We all know that snooping on your S.O. is bad. Like, really bad. You’ve probably heard horror stories from friends about that time they checked their partner’s phone hoping to save their relationship and got caught red-handed — or, worse, found what they were afraid of. Yikes. If snooping is such a no-no, then why is it so tempting? Since trust is a key component in all happy relationships, if it’s not intact, it can cause a whole lot of problems. We consulted some experts to find out whether checking up on your partner behind their back can ever be good relationship advice, and their answers were totally in sync.
Is snooping ever okay?
In short: Nope! “Snooping is never a great idea,” says Rhonda Richards-Smith, a licensed psychotherapist and speaker on relationship topics. “Snooping extends the avoidance of having the tough conversation that you need to have with your partner.” It makes sense that you want to investigate when you think something’s up with your S.O. But Richards-Smith notes that “while snooping may seem like the easier route, the consequences can be devastating for any relationship.”
What’s more, relationship author and columnist April Masini explains that even if you find something worth bringing up with your boo, they’re definitely going to want you to explain why you were going through their stuff in the first place — and they’d have a point. Masini says, “Lots of times people who bring up issues they find while snooping have problems because the person they were snooping on shifts the focus onto the betrayal by the snooper!”
Your partner also deserves to have some off-limits areas, and it’s okay if you don’t know every single thing going on in their life. “The goal in healthy relationships is to be separate but together by maintaining your individual identities,” says Lindsay O’Shea, who has a master’s in clinical psychology and is a personal dating strategist with Three Day Rule. “Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to give up your right to privacy and space.” Of course, you deserve to know if something is happening in terms of infidelity or financial problems with joint assets, but fear of the unknown doesn’t justify invading your S.O.’s privacy.
Why is it so bad?
The main reason snooping is so awful is that it simply doesn’t work. Why risk your relationship for something that isn’t even going to help? “Snooping will never feel satisfying, ever,” says O’Shea. “There are two possible outcomes with snooping: You find something questionable, and in order to confront your partner you have to admit to violating their personal space. Or if you can’t find something incriminating in your partner’s files, you may find yourself wondering if they did a good job of hiding it, if they deleted it or if it’s on another device or social media site — leading to more snooping.” Talk about a catch-22. O’Shea also points out the hypocrisy involved: “You’re snooping because you don’t trust your partner, but you become untrustworthy for snooping.” In other words, going through your partner’s private stuff has zero possible positive outcomes. Even if you do find out something you would have wanted to know, your chances for reestablishing trust in the relationship may be zilch.
Your interpretation of a text or email could even depend on your mood, and if you’re feeling suspicious you might make an assumption without having the whole story. “Texts and emails are basically a breeding ground for projection since you can’t hear the tonality in someone voice or see their nonverbal cues,” O’Shea says. If you believe that your partner is being unfaithful, “you will find something, even if there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. If you’re looking, you’ll create meaning.”
What can you do instead?
Richards-Smith says that snooping “communicates a gross lack of trust, which is a huge red flag in any partnership.” So what’s a healthier way to deal with your desire to check up on your S.O.? Talk it out, of course! When people feel something is off in their relationships, Masini points out that “instead of asking outright, people go snooping because they’re not 100 percent sure or because they’re hoping their instincts aren’t correct.” Rather than risking it all by spying, it’s better to go to the source — your partner — to get the real story.
What should you do if your partner snoops on you?
You may discover your boo has been checking up on you. If you find yourself in this situation, once again the answer is open discussion. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Remember to be kind. Usually, this kind of behavior is based in insecurity, so your partner may be feeling defensive. “Initiate a conversation between yourself and your partner and express your concerns about their behavior,” suggests Richards-Smith. “Approaching the situation with an open mind and receptive heart, free of judgment and anger, will ease any discomfort your partner may feel with coming clean.” But that doesn’t mean the snooper is entirely off the hook. “It is also important to explicitly express your personal boundaries and strategize how the situation can be handled differently in the future,” Richards-Smith says.
As with many other parts of life, clear communication is the best way to solve any privacy probs you’re having — on either side of your relationship. After all, the more honest you are with each other, the stronger your trust will be. When you trust one another, there’s no need to snoop!
Have you ever snooped on your S.O.? What happened?! Tell us about it @BritandCo!