Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. Their marriage had its ups and downs: They went to counseling several times, and Melissa always suspected that her husband wasn't entirely faithful. Last year, shortly after the birth of their second child, Melissa, now 36, finally caught him in the act.
One night in December, Melissa and her husband had some friends over. Melissa noticed that her husband was standing very close to one woman in particular. She told The Huffington Post that the two of them were whispering to each other and getting "a little too handsy. Melissa confronted her husband that night, but he denied it. Look at my phone -- nothing's there, he said. She's not even an attractive girl. Sure enough, there were no incriminating text messages on his phone.
But something still seemed off, so the next morning, Melissa contacted the other woman and asked her about it. The woman felt guilty, so she sent Melissa screenshots of the texts. In the messages, Melissa's husband described graphic sexual acts he wanted to do with the woman. I don't know why I do these things.
He didn't think he'd done anything wrong, because he'd had no physical contact with the other woman. But for Melissa, it didn't matter whether he'd actually followed through with his graphic messages. He'd still lost her trust. She decided to file for divorce, a process she's still going through today.
Melissa said the text messages were what drove her to dissolve the marriage. I think any type of intimacy that you have outside of your marriage with somebody else is a form of cheating. It seems many people agree with Melissa.
But what exactly is "sexting"? Merriam-Webster defines "sexting" as "the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone. In a piece for Gizmodo, Sam Biddle described it this way: Texting as a simulacrum of doin' it. If I just send you an unsolicited cell snapshot of my junk, I'm not a sexter -- I'm a pervert. If you're my girlfriend and I do it, I'm still not sexting -- there's no message, no action -- just "Here, look at my blurry genitals.
To Weiss' clients, sexting only involves the exchange of images. Weiner resigned from Congress in after similar incidents were made public. Weiner may have been the subject of extensive public ridicule , but he's hardly alone when it comes to sexting. According to a Pew Research Center poll , 9 percent of adult cell phone owners have sent a sext of themselves -- defined in this case as a sexy photo or a video -- to someone else, and 20 percent of cell phone owners have received a sext.
When you factor in age, the numbers shift a bit. A full 44 percent of cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 reported receiving sexts in , as did 22 percent of cell phone owners ages 25 to And what about cheaters? According to a survey of almost 5, users of Ashley Madison , a social networking site that describes itself as "the most famous name in infidelity and married dating," 60 percent of women and nearly 50 percent of men said they'd sexted with someone outside their relationship, suggesting a solid correlation between infidelity and sexting.
About 40 percent of respondents over age 50 had sexted with someone they met on Ashley Madison. Evidently, when it comes to infidelity, sexting isn't just a millennial thing.
It's important to note that sexting is just one piece of the ever-shifting fidelity puzzle. Weiss said that if you think back just 20 years ago, when smartphones didn't exist and the Internet had yet to saturate everyday life, cheating was more of a black-and-white scenario. A person had sex with someone outside of the relationship -- that was it, case closed. But now, with the advent of Internet porn, messaging apps and online forums, people may not always agree on what cheating actually is.
Sexting carries a relatively high risk of getting caught, since there are records of everything. And since sexting doesn't actually involve physical contact, it's easy to think of it as a poor substitute for other, more exciting activities. But if so many people, both in and out of relationships, are doing it, they must be getting something out of it. Weiss says it depends on the gender of the sexter. Men, he told HuffPost, tend to sext for one of two reasons: Either they're hoping eventually to have sex with their sexting partner, or they're trying to get masturbation material and have no intention of actually hooking up.
Often, said Weiss, male sexters don't feel like they're missing something from their relationship -- they just think that what their partner doesn't know won't hurt them. Women, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated, according to Weiss. He said that while men are often just interested in getting a sexy picture, and don't worry too much about whom it's from, a woman tends to look for signs that her sexting partner is interested in her, specifically.
Weiss said that women may be hoping to find out if other men besides their romantic partner find them attractive or interesting. These women may not be getting enough validation from their partner, so they're looking for a way to feel wanted. He also noted that plenty of women are just looking for no-strings-attached hookups. In fact, recent studies suggest that when it comes to the desire for casual sex, there's no gender gap at all. But while everyone has their own reasons for sexting outside a relationship, many of them simply boil down to this: They're looking for a feeling of excitement their relationship doesn't provide.
Texting and telling each other about what you wanted and dreamed about sexually with that other person. There is a sexual release with that interaction that is different than the real thing. It's not better than the real thing; it's just different.
He told The Huffington Post in an email that he and his co-worker have a physical spark but only act on it via sext, since he's in a relationship. But it is exciting and sexy. I guess I justify it by saying 'rather this than an affair. A couple of months ago, Sarah ran into an old college fling and began communicating via Facebook. She told HuffPost that it started off innocently enough, but after the two started reminiscing about their past together, the messages became more explicit.
Pretty soon, they were exchanging pictures. This is the first time Sarah has done anything like this, and she said it's allowed her to see the flaws in her marriage. She said their relationship lacks passion, and they're not having sex anymore. While Sarah said she would never leave her husband for her old flame, the sexting has allowed her to realize that she's lacking sexual connection in her marriage.
She feels guilty and knows her husband would be upset if he found out. Nevertheless, she said, she's not sure if she still considers sexting to be actual cheating. Weiss doesn't seem to see any "gray area" when it comes to sexting. After 20 years of working with couples, he says that it's the lying that makes sexting cheating -- physical contact has nothing to do with it. He said that whether or not you actually sleep with the person you're sexting with, your partner is going to be just as hurt as if you actually had consummated the affair.
A report from the Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 40 percent of the country's divorce cases use messages from WhatsApp, a mobile social messaging service, to prove that partners have been unfaithful.
Sexting doesn't have to take the form of standard text messaging. It can also happen via social apps that can be accessed on smartphones, like Facebook , WhatsApp and Snapchat. Often, people who have caught their partner cheating will try to salvage the relationship and work through the betrayal. The way to restore trust, according to Weiss, is for the cheating partner to demonstrate consistent, transparent, reliable behavior over time.
The couple may need to have an honest conversation about what sexuality means to them -- some couples may even decide that sexting outside the relationship is OK , as long as it stays within certain parameters -- but Weiss said those kinds of rules need to be thoroughly discussed as a couple before someone hits send on a sext. Weiss also said that once a person is caught sexting, their partner is entitled to ask to see their phone or online messages on a regular basis.
Everyone has a right to privacy, but once trust has been broken and the couple wants to work together to reconcile, the cheater will have to make their partner feel comfortable again, which may involve giving them access to the phone that enabled the relationship rift in the first place.
As for Melissa, she says she gave her husband plenty of chances over the years, and she wants to set a good example for their children by not tolerating infidelity. For now, she's agreed to a peaceful marriage dissolution and won't be including any of those graphic screenshots in her divorce proceedings.
She's also going to wait until her 1-year old daughter and 3-year-old son are a little older before she tells them about their father's proclivity for extramarital sexting.