Why You Should Stop Looking at Your Partner’s Phone and What To Do Instead
Sometimes I think the worst thing that’s happened to us is the invention of cell phones.
Then again, I don’t think I could live without one now. How about you? Could you live without yours? I’m guessing not.
But that’s really not the subject of this article. The subject is about a practice that’s become quite common for couples that involves cell phones, and that’s taking a peek at your partner’s phone calls and texts, sometimes overtly, but most of time very covertly meaning secretly.
Why does this happen? Sometimes it’s just curiosity, but most always it’s based on suspicion or insecurity or both. No matter how you cut it, the person looking doesn’t completely trust her partner, and she’s either expecting to have her mistrust confirmed by what she finds, or hoping to see that her fears were just fears, and there’s nothing to worry about.
There’s multiple problems here.
#1 Invasion of Privacy
When you look at someone’s private texts or phone calls, you’re invading his privacy. You’re saying through your actions that you have the right to disrespect personal boundaries, or at the very least, you’re going to do it regardless of those boundaries.
What does that mean? Does that mean you can’t control your fears? Does it mean you don’t really think that couples have areas of personal privacy that should be honored?
If you did it secretly, then some part of you knows you’ve crossed a line. If you tell your partner you’re going to look and he says okay, then you haven’t crossed that line, but still there’s a problem. That goes to the next one.
#2 You Don’t Trust Your Partner
When you look at your partner’s phone, you’re expecting to find something you object to. You might find out he’s flirting with someone else, or is actually involved with someone else, or is doing something secretly that he know’s you have problems with.
Whatever the case, you’re afraid you’ll find something that’ll upset you and that will confirm your lack of trust in him.
#3 You Don’t Feel You Really Know Your Partner
You sense or think that your partner withholds from you. Not necessarily that she’s cheating, but that she isn’t open with you about who she really is or what she thinks or what she does. She seems secretive and keeps things to herself, and it’s become a problem for you because you feel left out or possibly betrayed.
So you think by looking at her phone and checking out her interactions with friends or others, you’ll find out more about her.
#4 You’re Controlling
No one likes to admit this. Are you someone who needs to know everything your partner does, thinks, and feels? Is it necessary for you to know about every conversation she has, every place she goes, how she spends every minute of the day?
Some people need this kind of control to keep their fears in check. They do it with their partners, their kids, and sometimes even their best friends.
What All This Means and What You Should Do Instead
The first thing you need to do is to figure out why you’re looking at your partner’s phone. The most common reason is lack of trust.
If this is your main reason, think about why you have this mistrust. Ask these questions:
- Is my mistrust based on previous incidences such as an affair, inappropriate flirting or behavior with other people, lying, or crossing boundaries that you’ve both agreed are reasonable?
- Are you someone who feels insecure about your partner’s fidelity even though he’s never given you any reason to feel that way?
- Do you expect to be betrayed by anyone with whom you’re involved regardless?
- Do you lack confidence, feel like you’re not good enough or worthy, or believe that sooner or later, anyone with whom you’re involved will leave you?
The purpose of these questions is to sort out whether there’s any real basis for your mistrust based on your partner’s behavior, values, or beliefs, or . . . is the problem something that’s related to you and your own internal feelings about yourself?
This is an important distinction, because each answer points to a different way to handle the problem. It’s also possible that both things can exist at the same time.
The Problem is Related to Previous Behavior by Your Partner
If the problem is one of trust, and your mistrust comes from previous behavior on the part of your partner, then you need to face this problem directly with him.
That means discussing openly with him what your expectations are. The things to define carefully together are:
- What are the boundaries of our relationship that we both agree on, and agree to uphold? This includes expectations regarding behavior with members of the opposite sex, or if you are in a same sex couple, behavior with other guys or girls that cross a line. In other words, what do you both consider as okay or not okay?
- What are rules about disclosure? This would apply to things other than interactions with other people. It might apply to disclosures about money or spending, disclosures about activities, or whatever could be an issue. What should be shared information?
- What are the boundaries regarding privacy?
Once you both agree on these rules and boundaries, then decide together on what it would mean if one of you deviates or breaks the trust. What could you each expect if that happens?
If there has been a serious breach of trust, consider going to counseling to see how you can repair that. It takes time to do that, and a lot of patience. I would suggest not trying to do that on your own.
The point is:
It’s never a good idea to get yourself in the position of policing your partner. That’s a terrible place to be!
You live in constant fear that you’ll be betrayed or hurt again, and his or her cell phone becomes an electrified source of focus and anxiety. That’s no way to live or operate, and it’s a surefire way to ruin a relationship.
If you have a partner who’s going to lie, betray or cheat on you, then he or she will do it regardless of your efforts to stop it by policing.
You certainly won’t stop it by watching his phone.
More importantly, you’re worth more than this! You don’t deserve to be placed in the position of needing to police your partner. Make a decision that you won’t be!
Decide what you’ll do if you find out it’s happened, which you will – it always comes out – and then follow through. You don’t need to stay with someone who can’t be trusted, nor should you.
What to Do If the Problem Lies with You
If you know that your partner is trustworthy, but you still can’t trust her, then likely the problem relates to a general lack of trust that has developed due to your upbringing and/or experiences.
Don’t let this sit. Seek counseling and begin to unravel it so that it doesn’t create problems in your present, and doesn’t keep you from having good relationships.
Don’t just say to yourself, “I can’t really trust anyone.” That’s a first step, but the more important step is to work it through so that it doesn’t thwart your ability to be intimately involved with others that are deserving and trustworthy.
The bottom line is that trust goes both ways. By not secretly invading your partner’s privacy and giving her your trust, you’re showing her respect. If she breaks that trust, then you can deal with that and decide if the relationship is viable or can be salvaged. Likewise, you have a right to be treated with the same respect and loyalty. Don’t ever think otherwise.
Please leave your thoughts below. This is a tricky subject and I’m guessing some of you may disagree, but disagreement is totally fine. I’d like to hear what you think.