If you’re suspicious that your partner is snooping, or you outright catch them in the act, then what? What should you do if you catch your partner snooping on you? Should you lose your temper and freak out on them, or should you talk it through calmly? And what does it mean?
“While most people are naturally curious about things, if you catch your partner snooping through your stuff, they've move past the curiosity phase and have entered into a different realm: The realm of broken trust,” relationship trainer Daniel Amis, author of Unbreakable Love: Proven Methods For Developing a Stronger, More Satisfying Relationship In Just 30 Days , tells Bustle.
If you’re facing a partner who looked at your private texts, emails, Snapchats, Facebook messages and the like, you’re likely feeling pretty violated right now — and with good cause. But these super-smart experts had a lot to say about the issue, and most of them pointed out that it’s best to be level-headed and talk things out without jumping to conclusions, especially if it’s a first-time offender. Here are 13 things to keep in mind if you catch your partner snooping.
1. Remain Calm
“Don't flip out,” clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. “Don't change your password. Don't rage. Instead, find out the source of your partner's mistrust.” It might not be you—it might be your partner.
“Has he or she been deceived before? How much have you contributed to his or her mistrust?” Astarte asks. “If your partner has experienced deceit before — with you or anyone else before you — this is likely a pattern of behavior that can be remedied with love. I suggest getting counseling to help you both develop mutual trust.”
2. Understand That It’s About Insecurity
“To snoop through someone phone or email shows insecurity. There's no trust there,” Amis says. “And a relationship should be built on the foundation of trust.” Without such trust, it can be very difficult to move forward.
“If you catch him (or her) snooping, you need to have a conversation to prevent it from happening again,” Amis says. “And if your partner's trust level is the same after, then you have to determine whether or not you want to remain in the relationship.” He advises that you decide whether you could hang with someone who feels as though they can’t put their trust in you: “You have to ask yourself: Could you really be with someone that doesn't trust you?” If the answer is no, move on.
3. Call Them Out
"Call them out immediately and ask, ‘Why?’” life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. “This is a great opportunity to be honest with each other about boundaries, expectations, and insecurities.” In other words, this can be a good thing, in a backward way — as long as you let it be such. The conversation is about finding out what’s really going on.
“Trust is an essential part of a relationship and without it, the relationship cannot move forward in a healthy manner,” Rogers says. “Get to the bottom of why one feels compelled to snoop through your private emails, etc., and create mutual boundaries.
Perhaps you want to open things up more. “If you guys want to share passwords, great,” she says. “If there needs to be more space for private exchanges, great. There are no ‘right’ answers to privacy regulations in a relationship as long as there is a mutual agreement on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.” Figure out your boundaries — stat — and go from there.
4. Talk It Out — Don’t Accuse
“Address the snooping immediately but not in an accusatory tone,” psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. “Everyone has different definitions of privacy and this may be a ‘crisis’ that can actually bring about a healthy conversation about boundaries.” Though it doesn’t feel comfortable, it might lead to better things.
“It is also good data if this happens early on,” she says. “I once dated someone for a few weeks who went into my phone to get my mother’s phone number without my permission. He called her. Given where we were in dating, this behavior was completely inappropriate and represented a real boundary violation that needed to be addressed in a serious manner. After we broke up, I learned about his control issues with previous exes and was glad that I took the behavior seriously, addressed it quickly and ended the relationship.”
5. Address The Issue Without Blame
“Acknowledge what you see and then later, ask them if they’re worried about you, because you noticed they were snooping and you just want to make sure they don’t feel cheated or that you’re withholding some information that might be important,” New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “This way, you’re getting the incident out in the open, without blaming them,” she says. Rather than getting totally upset, you’re opening the door for more information.
“You’re framing the question as an offer to help and divest information, not hide it,” she says. “Try to lose the anger you feel at their invading your privacy. Chances are they’re not doing this because they feel good about things. They’re doing it because they’re worried, and as difficult as it may be, that’s the real problem here — not the snooping.” Address the root, and the symptom will hopefully vanish.
6. Ask Yourself Questions
“This is a major trust issue and for some it is unforgivable, while others deem it as no big deal,” dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. “First, you should ask yourself if you have anything to hide that goes beyond the mundane personal banter between friends. If you do have something to hide, is the problem with your partner or with you? Did you give this person reason to mistrust you?”
Once you get to the bottom of these questions, you’ll have a better shot at resolving the issue. “Let’s assume you are doing absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, or needs to be kept secret. Why is your partner snooping? If it is part of their nature, is it something that you can live with? Will it get worse over time?" he asks. Sadly, if it happens multiple times over the course of your relationship, it’s probably not going away.
“The Vegas odds would probably be in favor of this relationship ending ugly, as mistrust without basis is a serious problem in a relationship, and may escalate into abuse,” he says. “If after a discussion about boundaries and personal space the snooping continues, then you may consider ending the relationship if no true changes have been seen.” If things change, awesome, but if they don’t, it’s best to face the facts.
7. Figure Out If They’re Trying To Control You
“If you catch your partner snooping there are two things happening; they are being controlling and feeling out of control,” zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. “If this is toxic, in that they want to control you or accuse you, get the hell out. No one has time to be controlled; it is your life. You deserve to be live well and free.”
On the other hand, if you’ve been doing some questionable behavior, analyze that part of things. “If they were suspicious and had a ‘reason’” [to snoop] and you know that a little heart-to-heart or therapy will help them work through this, and honor your relationship trust, then by all means, invest in this growing pain that is quite common,” she says. It happens all the time, unfortunately.
“In this day and age, it often means they feel disconnected and want to see if you are really that good, that you are true.” But you shouldn’t have to prove anything to your partner.
8. Find Out The Cause Of The Snooping
“Partners usually snoop because they're suspicious,” Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. "The suspicion arises because there's indication that all is not OK. Money is disappearing, or the partner is tied to the computer for hours and neglecting other aspects of life, or there's something furtive and secretive going on.” Obviously, if you’re doing any of these behaviors, your partner will be suspicious.
But it happens for other reasons too. “Sometimes people snoop because private things are left lying around and are too tempting, or because the privacy level of each partner is vastly different,” she says. “Find out what’s going on — if it’s something you did to make your partner suspicious, you can clear it up. If it’s something from a past relationship, see if you can resolve it. If not, ask your partner to go to therapy.” But don’t make it into a big deal if possible.
9. Talk About The Diff Between Privacy And Secrecy
“If you find your partner snooping, have a conversation about the difference between privacy and secrecy,” Janet Zinn, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. “What are his or her fears in the relationship? What does it feel like that they couldn’t come to you directly?” Once you voice concerns on both sides, you’ll have a better chance at getting what you both want.
And pay attention to what comes up during the convo. “If either or both partners get defensive, then it perpetuates a lack of trust in the relationship,” she says. “However, if both partners can address the issues of fear in their relationship, they can get to a deeper level of trust, even if that means revealing hard-to-hear issues.” Then you can figure out what comes next.
10. Get Curious
“If you catch your partner snooping on your emails and texts, it is probably a good idea to get curious and find out what your spouse is worried about,” Shlomo Slatkin, who founded the Marriage Restoration Project with his wife, Rivka, tells Bustle. “Should they have a reason to worry, or are they just being paranoid?” Only you know the answer to this, but be real about it.
“Approach him or her in a non-confrontational way, so you can find out his or her motives and reassure him or her that you are not committing any wrongdoing.” If that’s it, great. If not, you have a larger issue on your hands.
11. Talk About How It Made You Feel
“I would calmly address the fact of how it made me feel,” psychologist Nicole Martinez tells Bustle. “I would discuss why they felt the need to do it.” Ask those important questions to get the answers you need.
“Do they not trust you? Are they feeling insecure? Talk about the thinking and feelings behind it, why they can trust you, and why it is important to not do this again,” she says.
12. Address The Problem Head-On
“If you catch your partner snooping, you need to get to the root of why they felt that they needed to snoop,” Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge dating app, tells Bustle. “Is it a curiosity thing, is it an insecurity thing, is it a distrust thing?” It could be just one of these, or all of the above.
“If it’s insecurity or distrust, you want to find out why your partner feels that way and what you can do to make them feel better,” she advises. The goal here is to ensure that they won’t snoop again, so see what you can do to address the problem outright.
13. Get Back To Reality
“Almost everyone snoops at one time or another,” relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. “Your partner's intuition pings and they want answers!” Though it’s not a good idea to act on that intuitive ping, people do it sometimes. “When that small voice in their head is telling them something is going on, it is very hard to ignore. If your behavior is spotless, and no cheating is going on, then you can open a discussion about your partner's trust issues,” she says.
It’s important to ground yourself and your partner in reality. “Remind them that you are not their ex, or that you are not messing around,” she says. “Be very specific with them exactly why this is an issue for you. If your partner has low self-esteem and increasing paranoia about your communications with others, will this be a deal breaker for you?” If so, you may want to consider leaving sooner rather than later.
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