What if your partner ran out for a second and left his or her e-mail or text messages open? Would you read them?
According to a new survey by OurTime.com, “33% of Americans aged 18 and over, believe it’s OK to snoop through a significant other’s text messages, voicemails and email if ‘bad behavior’ is suspected.” This begs the question: Do two wrongs ever make a right?
Is it ever OK to spy on your partner’s electronic communications?
Spying or snooping is considered a big faux pas in relationships, yet many people end up infringing on a partner's privacy to catch a glimpse of what they think is going on. Among older generations, people kept diaries and there was a strict code of privacy surrounding them. It was never okay to read another person's private diary. In today’s world of electronic communications, email and text messages may not be seen as private as a diary. But, the same rules of privacy apply to our electronic communications.
Whether we refer to a person’s private diary or electronic messages, snooping constitutes a betrayal of trust, and trust is an essential ingredient in any relationship. If you feel the urge to snoop, you should ask yourself whether you want the relationship to last. If you do, breaking trust by snooping adds negative baggage to the relationship, even though you may suspect bad behavior. Two wrongs don't make a right when it comes to relationships.
In addition, what if you spy and don't find the suspected bad behavior? Do you then reveal what you've done? Most likely, you keep it a secret, and that’s what you were concerned about in the first place.
Dealing with the temptation to snoop
If you’re tempted to snoop, here are some strategies that may help you.
Do some self-inquiry first. Be honest. How do you feel about yourself? Spying on a partner is sometimes a sign of insecurity. You may feel that you are not good enough for your partner and that it is only a matter of time before he/she leaves you. This is more about you, not your partner.
Have a talk with your partner. Snooping is the antithesis of communicating. The better response to any suspicion is to communicate your reservations, fears and concerns openly with your partner. To keep the communication flowing freely, don’t begin with accusations. Instead, talk about your observations and emotions (always beginning with I statements): "I feel as if you're secretive. I notice you leave the room to talk on the phone. I feel like you're working late a lot — more than in the past.” If you suspect bad behavior, give your partner a chance to explain recent behavior and to hear your feelings.
Talk to a trusted friend. Go to someone who knows you very well. Bounce your ideas off them. This friend may quickly recognize that you have a history of insecurity. But mainly, talking to a friend is a release valve for your frustrations and fears — and can help steer you away from the urge to spy.
Gauge the seriousness of the behavior. After all of the above, if you’re still convinced that your partner is engaging in secretive bad behavior, ask yourself, “Does the behavior you suspect you could discover by snooping endanger your partner, yourself or your children?” If so, it may be smart to go to your doctor, religious leader or partner's family to enlist help.