Marriage therapists weigh in on whether it's ever ok to check your partner's phone

life 24/08/2018

Just because you CAN quickly and easily access the info, doesn't necessarily mean you should...

But according to a survey by Avast in the US with 13,132 respondents, one in five men and one in four women admitted to checking their partner's phone. 

So why do people do it? Psychologists say it's often due to a lack of trust in the relationship. “It says that you don’t trust that what your partner tells and shows you is who they really are. And that their true self is reflected in their communication and searches on their phone,” psychologist Ryan Howes says. 

Therapist Kurt Smith says that snooping itself often creates secrecy and distrust in the relationship, "so while this may seem in the moment as a good idea and justified, it only creates more of the problems that need to be resolved.”

Another reason may be due to lack of intimacy in the relationship - and it's easier to check a phone than it is to bring up a tough subject with your partner.

Or maybe the partner is insecure or suspects there's infidelity. This may be because they've given you a reason to feel this way in the past, or alternatively you may be carrying the issues of your past relationships into this one.

"If you don’t have any evidence to suggest otherwise, and you search anyway, you’re probably the one intruding on their privacy and doing damage to the relationship. Your fears may be more based in your self-esteem, your capacity for intimacy, or your history of being deceived in past relationships," Howes says.

So while there are many reasons people may do it, is it ever ok to snoop on your partner's phone?

In short, no. It's generally not ok. You're violating your partner's privacy and trust, and it often ends up being unproductive, leaving you feeling embarrased for snooping. Or you may find something small and take it completely out of context. If you actually do find something incriminating, you may ask yourself if this really was the best way of finding out?

“It is an invasion of privacy and property. To check a phone without consent shows that there is a communication breakdown. Looking for something on your partner’s phone without permission immediately breaks trust to fulfill your own needs. It leads to suspicions and assumptions that trigger insecurities and upset," psychologist and sex therapist Shannon Chavez says.

Some couples may agree between them that they can have free reign on each other's phones - and that's fine if the parameters are set together and agreed upon. This may work well for some couples. But wanting to maintain some privacy is still perfectly reasonable and even healthy.

“This [arrangement] certainly can help with trust and reliability, but the fact remains that many people in relationships desire a bit of their own benign independence. This isn’t to say they want to separate. They often love their relationships and want them to endure, but they also want a little bit of their lives to themselves ― and this isn’t necessarily a problem," Howes says.

A relationship built on trust are the healthiest, because they don't feel threatened by their partner's independence he adds.

Smith recommends that if you still feel compelled to look at your partner's phone: “Ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish? Does this approach really improve things? How can I do this in a way that would build trust rather than create distrust?”

And if you think your partner's been looking at yours, bring your concerns up in a mature and non-accusatory way:

“Addressing secrecy and dishonesty head-on is necessary to support a healthy relationship. Tell them how you feel about such an indirect approach. Ask how they’d feel about if it were done to them. Then discuss a different, better approach for having more disclosure about each one’s phone use," Smith says.