Should we let our partners read our texts and emails? Should we read theirs? Or does the need to read each other’s personal correspondence say something a little bit dispiriting about the state of our relationships?
New technology has made it so much easier to conduct an affair without being caught. In the old days, a straying partner would have to make illicit arrangements using landline phones at home or work. Such sordid communication would have had to be brief, practical and decidedly unsexy. The chances of being overheard and found out would be very real.
Sending a quick text or email from a private, password-protected account has made it all so much easier. ‘Sexting’ has become common. So checking these means of communication regularly, just to be on the safe side, seems – on one level – like an eminently sensible thing to do.
And this method certainly gets results. There are so many stories of unfaithful partners incriminating themselves with a misdirected text or email, that they have became too common to be worth commenting on. For suspicious partners, checking phones or PCs has become a first line of investigation. “In a world where access to your partner’s texts, calls and emails is just a keystroke away, it can be tempting to just take a peek at their phone or PC,” says a relationship psychologist. “Especially if you have any reason to doubt them.”
What does it mean for your relationship?
The thing is many snooping women and men don’t think they have any reason to doubt their partners. At least that’s what they say. But the need to check your partner’s phone is seldom healthy. If either of you have this urge, it may be a vestige of past hurt.
It would be interesting to know if someone who does this has always checked their partner’s texts and emails or whether they have detected a change, however subtle, in his or her behaviour at some point. They may have been ‘traumatised’ in a previous relationship by the discovery of a partner’s infidelity.
In other words, if they check your emails and texts, they may be worried you might be having an affair. If you’ve given them no reason to believe that will happen, it could be that they’ve been cheated on before and can’t quite believe it won’t happen again. Or it could be part of other insecurities.
It can be a dangerous move for many reasons. Firstly, simply feeling the need to look at private correspondence begs the question why? There may be trust issues, personal insecurity or a need for control going on here. All better dealt with in other ways.
If she has the need to check your messages, or you hers, you really need to talk about it. Snooping is probably not healthy for a relationship. And there’s another reason it can be dangerous…
You can’t always ‘read’ a text
The fact is, a suspicious partner can read things into texts and emails that aren’t really there. It’s easy to do. For example, it’s standard practice for women to put an ‘x’ after texts these days – professional or personal. But a jealous girlfriend could easily read something into it, and start poring over every word in an attempt to find more ‘evidence’ of infidelity.
Similarly, texts and even emails are less formal than earlier forms of communication. Texts, in particular, are often jokey and familiar. But when does jokey become playful, and when does playful become suggestive?
The rules aren’t hard and fast and everyone is different, which again means that it’s easy for a snooping partner to put two and two together and make 100. Words don’t have a ‘voice’, so smiley faces, exclamation marks, etc are easily open to misinterpretation.
Should you snoop on texts and emails?
In most cases it seems that snooping on a partner’s texts and emails is a sign that something is wrong. And if you do it, or your partner does it to you, the risk of misinterpretation means it’s only likely to make matters worse. If either of you does, it’s time to talk it through.