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No Snooping, Please!
 

By Barrington H. Brennen, February 17, 2021

 

During the past two decades, there has been a noticeable increase of infidelity being found out by one partner snooping into another partnerís phone.  What the snooping partner finds causes shock, disbelief, vicious arguments, fights, and at times the ending of a relationship. 

Since the invention of the smart phone, which makes texting and sexing so easy, the question of privacy and secrecy has become a serious debate between couples. Should someone snoop in her/his partnerís text messages or emails?  Should passwords be shared?  Should couples have secrets between them?

Let us first establish a key point. There is to be absolutely no secrets in a relationship.  Note however, that secrecy and privacy are two different things.  For example, I do not go into my wifeís purse because that will be invading her privacy.  However, I am not kept from going into it.  I am free to go into it, but I do not violate that privilege of privacy.  If she forbids me to go into her purse, then that could rise the concept of secrecy.  My wife has passwords on all of her gadgets and emails.  I do not know the passwords and have no need to ask.  She does not have the passwords to prevent me from going into them.  It is just about security.  The sweet thing is that she tells me the passwords when she asks me to check something for her.

Here is another point to consider when it comes to snooping.  There might be times a partner needs to snoop into the phone/emails of his/her partner.  One wife said after being brutally wounded by her husbandís unfaithfulness, that she wished she had at least snooped one time into his phone when she first suspected.  She said it might have reduced the development of the secret affair. 

Young focused African American female with backpack surfing internet on mobile phone while resting on city staircase in fallOn the other hand, my research reveals that many spouses regret that they snooped into their partnerís phone.  Why?  Because they greatly misunderstood what they saw and it gradually evaded the trust and increased suspicion.  The husband was totally innocent.  The truth is, when you snoop you will find what you are looking for and it will not be what you are thinking it is.  

Here is what marriage and family therapist, Kelsey Borresen, states in the article ďIs it Ever OK To Check Your Partnerís Phone?Ē  ďThe long and short of it: No, itís generally not OK. Itís a violation of your partnerís privacy and a breach of trust ― not to mention, itís often unproductive: You might find nothing and then feel like a jerk for snooping. You might find something small and innocent and blow it out of proportion. Or you might actually find something incriminating, but then you have to ask yourself: Was this really the most honorable way of getting the information?   ďIt is an invasion of privacy and property.   To check a phone without consent shows that there is a communication breakdown. Looking for something on your partnerís phone without permission immediately breaks trust to fulfill your own needs. It leads to suspicions and assumptions that trigger insecurities and upset.Ē

Here is another perspective.  Many of my clients were not snooping when they found incriminating information in her/his partnerís phone.  The partner might have been using the phone (with permission) and the information popped up.   Strangely, I found that some unfaithful partners actually feel relieved that they got caught.  Why?  Because although they walked freely into the clandestine relationship, at some point they felt it was wrong and could not get out because the other partner was blackmailing them.   One man told me that he had his best sleep in years on the night he got caught.

Before You Decide to Snoop . . .
Is there anytime one can "snoop" into his or her partner's phone?   Before deciding to snoop consider these two points: 

  1. Your partner displays suspicious behavior that you have questioned over time and refuses to acknowledge or change and it is causing the deterioration of the relationship.  For example, coming home very late or not letting you know where he or she went, condoms were found in his pocket and you both do not use them.  Or your partner might be hiding the phone or refuse to let to use it or see his texts when you request to see them, because of your suspicion, etc..  

  2. Your partner questions your trust in him or her as a defense tool when you point out your suspicions.

If you answered affirmatively to these two points, then with caution, and an open mind, you can choose to check your partner's phone.  Some partners higher a private detective to investigate before confronting the partner.   Before doing so, remember you are going to open the flood gates of anger that might lead to rage, bitterness, intense and ridiculous questioning, self doubt, sleepless nights, and reckless behavior.

Here are a few of my points and tips for the faithful partner.  
See "I cannot get these images out of my head."  ]

  • Keep your dignity.  Avoid allowing the situation to be about you or suck you in to self-pity and depression.  Note that not all affairs are due to poor marital relationships.  Some are just about living out fantasies, not being aware of one's vulnerability, or plane stupidity.  It is not necessarily about you.
  • Do not snoop again.  No matter how you feel, avoid going back and checking the phone/emails.  Why?  Constantly reviewing the text messages stifles healing and increases bitterness.    As said earlier, you will "find" what you are looking for and it would not be true.  You can have, for a short time, an agreement between you both that you will randomly check the phone/emails from the perspective of accountability, but that is for a short time and must not continue indefinitely.
  • The guilty partner could be mourning just like the innocent one is mourning.  The guilty partner is regretting what he or she did, even if it was a choice at first.  They are sad that they have cost so much pain.  Regret, depression, confusion, despair, and even disgust with himself/herself could be natural at this time.
  • Avoid repeating questions.  Avoid asking everyday "Why did you do this?"   Remember, many times the guilty partner really may not even know why he/she had the affair.  Avoid the constant dripping of questions like: "What color was her panties?"  "What hotel room did you take her to?"   "Were the lights on?" Etc.   Believe it or not, the guilty partner may not even know the answer to these questions because that was not the focus.  There are many partners who cannot even give a clear answer to "Why did you do this?"  What is more important is that your partner acknowledges that he or she was wrong and is willing to change. 
  • Establish clear boundaries and guidelines.  If you both are thinking about staying together or have already decided to remain as a couple, it is imperative to establish simple, yet clear boundaries.   This may include but not limited to:  (a) The use of the phone or email.  (b) Sharing passwords or not having them at all.  (c) Time coming home at night.  (d) Sharing information.  (e) Association with friends.

Remember, no snooping.

Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.  Send your questions and comments to question@soencouragement.org, or call 242-347-1980.

 

 

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