Is Snooping on Your Spouse OK?

Posted by: Shel 8 Comments

Wife snooping on husbandSome will automatically respond: “Absolutely not – that is an invasion of privacy that marriage doesn’t overcome.” Others, just as quickly, will answer; “Of course it’s okay – there shouldn’t be secrets between spouses.” I think the answer is a firm: “Hmmm – it depends.”

Being married does not entitle us to know every thought, conversation or idea that our mate has. As a matter of fact, not allowing every thought that passes through our heads to be transformed into words can be healthy for marriage. Many spouses have experienced a less-than-satisfying response to the heartfelt question: “What are you thinking about?”

Our mates should have the same reasonable expectation of privacy we do. Looking around in their personal stuff out of curiosity is inappropriate. Other violations of privacy are snooping because:

  •  A former partner gave you reason not to trust him or her
  • One of your parents gave the other a reason not to trust them
  • Preventative maintenance – there’s no reason to distrust, you just like to be in-the-know

Some of you may be tempted to throw my own words back at me from a previous article (Google the One You’re with) by saying: “It’s not snooping, it’s smart.” But we have to keep things in context. First, in that article I was addressing dating situations. And it is smart to find out all you can about someone you are considering sharing your life with. Presumably you did that before you got married. Second, even in that context, I did not advocate rifling through wallets, purses, clothes pockets, telephones and personal files.

Picture this scenario: You walk into the bedroom and your spouse is on hands and knees searching your bottom drawer.

YOU: What are you doing?

SPOUSE: Just looking around.

YOU: Why? What are you looking for?

SPOUSE: Nothing in particular. Just making sure there’s nothing in here I should be aware of.

May I assume you would not be pleased? The physical position may be different, but looking through billfolds, personal correspondence, or checking the odometer after errands is no less invasive and potentially damaging to your relationship.

Now, please don’t confuse having a healthy respect for your mate’s privacy and personal space with ostrich-like behavior of putting your head in the sand when you have warning flags there’s a problem. If you have a legitimate concern – based on reliable information and/or your mate’s behavior – and discussion  with your mate about it doesn’t ring true, it could be disastrous not to probe. Examples of such situations include:

  • Suspecting your mate of having an affair (in addition to your emotional well-being, your physical well-being could be at stake if you are engaging in marital relations)
  • Suspecting your mate of addiction – whether alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling or any other such destructive behavior
  • Suspecting your mate of illegal activity
  • Money missing from bank accounts or bills not getting paid
  • There is an unexplained change in your mate’s appearance (sudden changes in dress, make-up, weight, etc.)
  • There is an unexplained change in your mate’s behavior (more time away from home, being secretive about phone calls and emails, a different tone to the interaction between you and your spouse and/or your spouse and your children, a sudden shift in who your spouse socializes with, etc).

If you, as an innocent spouse, would be offended by your spouse’s snooping in your things out of curiosity (or because of the behavior of others in their life), it’s a safe assumption your innocent spouse would be offended by the same type of snooping from you. But note the word ‘innocent.’ If there are red flags that a problem exists, the term “snooping” shouldn’t deter you from getting sufficient information to protect your children, yourself, your marriage, and your spouse from harm.

What do you think about snooping on a spouse? Have you had a negative or positive experience that resulted from snooping? Tell us about it in the comment section below.



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  • Gina Kishur

    Great article, and great comments, including your thoughts on teens. I think we have an obligation to snoop on our kids (i.e., look at their phones, social media sites, etc.), to know where they are and who they are with, and I think we have that obligation until they are no longer under our care. We also, as adults, sometimes need to pull our heads out of the sand, and pay attention to what’s happening when there’s an unexplained change.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Gina – I’ll take that as high praise coming from a psychologist who spends so much time dealing with kids and marital strife!

  • There really isn’t a cut-and-dried in this one, is there? Snooping without legitimate cause is right up there with dissing one’s spouse in public. Just wrong. And definitely not relationship-building. Good article.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks. I did receive some pretty strong responses in other venues which indicated some do, indeed, think it’s cut and dried. I can’t get there. I think it’s a real go-with-your-gut if you think something’s wrong – otherwise, do as you would have done to you!

  • Excellent post, Shel! I agree 100{2303b849a176fc4c55cbcb5b49f44c0b6a86ba83e746fb3d962701d1b8d54085}. We shouldn’t have to resort to snooping if the lines of communication are always open. I had a friend who used to check her husband’s odometer each day he returned from work.

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Jill! I don’t know about your friend’s situation – what caused her to do that – but it does seem like sometimes a spouse can create the scenario they fear most by their own suspicious (which can turn to hovering and controlling) behavior. Not good!

  • I’m not a snooper and neither is my husband, and I’m very thankful for that. I appreciated your point that it’s best to trust until you have a reason not to. Good advice for parents of teens, too!

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Maria! I’m a little conflicted about how much it applies to teens – I see so many parents who didn’t have a clue what their child was up to until they got that call from another parent, a school administrator, or law enforcement. I’ve represented some of those kids. They often can read their parents and know just the right thing to say avoid suspicion. And even when the child is totally trustworthy, sometimes their peers or people they encounter on the internet are not. I think when it comes to kids, vigilance may be one of the healthier forms of snooping. Although I’m pretty sure I won’t find many teens who agree with me!

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