Fanning the flames of back burner relationships electronically: Prevalence and implications for romances and well-being among adults.


Back burners are prospective romantic and/or sexual partners with whom one communicates, often using digital communication channels, for purposes of potentially developing a sexual and/or romantic relationship. The current study explores the consequences of back burner communication on relationship commitment and personal stress. Moreover, early back burner studies relied primarily on college student samples; it is unknown whether these findings generalize to older adults. We examined the relationships among digital communication with back burners, relationship commitment, and stress, using a sample of non-collegiate adults (N = 263). Consistent with earlier research, the majority reported having at least one back burner. Also, number of back burners correlated negatively with commitment. However, only number of back burners predicted commitment when considered alongside frequency of sexual communication and frequency of stating one’s future intentions. Social media infidelity-related behaviors mediated the relationship between number of back burners and stress. Findings have implications for relational and personal well-being.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Atlantic Journal of Communication