As a divorced woman in her 40s who recently started dating again, I've found myself in unfamiliar territory. Not only is dating much different when you have kids, animals and a mortgage to take care of, the last time I was "out there," texting wasn't a thing.
So when I began exclusively dating a very handsome single dad who made me feel sexy for the first time in a long while, things started getting pretty hot in our text messages.
Since we both had kids we couldn't rush off to meet whenever we wanted, and we both admitted to not knowing if we'd ever find someone who felt passionate about us at this point in our lives. Resorting to steamy conversations while our kids were sleeping soundly in bed helped scratch the itch, so to speak. And it was so exhilarating.
A few weeks into our relationship, we started sending flirty texts. One thing led to another, and we were chatting for hours on the nights we couldn't be together. We got very descriptive about what we wanted to do to each other when we did meet up again, and it was hot. So hot in fact, I started to feel like I couldn't get enough. I couldn't wait for night to come so we could have our "sessions" and I started sending him steamy messages during the day too to get my fix.
The rush, the excitement, the sheer pleasure of feeling so attracted to someone and not holding back my deepest fantasies and hearing theirs began consuming me. Before I knew it, I wanted to sext with this man all the time. Some of the things we said to each other seemed shocking at first, but then became diluted. This made us both get sexier, send pictures to each other and discuss our deepest sexual fantasies; things we'd never dare share with anyone else.
And if one of us had a night we couldn't sext it up, I began to feel strange. Not quite sad, but almost bored with a normal night in front of the television relaxing or going out with friends.
I'd never dabbled in anything like this before and was beginning to wonder if I was getting addicted. I certainly didn't feel comfortable admitting my new habit to anyone else.
I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. I've never been a promiscuous person. I'd always had monogamous relationships even though I found myself getting bored in the bedroom after a few months. Was this what I needed? To hide behind my phone and ask for things I wanted sexually because I was too shy to ask for them in person?
Did getting this kind of attention and validation from a man I was deeply attracted to do something for my self-esteem that had never been done before?
The arousing messages made me extremely excited while they were being exchanged, but then they were followed by shame and a little guilt, even though we were in a monogamous relationship with each other.
The fact that I began to feel like I needed it worried me. So I asked him if he felt the same way. He agreed that sexting was on his mind all the time and it was now one of his favorite things to do. Everything else seemed dull in comparison and he was ecstatic I was so into it because it seemed to be filling a need in him as well.
Which made me wonder. Can sexting be addictive?
Dr. Lisa Strohman, a clinical psychologist and founder of Digital Citizen Academy, told SheKnows we form an addiction when we crave something and lose control over its use. "When we are no longer able to step away and it begins to impact relationships, work, self-esteem and emotional stability, the vicious cycle of addiction begins," she says.
Strohman says sexting can be addictive: "Our brains register all pleasure in the same way. It doesn’t matter whether it's a drug, sexual encounter, monetary reward or a sext. Pleasure is actually our interpretation or the feeling we get when the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into our system. Dopamine release is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center," she explains.
It makes perfect sense. When something feels good, you want to do more of it, even though you are aware it has highjacked your brain and there is risk involved.
Strohman warns behaviors such as gambling, shopping and sexting and other "process addictions" can become just as harmful as drugs and drinking. And if sexting is coming in the way or your normal life or productivity at work or makes you lose interest in all other hobbies or interferes with other relationships, (like canceling plans so you can sit home and sext), it's time to stop and reach out for medical help if necessary.
As for me and my partner, we decided to hold off on sexting for now. It was starting to affect too many areas in our lives, and we could see ourselves wanting to do nothing else. Maybe we will bring it back if we are still together in a few years and our sex life needs some spicing up, but for now, we are both satisfied with saving the real thing for when we see each other instead of spending our evenings with our necks bent over our iPhones.
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