I asked my friend, “Libby”, “Do you ever snoop on your boyfriend—like read his texts when he’s not looking?”
“No,” she said emphatically.
This surprised me. Libby is an incredibly nosy person. So my follow-up question was, “Have you ever snooped on a boyfriend?”
“Yes,” she sighed.
Libby is not alone. According to a survey, thirty-three percent of dating couples say they read their partner’s email or check their call history behind their back. And young adults, under the age of 25, have an even higher record of snooping.
Years ago, Libby was dating a musician. He told her that he was staying late at the club, to meet a male friend. She suspected it was another woman. She decided to show up. Her suspicions were confirmed.
But even though her snooping “proved” she had reason to be suspicious, Libby does not feel good about her decision to catch her boyfriend in a lie. Now, years later, she is in a serious long-term relationship—and very much in love. She says she has never read her current boyfriend’s emails without his knowledge, nor snooped through his texts, call history, or drawers.
“Why not?” I asked.
Her answers shed some light on why snooping is a bad idea.
- It’s humiliating. Libby now admits that she humiliated herself that night. Not only did she make a scene, “I made myself look stupid,” she says. She hated looking and feeling so needy and insecure.
Snooping reflects poorly on a person. Libby obviously felt concerned enough about her relationship to “spy”. She could have discussed her concerns in a more mature and transparent way, rather than stoop to a level that was beneath her. Her boyfriend’s response to her concerns—whether he was dismissive or supportive—would have told her all that she needed to know about the health of her relationship. And, relationship challenges often have nothing to do with “another woman” or “another man”.
- It’s unnecessary. It was not a surprise to Libby that she “caught” her boyfriend that night. “I already knew the answer as to whether he was cheating” she says.
Eventually, unfaithful or disloyal behaviour will be revealed without having to go looking for it. It is hard to keep secrets from each other, for too long. But more importantly, if one feels so insecure in a relationship, that is big reason to consider whether the relationship is the right one. It takes a lot of emotional energy to constantly monitor someone else’s private texts, calls and activities. Plus doubts and insecurities don’t go away just because one can’t find the “evidence”.
- It erodes trust. It took Libby a long time to find the right guy. She realizes now that she used to be drawn to the wrong people. “The guys were losers,” she recalls. She was insecure in herself, which led to bad choices in men. She fell for men she could not trust, and with reason.
Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship and sleuthing is a serious breach of trust. There is a real downside to snooping, especially when a partner has done nothing to deserve it. It runs the risk of creating problems where none existed before.
How would you feel if someone you love snooped on you?