) sexual self and desires into our relationship’s sexual landscape.
- It invites newness and variety into the same old experiences and allows us to respond and react differently to our partner.
- It expands our foreplay vocabulary.
- It inspires playfulness, spontaneity, intrigue, and anticipation.
- It provides a creative and playful way to tell our partner what we want.
- It protects and strengthens the hierarchy and importance of our partnership within our family system.
1. CREATE CONNECTION
Lots of couples can go full days without true intimate contact, emotionally or physically, with their partner.
Texting in this new, provocative way helps us stay connected and intimate throughout our time apart (even if we are in the same city) so that when we reunite in the evenings, there is less space between us to bridge.
We have better sex when we feel connected to our partner.
2. CREATE DISTANCE
In the beginning of a courtship, when passion is high and desire is palpable, there is distance between us and this other person. We don’t know everything about what they’re thinking or feeling and we can’t predict their response to us.
This not-knowing is very sexy sometimes.
It’s especially sexy if we discover that while flirting in the parking lot together after our first date, we were both yearning for the other. A little bit of anxiety makes our hearts pound faster and helps to create that exciting feeling of lust and passionate craving.
When we find out later that this person really wanted us in those moments – they desired more closeness with us in just the same way we desired with them – it is flattering and releases some wonderful endorphins that make us feel sexy and stimulated.
Recreating this not-knowing can be challenging when we spend so much time together now that we have been partnered for years and possibly decades.
Luckily, we don’t have to be away from our partner for days or give them the silent treatment to create distance.
Here’s one of my favorite tricks I suggest for couples:
When one of you goes to another room in the house, playfully text something flirty or sexy to your partner.
Texting from close by creates the illusion of distance.
And if we use that text to be playful and express some desire for our partner, they might get the same boost of endorphins they got when we thought they were irresistible in that one outfit on our third date together.
3. BE FUN
We’ve talked about how hard it can be to connect during the day.
Oftentimes, when couples do communicate throughout the day, it is about logistics of who is picking up the kids, don’t forget the peanut butter at the grocery store, when is your dad visiting, and let’s try to get that garden done this weekend.
It isn’t creative, playful, pleasurable, exciting, or sexy. It isn’t meaningful or deep.
Remember when “adulting” became a verb? Adulting encompasses all the boring responsible behaviors and tasks that adults have to do. It infers that these activities are terrible and suck the joy out of life. They are not fun.
When we step into adulthood (and parenthood, especially), a lot of the fun of our lives feels like it gets drained out of us.
Our personalities become more structured and less spontaneous. Our minds plan and prepare and problem-solve.
We fill our schedules until the hours are tiny sardines in a can that need to be color-coded and we don’t have time to relax – which might be okay because we don’t know how to relax anymore unless it means staring mindlessly at an electronic screen.
Sexting allows us to step away from adulting and to just have fun again.
To make this as effective as possible, it’s important to create a separate app to use for your playful banter. We don’t want it to get lost in the logistical fluff. But let’s talk about this in #8 below.
Oh, and if someone in your marriage has ADHD, inviting some playfulness into the relationship can be really effective in creating more space for attention and engagement – just like you had in those good ole early days of dating.
4. BE REAL
Being our true sexual self with our partner feels overwhelmingly impossible sometimes. Even (and sometimes especially) if we’ve been with our partner for a long time, it’s likely there are some corners of our sexual world that our partner has never seen – and at this point, how do we show them?
Couples feel really awkward about this one. They want to spice up their sex life so they look externally for new positions or outfits and they try to integrate these in.
This approach can feel clunky and unnatural.
A more effective method would be to look internally. Your sexual self is an endless encyclopedia of arousal and desire – if you give it the space to explore itself.
Exploring our sexual desires with our partner requires vulnerability and risk. Doing this with the safe distance and “anonymity” of a screen makes it a lot easier.
For most people, it feels impossible to look your beloved partner in the eyes and tell them all the dirty things you want to do to them.
To let them into your favorite fantasies.
But through texting and the safety of screen-to-screen communication, you can step into these fantasies, express desire for certain acts or services from your partner, even playfully exchange some unique language you don’t usually use in your encounters. The risk feels manageable.
If your partner doesn’t go for it, the let down feels easier because it isn’t right in the middle of sex and it isn’t in your face. There is less embarrassment.
And if your partner does go for it, you may get too enthralled in your new sexy conversation to even finish reading the rest of this article.
5. CREATE NEWNESS AND VARIETY
You certainly can use sexting as a means to explore your deepest, darkest desires with your partner that you haven’t shared before. Or perhaps you want to try out that thing you heard about or saw in the last Game of Thrones episode.
But sexting doesn’t have to be totally new material.
Texting also provides a new platform to re-experience your same current techniques and scenarios.
If you aren’t sure how to be new, try being the same but in a new way.
Let’s say your typical love making looks starts with a hand on your knee, then a short rub of your forearm, that look of “hey, you wanna?” and a scooch closer on the couch. What happens next? How do clothes get removed? Do we stay on the couch? Who does what and where?
Try playing the part of narrator and just describe to your partner your typical script. It’s amazing how new it can feel when we put words to it with some fun attention to detail.
6. EXPAND YOUR FOREPLAY VOCABULARY
If your foreplay is limited to a forearm rub and a “hey, you wanna?” as described above, dirty talking over text can be a great way to spice things up during that lead up phase.
We tend to have a disappointingly narrow definition of foreplay when we get into long-term partnerships.
In reality, everything can be foreplay.
If you don’t have the time or energy to spend 20 minutes sensually touching and canoodling, how about five minutes of dirty talk before we even come home from work?
Expanding your definition of foreplay to sexting will also help you learn how to be sensual, sexual, and flirty with your partner in every day life – even if we don’t have sex on the to-do list for tonight. This helps us get more passion back even amidst the chores and errands we have to run.
7. BUILD ANTICIPATION
So let’s say you’re running those errands and you decide to send your partner a flirty text. You get home and put the groceries away and then head out to your dinner plans with friends. When you run to the bathroom, you send another text. Maybe a less subtle text this time.
Your partner pulls out their phone later during dinner and you feel yourself getting a little nervous. Are they going to text you back? What if your friend sees it over your shoulder? You are excited and curious and nervous – and when your partner looks at you, winks, and puts their phone away, you almost hold your breath.
Your sexting has created an intimate connection, provided foreplay, and built anticipation.
The waiting and nervousness makes everything more exciting and heightens your arousal – just like it did for your first dates.
Part of what is so effective in early courtship to build passion and anticipation is the excitement surrounding receiving a text from your new love interest.
Even seeing their name appear used to make your stomach jump in a pleasing way.
Currently, a text from them probably doesn’t elicit a heightened state of arousal, excitement, or nervousness like it once did. It might be asking how your day is but it probably isn’t much more exciting than that.
Using a different app for your flirty talk will also help condition your brain to respond with excitement to a text from your partner.
If you use a new platform for your sexting, you will automatically train your brain to feel excited and aroused as soon as you see that a message has come in. This creates some of the same excitement and anticipation we experience in early courtship. It creates passion and lust. It creates desire.
8. COMMUNICATE WHAT YOU WANT
As a sex therapist, almost every day I am helping individuals navigate learning to speak up for what they want in sex. It is shocking how many people don’t know how to do this.
Not communicating to our partner what we like (and don’t like) can have disastrous effects on our sexual satisfaction with them.
If you don’t believe me, let’s think about the idea of faking orgasm. Women fake orgasm for a few reasons:
- You think your partner is bored, tired, or not having a good time attempting to provide you with an orgasm – especially when it comes to oral sex.
- You know how important your orgasm is to your partner (and perhaps it plays a big role in them experiencing their own orgasm) but you don’t think it is achievable in this scenario.
- Your partner thinks you really like this thing they’re doing but you haven’t had the heart to tell them you don’t find it pleasurable.
Faking orgasm is terrible and ineffective. It teaches all the wrong things.
Keep doing that thing I don’t like that you do.
It’ll never work but I don’t want to tell you that.
You don’t know the right way to touch me – and I’ll settle for that being okay.
But it isn’t okay.
Our partner wants us to communicate what we like to them. They want to hear what will really bring us pleasure and ecstasy. They want to be able to do all the right kind of touching in all the right places.
And yet this can be really hard to talk about.
Due to texting being not face-to-face and not being during sex, we can use the safe distance to spell out for our partner the ways we do want them to touch us.
We can tell them what we want them to do and we can paint a picture with our words of what we want to do to them, too. We get to be the script writer and redirect our normal behaviors and responses into something more sexy and pleasurable for us without hurting our partner’s feelings.
9. PRIORITIZE THE ROMANTIC PARTNERSHIP
When the kids leave, it’ll be just the two of you.
If you’re a parent, your roles as caregivers and your time spent as a family unit instead of as a couple have taken over your lives. This can be wonderful – but there’s a real reason why the best research about relationships tells us we need to be able to prioritize our partnership as a separate relationship within the family system.
And really, prioritizing ourselves as a couple is the best way to prioritize our family system anyway.
We need a hierarchy of “me and you” over “us as a family” in order to keep “us as a family” as strong as possible.
Couples who stop valuing their partnership as a valued priority watch their passion, romance, and playfulness fade away into the abyss.
We need date nights and romance and excitement and secrets.
Many long term partnerships lose these qualities over time – and passion seems to dwindle with them.
They don’t carve out time for just the two of them. They don’t have regular dates or go on vacations away from the children.
And trust me that as a parent, I understand how truly challenging these things can be to accomplish.
Creating a space that is for playfulness instead of to-do lists allows us to separate our responsible selves (in work, household, and parenthood) from our romantic selves (in marriage, sex, and courtship).
Learning how to sext can help us learn how to interact with our partner outside of household management and caregiving roles.
HOW TO SEXT WITH YOUR PARTNER
Now you’re convinced (and maybe even a little excited) you want to try this. You share this article with your partner and they seem excited, too.
But how do you start?
First, agree on a new platform (remember #7 above). I like to suggest WhatsApp.
It is free, allows for sending text, photo, and video messages, can make phone calls, has notifications, and is end-to-end encrypted. You can also set a password in case you have curious children, roommates, or family members.
Be sure to change your notifications so the content does not appear on your lock screen.
Finally you’re ready. Below are some ideas of when to sext (and when not to), what topics you can cover, and some examples.
Remember that sexting doesn’t have to be “dirty talk.”
Just like a great conversation and cuddling can sometimes feel as good as sex, some playful banter or romance can be as good (or better) than sexting.
WHEN TO (OR NOT TO) SEXT
- When you are away from your partner at work, on a trip, or out with friends.
- When you are near your partner at home, in the bathroom, or different parts of the store.
- When your partner is able to respond. It is very unsexy to sexy talk while caregiving so don’t sext them when they are home with the kids. Some people find it exciting to get a dirty text during a meeting with their boss but others will be repulsed by that. Find out what works for your partner by asking ahead of time.
- When you feel intimate and connected with your partner already.
- When you are not in a current fight with your partner. During times of conflict, try some different ways to reconnect before sexting. If you don’t know how, read my article about how to recover after a fight.
WHAT TO SAY
- Narrate your typical sexual script (see #5 above).
- Start with something slow to make sure they’re able to respond right now and are willing to play. Maybe even a “hey you.”
- Talk about something from a recent sexual encounter, intimate moment, or connected conversation together that you really liked.
- Get flirty, teasing, and playful – it doesn’t have to be porn talk.
- Send a flirty meme or make your own.
- Send a scantily clad photo if you want.
- Ask questions.
- Be romantic, generous, or silly – even if it isn’t related to sex.
- Talk about something you’re looking forward to.
- Compliment them.
- Tell them what to do.
- Tell them what you’re going to do to/for them.
- Make demands or bargains.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES OF HOW TO SEXT WITH YOUR PARTNER
(Based on the 13 “What to Say” above)
- Tonight I’m going to give you the best massage ever. Starting with your back, neck, legs, inner thighs…
- Hey mister.
- I’m still thinking about last night.
- If you find my underwear from last night before I do, you’ll get a round two for tonight. Timer starts now.
- Google search some fun silly memes based on your activities for the day.
- Take some sexy photos ahead of time or run to the bathroom and send a sexy wink.
- What would be your most perfect date night? Tell me all the details.
- I’m bringing Chinese food, flowers, and some sexy sweaty muscles home with me tonight. I want you to greet me at the door in your best yoga pants and the sweater with all the stains – I’m hot for mama and I won’t accept “no” to some non-erotic cuddling and falling asleep by 9pm.
- I can’t wait for us to try that new restaurant this weekend. Want to go sneak into the park after? I’ll bring the chocolate if you bring the strawberries.
- You’re such an amazing mom. I appreciate you.
- I want you to kiss all over my body and tease me until I can’t stand it anymore.
- After the kids go to bed, meet me in the spare room. I’ll have candles, the heater on, and some ice cream for a blindfolded taste test. Wear nothing.
- I’m not going to make eye contact with you tonight until you tell me how you want to ravage me later.
Set up a counseling appointment with Kelsey.