Dear Joan Actually,
First of all, I’m not a bad person. I went through my boyfriend’s phone because I want to make sure that he’s being honest with me. When I looked through I didn’t find anything. Instead, he had texts to his sister about how great I am. Now, I feel really guilty about invading his privacy. Should I tell him what I did?
The temptation to snoop is harder to resist than movie theater popcorn. When temptation strikes and that high road seems a little too high, get ready to find yourself in a bad place. No judgment. Really. I went off the deep end with phone snooping strategies that could put the NSA to shame. Thankfully, I got over my detective phase, but not before making a total ass of myself. To make sure you don’t make the same mistakes, I called in the experts.
“Snooping is pretty common, actually,” says Virginia Commonwealth University Adjunct Instructor Gail D. Moskowitz, MSW, LCSW. “It might take the form of looking at confidential information, rolling by a partner’s residence, or eavesdropping.” If you end up rummaging through your partner’s stuff, don’t expect to feel great afterwards. “Most probably feel remorse for snooping but cannot help themselves,” she says. “It can become a compulsion.”
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson, social and personality psychologist, suggests snooping stems from two causes: “The partner has specifically done something that appears untrustworthy or the individual has a pattern of feeling insecure and not trusting partners.”
Regardless of the cause, you can help yourself out by talking to your partner about your feelings. Tread lightly; bringing up your insecure feelings without blaming your partner can be tricky. “The best way to bring it up is to focus on the feelings and motivations,” says Dr. Nicholson.
“I felt a little insecure when you came home late the other night and didn’t call. How can we build more trust in this relationship, so that I don’t worry?”
“I have a hard time opening up and trusting people. You have not done anything wrong. I would just like you to help me feel more secure. Can we talk about it?”
Should you fess up about the snooping? Turns out both experts give you a pass, but Ms. Moskowitz adds the following caveat: “It is important to discuss your struggles, fears, and intuitions with whom you want to foster an honest and emotionally intimate connection.” Failing to bring up your uncomfortable feelings won’t make them go away. “These insecurities and secrets can eat into the core of a relationship,” she says.
These conversations are awkward, but they will help you through the hard part–getting the issue out in the open. The sooner you talk, the sooner you can bury the uncomfortable feelings and start relaxing with your guy and his phone.