It’s certainly a controversial question, with no simple answer. I’m sure many spouses out there actively practice this activity — snooping and spying — whether through very active means (key-logger programs on PCs for example), or by means that are more circumstantial. A lap-top accidently left open with a spouse’s inbox. Or a cell phone sitting on a night stand, unlocked.
Or maybe more extreme measures such as having a private detective follow your spouse around to see what they are doing. Or attempting to hack into their phone. Or put some sort of GPS tracking gizmo or listening device into the spouse’s car. Anything to determine if your gut instinct is correct (or just because frankly you are an untrusting, insecure person and you do this despite any evidence that they are doing anything wrong).
It’s so tempting to just peek, isn’t it? Not only is it wrong, but it could undermine your marriage/relationship. And some snooping is actually illegal and you could be charged.
In general, I would say that honesty is indeed the best policy, but questioning a mate that is acting suspiciously may or may not bring the truth out. Anyone with something important to hide is unlikely to reveal the secret just because you try to appeal to their sense of decency as a person and an adult by asking them for the truth.
However, I also think this. If you feel a compelling need to spy on your spouse based on no real evidence, but only a gut instinct, you already don’t trust them. And if you don’t trust them, your marriage/relationship is doomed anyway. Done. Finished. Unfortunately, trust is the basis for a mature, lasting relationship and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Even snooping will only bring temporary relief (if nothing is found). “Gut instincts” may be based on some real evidence, or they may merely the excuse used by insecure, controlling and untrusting partners to snoop.
Often, untrusting people are insecure people, and there aren’t enough “hoops” that you can jump through in order to make an insecure person feel secure. They tend to be black-holes of emotional need, and it will never be enough. These searches, accusations and interrogations tend to continue no matter what. Few spouses tolerate this type of humiliation and control indefinitely.
Spying/snooping, if done correctly, is without doubt the most effective way to discover the unadulterated truth. This is where the problem presents itself; what is effective is unscrupulous, and what is ethical (just asking them) is usually fruitless. It’s an ethical dilemma, I’ll grant you.
Some people will say — yes, the truth! I can do whatever I wish in pursuit of “the truth”!! Others will say, by doing so, you are being unethical and if discovered, your spouse will correctly realize that YOU are untrustworthy and dishonest, and may (rightly) leave you because of it.
How many of you out there would tolerate that your spouse went to great lengths to spy on you, especially when you’ve actually done nothing wrong? That would be more than a red flag to most people. Anyone with self-respect would recognize this as the end of the marriage and would walk.
And no, I don’t buy the argument that goes something like, “well, if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t worry about being snooped on!” That’s a canard. A lie. Privacy is not the same as “Secrecy”. Not only do I think this over-used cliche misses the point, but is a poor justification for violating someone’s privacy and trust. The comeback to this cliche of course should be this: Because I value myself. Privacy is a basic human need: Implying that only the dishonest people have need of any privacy ignores a basic property of the human psyche, and sends a creepy message to the recipient.
Fundamentally, this slogan is a weapon. It is used to intimidate and confuse you; to force the receiver to bow down to the authority of the person who said and to be as cowardly and compliant as the person using it. I guess those people also would have no problem with the Government spying on you, on your phone calls, your emails (re: Anyone heard of the NSA scandal under the current Administration?) — because afterall, if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t worry about the Government prying into your life, right? Few people would agree with this and want to set an appropriate boundary with the Government. But then erase the boundary with their own partners due to their own insecurities and trust issues.
Even in a relationship, everyone has an expectation of basic respect, including that you won’t go snooping through their personal things (including phones and emails), or secretly track their movements, record their conversations or have them followed. Even in a relationship, we are still individuals. We aren’t one “merged personality”. We are two adult people. And basic respect still needs to be afforded even a spouse for 30 years. If they CHOOSE to let you have access to their email, phone or other devices, all well and good. But, you may have nothing to hide, and still not want your spouse rifling through your things — essentially spying on you. Who would? It’s demeaning. It’s being treated like a child. It’s pure disrespect.
I think that everyone has a different expectation of privacy within a committed relationship. Some people are more private than others. This doesn’t mean they are doing anything wrong. As with many things in relationships/marriages, it should be discussed and agreed upon. To assume otherwise, I believe, is a dangerous step to take.
Nor can snooping/spying be justified by saying you are doing it to “protect the relationship.” Crap. No spouse would consider being spied upon as a positive thing meant to “protect the relationship.” It’s not protection. It’s controlling and disrespectful. Period.
And consider this: If you decide to spy and find nothing, you may find reassurance, but you have violated your partner’s trust which should not be taken for granted. YOU now have become the person with something to hide, and will have to be held accountable for your actions if the situation is ever brought to light.
And what many of you would-be or actual snoopers don’t realize is that there are numerous anti-spyware programs out there that quickly uncover that a PC or phone has been compromised by a key-logger or similar program. You may be suspicious of YOUR spouse? They may get suspicious of you and sweep their phone and PC with available, often times free programs, that will uncover what YOU are doing. And what will you say then? You could end up divorced by resorting to dirty tricks and completely disrespecting your partner and their personal privacy. You will be more than a little embarrassed if you are caught spying on a completely faithful spouse. Personally, i would walk. Just a fact. It would indicate that trust does not exist, and a marriage cannot exist in an atmosphere of no trust. Especially when you are supposed to be reconciling and rebuilding mutual trust.
Do you wish to appear to be dishonest, sneaky, controlling, insecure, untrusting, and paranoid in front of your spouse? Consider that.
And there is case law that says that hacking your spouse’s email or intercepting their electronic communications is actually a CRIME in some States. What may come as a surprise, however, is that such spying is illegal. 18 U.S.C. §2510-2521 provides for a cause of action against anyone who intentionally endeavors to intercepts any wire, oral, or electronic communication. This includes not only phone communications like texts but also computer communications, e.g., emails. U.S. v. Szymuskiewicz, 622 F.3d 701. It does not matter if the interception of such communications is done by a spouse, the marital home falls within the purview of 18 U.S.C. §2510-2521. Kempf v. Kempf, 868 F.2d 970, 973 (8th Cir. 1989). In addition to there being a cause of action against a spying spouse, if information gained from such spying is used in subsequent legal proceedings, e.g., divorce, the spying spouse’s lawyer has opened him or herself to liability. The tort of invasion of privacy allows a victim to sue not only the person who spied but also anyone who gives publicity to the information thereby gained. Wis. Stat. § 995.50(2)(c). Publicizing such information to the court or information even just to opposing counsel may constitute publicity. Pachowitz v. LeDoux, 265 Wis. 2d 631 (App. 2003). And the liability such an attorney opens him or herself up to can be steep; an invasion of privacy tort allows victims to seek punitive and compensatory damages plus attorney fees. A vengeful spouse who catches you snooping on them electronically could turn the tables against you.
Beware the many websites that extoll the virtues of snooping — most of them are there to sell you a snooping product or service. Thinly-veiled articles which justify snooping, even if illegal, in order to convince you that you need THEIR website to “catch your cheating spouse.” They are hardly neutral on the subject.
As one therapist wrote,
“…being an electronic parole officer is not going to make your (spouse) faithful and reliable. You say (they have) put your health is at risk and your marriage is a sham. So the real question is not whether your snooping is justified, but when you are going to decide to get out.”
Exactly. Except in extreme circumstances, I think it’s a dangerous road to go down, fraught with peril. And you who suspects your spouse of dishonesty and betrayal will be going down the same path. And in the end, who is the better person? Neither of you.
As someone on a message board said,
I don’t know which is worse because snooping and cheating are BOTH reprehensible. Once a person starts snooping the relationship should end regardless of what is found because it indicates there is no trust. I would never cheat, but if I found out my history or phone records were every looked at I would end the relationship immediately with no questions asked because I can not be with someone who does not trust me. I also feel that once a person starts snooping (or cheating) they are just looking for an excuse to end the relationship. Cut out the games. If you are unhappy, leave. Simple as that.
Wouldn’t it be better for your mental health and longevity of a relationship to not give into your insecurities and unfounded fears but, instead, have an open discussion about your concerns? You can tell the person that you love them, but you have trust issues. Tell him that those issues can be alleviated, but it will require some changes and understanding. Wouldn’t this be a better approach?
In the end, there are no easy solutions. Most people want the truth, but the reality of the situation is that either knowing the truth, or your morals, may have to be sacrificed. To catch a suspected unethical liar who is maybe hiding something will turn the snooper into the unethical liar that is definitely hiding something.
Bottom line: It has pitfalls. When you go down this path, you take much risk. You could end up losing the very thing you sought to protect.
Expect the same from yourself that you expect from your spouse – honesty.
Snooping in the Immediate Aftermath of an Affair
This is a separate question and I didn’t want to get it mixed up with overall idea about spying on a spouse/partner. It’s a unique circumstance. After an affair, when trust has already been blown to smithereens and although reconciliation is the goal, the Betrayed Spouse often struggles to trust the Wayward Spouse again, and does a certain amount of snooping to verify that the Wayward Spouse is on the right track again.
After the disclosure of my affair, I know my wife went through my work bag, my drawers and papers. Probably my car too. I know she went on searches on the internet to see what I may have posted on message boards. I was electronically stalked by her for at least a solid year. Web pages I had visited were scrutinized, as was ever Facebook post I made in the past or present. I’m sure I don’t even know all the things she did to discover evidence and to verify my fidelity to her in the wake of the affair and, frankly, I don’t want to know. I had to tolerate this humiliation as part of the price I paid for the huge sin I committed. At least for a while, anyway. I accepted that, even if I didn’t like it and although, once we were well into reconciliation–after a year had gone by– I began to resent the questions (which really were thinly-veiled accusations) that resulted from her searches and scrutiny. At some point, I insisted, and rightly so, that this sort of tracking of me end, as did the accusatory questions. That if I was expected to not be honest and forthright and communicative with her on all things, I expected her to show me the same respect back. Reconciliation is a two-way street.
So for some of you out there, I do offer this warning: An affair should not be used as an excuse for long-term, indefinite snooping. I think it’s a mistake and, if uncovered, will cause resentment against you. Maybe even your spouse leaving you anyway. Is this what you really want? They gave into temptation and are paying the price. And if you give into the temptation to snoop, you may pay one too.
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