Study Findings Suggest Many Sexting Relationships Turn Physical, Lead to Cheating

Posted on July 13th, 2011

It’s the human connection through physical meetings, says a recent study, that may supersede many online-based relationships. In many cases an online or cell phone relationship is likely to progress to real-world meetings, despite a person’s intimate involvement with another partner or a spouse.

The conclusion that most people still seek a personal, real-life relationship from their sexting interactions is just one of the findings from a study that explored the link between sexting and cheating on one’s intimate partner. Conducted by the University of Nebraska and Washburn University researchers, the study sheds light on how the use of technology such as cell phones and the Internet has impacted people’s desire to seek out human-to-human encounters, even when they’re already in a relationship.

During sexting, messages with illicit and sexual photos are sent to someone else’s phone, with or without an accompanying sexual-based text message. When people who are in a committed relationship engage in sexting, said the researchers, they’re more likely to get involved in an actual relationship outside of technology. Of the 5,187 people who participated in the survey, more than 66 percent had used a technology-based tool to cheat on their partners, such as Internet usage or a cell phone. At least 75 percent had pursued a real-world relationship with someone who wasn’t their intimate partner. Around eight out of every 10 women who took part in the study said they had made arrangements to meet with someone they had formed a relationship with, or contact with, on the Internet.

Age made a difference in the participants’ sexual activity, said researchers. As men aged, they had higher chances of becoming unfaithful in a relationship beyond Internet boundaries. Where sexting was concerned, people in the demographic age range of 19 to 24 years old had higher chances of sending illicit or nude images via a cell phone than did older people in the study.

Other experts and psychologists commenting on the study have agreed with the researchers’ conclusion that when people engage in sexually-charged behaviors online or with a cell phone, their chances of escalating the relationship to real-world affair status are also higher. Psychology professor at New York’s Hunter College, Jeffrey Parsons, said that the makeup of certain web sites, especially those that encourage cheating, draws people in who want more than just an experience of doing something risky.

However, study researcher Kholos Wysocki says that the study results do not indicate that the Internet is a direct cause of rising rates of infidelity, but rather the findings point to the idea that technology provides increased availability of sexual encounters and allows the location process of a new partner to happen more quickly.

Sexting continues to gain national and expert attention within recent headlines, including of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting to several women outside of his marriage. Sexting and other behaviors, such as those related to sexual addiction and pornography addiction, are increasingly becoming the focus of research studies to explore the symptoms and treatments of these conditions affecting millions of adults in the U.S.

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