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By Taylor Davies

What was the last text you sent your spouse? "Have a good day." "Can you grab milk on your way home?" "I'll pick up the kids today."

It may be time to get your mind out of your to-do list and into the gutter.

As an out-and-proud sexter, I was curious whether others in my circle had the same penchant for swapping sexy texts with their partners. An informal poll of my own friends and Twitter followers revealed that I’m not alone: about 85 percent of them have sent or received a sexually explicit message. A much more formal study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that 75 percent of young adults claimed to have engaged in sexting in general, while 62 percent said they had sent or received a sexually-explicit picture message.

Half of sexters report that it positively influences their sexual and emotional relationships with a partner.

While sexting may seem like a flirty form of communication mostly used by people looking for a fling, it turns out that those who benefit the most from sending steamy messages are actually in long-term, committed relationships. The study revealed that both men and women reported greater “positive consequences” from sexting in committed relationships than in casual ones. Further, about half of sexters reported that it “positively influenced their sexual and emotional relationships with a partner.” Research also shows that those in a committed relationship who sent sexual pictures to their partners reported more positive sexual and emotional outcomes than those in casual relationships.

The data may be intriguing, but in reality, the act of sexting is much easier said than done. We're human: We fear rejection, we’re protective of our reputations, and let’s be real — talking and typing about sex (or sexy things) can make even the most confident among us blush. So, how do you know if it’s right for you?

When Your Relationship Might Benefit From Sexting

While any couple can reap the benefits of spicing up their text messages, some may be more likely to feel it’s positive effects than others. Studies show that while the majority of men can experience positive feelings as a result of sexting in both casual and committed relationships, most females need a higher level of emotional commitment to feel comfortable partaking. Experts hypothesize that women use sexting as a way to achieve emotional closeness, which explains why they feel most comfortable doing it in committed relationships — and why married couples may just be prime candidates for experimenting with some explicit messages.

“Just because you see your partner every day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sexting,” notes Gigi Engle, a feminist writer, educator and speaker, who teaches a Sexting 101 class in New York City. “It’s a great way to get your partner jazzed up for when he or she gets home, and set the mood for a great night. The brain is our biggest sexual organ, and to get aroused in the body, you have to start in the mind!”

If you travel often for work, feel like the chemistry in your marriage has dulled, or feel disconnected as a couple, your relationship may also benefit from the emotional and sexual gratification of sexting. Kelley Kitley, LCSW, owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy and author of “MY Self,” always recommends sexting as a method for increasing closeness with many of her struggling couple clients. “It helps them to stay connected throughout the day and increases lust for one another,” she says.

There’s science to support the use of sexting as a tool to help mend marital issues, too. One study conducted on married couples found that sexting led to higher relationship satisfaction among those with high levels of avoidance in their relationships, and sending sexually explicit pictures improved satisfaction for men and women with attachment anxiety. Sexting may also be a gateway to a more open line of dialogue about your sex life, which a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships showed can improve your sexual and overall satisfaction in the relationship, especially for couples who had been together longer.

Convinced it’s time to give sexting a try? Here are some expert tips for breaching the subject.

Pro Tips for Easing into Sexting with Your Partner

The first and most important step towards starting a sexting conversation with your partner is making sure you’re both comfortable with it. Like any act of intimacy, sexting should only be brought into the mix if both of you are not only willing, but legitimately excited by the idea. If you are, then it’s time to have a little fun and ignite some serious IRL fire using purely digital sparks.

  • Start with something flirty. Engle suggests testing the waters with a message like, “I’m wearing a new dress and I’m really feeling myself in it. I feel pretty sexy actually…” Which will serve to gently test the waters with your partner, and move the conversation to a flirty place. She also suggests that you could describe a dream. “Something like, ‘You were in my dream last night, we were making out in my bed. Wish you were here,’ is flirty and pretty innocent,” says Engle. Your partner’s response will let you know if they’re in same mood or not, and a message like this is a fun and low-risk way to introduce some sexy energy into your texting. Again, start by thinking of sexting as a bit of virtual foreplay to the in-person fun.
  • Find a specific source of inspiration. Once you’re comfortable, start to move the conversation from suggestive to explicit. Inspiration for your sexting can really come from anywhere: It could be a past experience or memory that really turned you on, a scene from a TV show, an erotic passage from a book or a fantasy you’ve always had. What that idea inspires is up to you. It could be a photo or it could be a text. “It really depends on what you feel comfortable doing,” says Engle. “There is absolutely no right or wrong way. For some people photos are easier because you don’t have to think of the words to say. But since sending nude or suggestive photos can make someone feel especially vulnerable, texting words often is the easiest way to start.”
  • Make sure it's a two-way street. Even if you’re the one that first initiates a sexting conversation with your partner, keep in mind that the more engaged you both are, the better it will be. If you’re both new to it, your partner may be unsure of how to respond, and that’s okay. But Engle says to be on the lookout for partners who respond with just emojis or one-word answers to your sexts. You want to be receiving as much as you’re giving. To get them engaged, she suggests using positive affirmations to build up your partners confidence. (This can come from describing a past experience or a fantasy, or a body part of theirs that you love.) Finally, Engle recommends trying her favorite, go-to question to get your partner involved, “What would you do to me if you were here right now?”

Emojis are often a key part of sexting for couples, since they can so easily take the place of words that don’t necessarily need to be written explicitly.

  • Get creative with adjectives, emojis, voice memos and even gifs. At the end of Engle’s sexting 101 class, she hands out a take-home worksheet to help her students get inspired. With lists of adjectives, nouns and verbs, the worksheet functions like a sexy version of Mad Libs. She notes that adjectives are especially key — the more you use, the steamier the sext will be. Emojis are often a key part of sexting for couples, since they can so easily take the place of words that don’t necessarily need to be written explicitly. But think beyond the expected eggplant and peach. Hands, faces, fireworks, the bathtub, the volcano … You get the idea. They’re all open to your creative interpretation. In fact, you and your partner will probably invent your own emoji sexting shorthand once you get into the groove of communicating this way.

Tech-savvy tips for safer sexting

If you’re feeling hesitant to sext based on the risk of other people seeing what you and your partner are sending, there are a few steps you can take to protect your illicit content from prying eyes.

  • Switch off the “Show Subject Field” toggle on your phone. Normally, a clip of content of your messages (including photos) will show on the lock screen of your iPhone when it arrives. In the case of sexts, this is not ideal, especially if you or your lover happen to be in a meeting or say, at lunch with your family. To ensure that these private messages stay that way, go into your iPhone’s settings, scroll to “Messages” and make sure the toggle that reads “Show Subject Field” is grey, not green. For Samsung phones, you’ll want to go into “Notification Settings” and turn off “Preview Messages.”
  • Put an actual privacy screen on your phone. For your eyes only, literally. You never know who is looking over your shoulder on the subway, in a meeting or in line at Starbucks. To keep nearby eyes from seeing what’s on your phone, tablet or computer screen, try applying a screen protector that obscures and darkens what’s on your phone except when viewed straight on.
  • Protect your photos with an app like Private Photo Vault. There are a lot of apps out there which serve the same purpose, but we like Private Photo Vault because while it uses a 4-digit PIN code to lock photos and videos, it also has a private camera within the app, so you can safely record and snap without anyone seeing your content unless you deliberately share it outside the app.
  • Use a private app designed for couples. Between is a self-contained space where you and your partner can “chat, track anniversaries, share photos and video, and plan your schedules together all in one private space.” Perfect for sexting if you ask us. For example, you could establish that you’ll always know if a message/picture is suggestive or NSFW if it arrives via the app, so there’s no risk of accidentally exposing a private conversation or photo when you go to check your texts. Waiting for a notification to pop up in the app may even add another element of excitement to your new mode of communication.

NEXT: HOW OFTEN DO THE HAPPIEST COUPLES HAVE SEX? LESS THAN YOU THINK.

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