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Snooping in Springfield

  • Posted on September 28, 2015 at 9:03 am

Dear Christine,

My girlfriend hardly ever uses the computer so I guess that is how I first got suspicious.  We’ve lived together for 3 years now and I was the one who suggested we maintain respect for each others privacy. When she first moved in she started opening all the mail even if it was just addressed to me.  I have nothing to hide but I didn’t like the feeling so we talked about boundaries and since then have been doing fine.  “Mary” I’ll call her Mary but that’s not her name, hardly ever touches her computer at home since she’s on it all week at work.
For the past few weeks she has been on it all the time.  So, I got to wondering why and I snooped when she wasn’t home.   
She has been talking to a former girlfriend and it’s mostly catching each other up on their lives over the past years.  There is some talk of their past relationship and trying to hide it from parents and other friends before they were out. 
This ex lives out of state somewhere it seems and they’ve talked about a potential trip to visit in the future.   I’ve found nothing to prove that the intention is to get back together and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to confront her because of our agreement to respect privacy.  She hasn’t told me she’s emailing an ex even though I did make a comment asking why she’s always on her computer at home. 
Do I wait it out? Do I tell her I snooped?  Should I stop snooping? 

Signed, Snooping in Springfield

 

Dear Snooping,

This someecards sums up your problem pretty well.  You were the one with the privacy issue, and yet you are the one breaking the agreement.  If this information you gained is truly insignificant, then let the whole issue go, and resolve to not snoop again!

If it is significant to you, then it’s time to have a conversation with “Mary.” The only way to create a foundation of trust is to be trustworthy and honest. Mary probably suspects nothing, unless you are acting guilty around her. Snooping is how reporting is done.  It definitely can crack open doors for you to push on.  You can orchestrate this snooping into Mary eventually telling you why she has been on the computer so much lately.  And then you can have a discussion about boundaries about being friends with/travelling with your exes.

Or you can confess to Mary that you had hinted around, asking her about her extra time on the computer, stoking your curiosity and your snooping. Confession is good for the soul.  However, then Mary knows a truth about you that may be uncomfortable for both of you to acknowledge.  No one is perfect, and perhaps what Martin Amis writes is a deeper truth:  “Are snoopers snooping on their own pain? Probably.”

Search your soul and see what you need to do for you, and for Mary and for the relationship.  Perhaps this is a reminder that you need to have more frequent honest conversation.  When your fears get the best of you and you snoop, sometimes it backfires.  Learn from this, do whatever you need to, to let it go or make amends, and then move on.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist