To Snoop or Not to Snoop

About a year ago, a girlfriend of mine called me mid-rage asking me and another friend to come over to check out some “evidence.” We headed over and crowded around her Macbook where her boyfriend had left his Gmail (and chats) up, just waiting to be searched. And boy. Did we uncover a treasure trove. I have to admit, while the language was strong and the content wasn’t all that surprising to any of us (we’d suspected it for months), seeing those exchanges in black and white might have been one of the most difficult things she’d ever experienced. We hit her with all the clichés (“He just wasn’t ready for a real woman like you… You need to throw his stuff outside!”). However, after we shattered his character, we went home and she was left staring at the computer screen reading the harmful words over and over again. I’m sure she still remembers most of it and doesn’t feel any better knowing that someone she trusted embarked on filthy conquests with such a cavalier attitude about their relationship. Nevertheless, she gained valuable information that she needed to make the right decision about how to proceed with their relationship. 

So, should you check your significant other’s phone, email, Facebook account, odometer, etc? Many men and women say no. People often insist that the mere search for dirt ensures that you’ll find something. Others say, “If they’re not hiding anything, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Going through someone’s email, phone and other communication tools indicates a level of distrust that may make your significant other defensive, resentful, or suspicious of you. You may just find some inside joke that you don’t know all the details to. Or maybe you’ll find a photo (possibly unsolicited) that was sent to your man or woman. And now what? It could be a lot more innocent than you think, but all you see is red (panties). Even after he or she explains themselves, you’re now suspicious, and may even use it as a personal justification for some dirt you got caught up in. (Our mind is sneaky like that; it will use anything it can to justify our own selfish behavior.)

So on the question of snooping, I say NO, don't do it. Unless….

There’s reasonable cause.

You may be scratching your head and saying “Come again?” Let me explain.

God equipped humans with 5 senses which can be used to detect fine brunette hairs that couldn’t have possibly grown from your head, the sound of a Quiet Storm playlist, and yes… the scent of another woman, all up on your man. So while most men and women are smart enough to avoid major mistakes, we eventually slip up and leave a trail #tigerwoods. Despite the dramatic reactions depicted in film and television, few people are rarely completely caught off guard when confronted with evidence that their significant other is cheating. When you get that feeling that something isn’t right (based on very legitimate concerns) I say it’s ok to check and here’s why:

1. Time is precious. No one wants to waste their time in a relationship where only one party is committed.  

2. HIV and other venereal diseases are real. I wholeheartedly support abstinence until marriage. However, I’m realistic and I know everyone reading this hasn’t chosen that path. So, I’ll say this: if you and your partner don’t take precautions to protect yourself from diseases and you suspect that your partner may be stepping out, your health is at risk. In order to minimize this risk, if you have a strong logical inclination that your spouse is cheating, you need to get to the bottom of it. 

3. It will bother you until you do. Let’s face it; you see all the signs that your boo is cheating, but you have no evidence; you just know he disappears from the dinner table frequently and keeps his phone locked down harder than Guantanamo Bay. So before you get yourself all in a tizzy, find out the truth. 

4. If your suspicions are wrong, you still win and you can begin to build trust. You notice that she’s always staring at the computer and that she’s always texting someone on the sly. You approach her about your concern, ask if you can look through the phone together, and discover she has an addiction to online poker and has been texting her bookie. See? That wasn’t so bad.

I know many of you say snooping is wrong no matter what the circumstances. Do what works for you. Just realize that life doesn’t come at you in such absolutes. I suggest the following “snooping*” rules:

1. Have a discussion with your partner (sans the accusatory tone) and let him/her know that you are worried that you could be hurt. You may find out that the reason they’re acting funny is because of all the Sonic commercials airing throughout DC although a Sonic is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND! 

2. Don’t do it behind your partner’s back. Either ask them if you can check yourself or go through the device together. This may seem odd, but give it a try.  

3. Whatever you ask your significant other to do, be willing to do yourself. 

4. Before you begin, decide what you’re going to do based on what you find (or don’t find.) If you don’t find anything, then come up with a plan for building mutual trust and create checks and balances that eliminate cause for concern. If you do find something, decide if you want to work it out or dissolve the relationship. 

5. Don’t assume the worst. 

What are your thoughts? Is snooping ok? Should there be exceptions to this rule?

*snooping – I know that the term implies looking behind someone’s back for information, but I merely mean doing research.