In this seventh and last blog on sexting, we discuss what happens after one partner has acknowledged sexting with a third person outside of the primary relationship. How can the two partners rebuild their relationship, or is this impossible to do?

First of all, it is important to say that each situation is different, so what applies to one may not apply to another, as there isn’t a single answer that applies to all of them.

At one extreme sexting may be part of a much bigger pattern of dysfunctional behaviors, just the tip of the iceberg. These behaviors may have been going on for a long time, with the person acting inappropriately and feeling no remorse about their actions. The two partners may have been estranged for quite some time, unable or uninterested in reconnecting at an emotional and physical level. Couples here, if interested in addressing these dysfunctional issues, need to bring everything to the surface in order to grasp the full impact of the problems on their relationship.

They often may need professional help, like couple counseling, sexual addiction counseling, and/or individual psychotherapy that searches deeper for the root causes of behaviors.

At the other extreme, a partner may have been sexting for the first time, for a very short time, with a familiar person. He or she may be remorseful and guilty, conflicted about these acts and feeling bad about them, even while continuing them. In general, the relationship between the two partners is a healthy one. Both feel close and loving toward each other. Neither has any thoughts of disaffection and/or plans to leave. These couples need an open and frank discussion about what’s going on and what each thinks, feels and wants from their relationship and commitment to one another.

In between these two extremes, there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of intimate relationships, with different degrees of communication and emotional and physical connection. Additionally, one or both partners in the relationship may have various degrees of dysfunction and pathology that influence their actions.

It is, to a large extent, what partners do once they open up the discussion with one another that determines how the relationship will fare. If both partners are interested and willing to work at repairing their relationship, one conversation doesn’t do it. They need to make a commitment to talk on a regular basis; to find the time, at the end of each day, to sit with one another and share their thoughts and FEELINGS. They need to be honest while being empathic; confronting while expressing compassion, and collaborative, instead of adversarial. There has to be time for expressing anger and hurt, betrayal and disappointment, shame and guilt, humiliation and remorse. There has to be an opportunity for each partner to listen without attacking; to be emotionally available and committed to the work.

Beyond that, there has to be time to understand, together, what went wrong; where the disconnection occurred; what triggered the impulse to seek elsewhere something that seemed appealing and fun. Can that be recreated IN THE RELATIONSHIP? The focus should be on how to do so, by being open about likes and dislikes, different views of relationships, expectations, goals. Together, couples should work at rebuilding the feeling of emotional safety that used to be in their relationship, but that at some point disappeared. Additionally, a discussion needs to take place about the future: how can these kinds of actions be prevented from occurring again?

Can all of this be achieved? It can, if couples commit to the hard work that brings about deeper understanding, stronger feelings for one another and a closer loving bond.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Daniela Roher, I am a psychotherapist trained in Europe and the US and have been in practice for over 30 years. I have studied in Italy (University of Torino), England (Universities of Cambridge and Oxford), and the United States (Wayne State University), thereby achieving a deep understanding of the human mind and psychopathology. My training includes classes and workshops at the Tavistock Institute in London, England and the London Family Institute, as well as at UCLA. I received a postdoctoral certificate in adult psychoanalytic psychotherapy from the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, and this model continues to deeply influence my approach and work today.