Grace and Greg were lying in bed one night, the moonlight shining through their bedroom window like a faint spotlight. Grace was fast asleep, but Greg was awake, eyes open like a tarsier. Over the last week, he’d grown suspicious of Grace’s fidelity and began to wonder if she was talking to another man.
He tried to ignore his own thoughts, rationalizing that Grace wouldn’t do such a thing. They’d been together for years, but the last time he asked to see her phone, she answered, “What for?” She seemed overprotective of it.
Fast forward to this night, and Greg couldn’t take it anymore. He quietly got out of bed and tip-toed over to Grace’s nightstand like a cat on the prowl. He nervously picked up her phone and walked out of the room. Sweating like a soldier trying to disable a bomb, he unlocked her phone and started snooping through her text messages, emails, and photos.
“What are you doing?” said a voice behind him.
Greg jumped and looked over his shoulder. There was Grace, half-awake and very confused.
Greg was speechless, as if a magic spell had taken his voice.
What do you think happened to their relationship? Do you think Grace was cheating on Greg? Do you think Greg was too much in his head? Do you think he had the right to look through Grace’s phone without permission?
Let’s Unpack This
Owning a cell phone can be a double-edged sword. You entrust this inanimate object with your life—your passwords, your contacts, your text and email conversations, your photos and videos, perhaps even your credit card information. And with a fingerprint, a face scan, or a passcode to rule them all, you can use it as a digital safe for your deepest, darkest secrets, such as infidelity.
The world is complicated, but I’ve found various studies that say men, not women, are more likely to suspect infidelity in their relationships, and therefore more likely to dig through their partner’s phone like a raccoon digging for grubs (or perhaps they’re more likely to admit it). Their Sherlock Holmes moments often find that their suspicions were correct—that their partner was, indeed, cheating on them.
Whether or not this is universally true (that men are more guilty), I’d argue that looking through your partner’s phone without permission can leave your relationship looking like that garden the raccoon destroyed.
I’ve been in two relationships where the guy snooped through my phone, one in which I was guilty (yes, I’m admitting it) and one in which I was innocent. Would I have eventually told the former that I was unfaithful had he not snooped? Perhaps, but we were in our early 20s, didn’t know any better, and that relationship was doomed to fail anyway, because we had a shaky foundation. We were incompatible and I was unhappy.
I forgave the latter, because we’re all fallible. We opened a larger conversation about phone privacy and mental health.
Unless you give your partner free rein over your phone (which is fine, especially in this digital age where much of your information, well, isn’t so private), I’d argue that everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their relationship (and many other aspects of life), and a relationship with open phone access doesn’t necessarily signify good health and intimacy. For example, I like to write notes on my phone as if it were my diary. My phone is my sacred shrine for that, and I’m not a bad person for keeping those to myself.
Put another way, don’t remove my towel to expose my private parts unless I say so!
“Human beings are territorial. We want our own space,” says Liesel N. Aranyosi, a registered psychotherapist from Ontario, Canada’s College of Registered Psychotherapists. “When someone takes away what is ours, we usually react strongly, going into a defensive mode.”
Exactly! If you pulled away my towel, I might get defensive by hiding my private parts with my arms and hands. Maybe I haven’t groomed myself downstairs or tanned my ass in a while, and I don’t want to be judged for it. You might see that and take it out of context, making up some story in your mind that I’m hiding something from you that I should expose for our relationship’s sake; otherwise, I’m a fraud!
Some of you might find that kind of exposure uncomfortable, while others wouldn’t even blink (and that’s okay; parade that naked body all you want).
All in all, it’s best to get off the phone and come forward in person, having a heart to heart about what ails you.
“If you are suspecting of an affair, you can actually benefit from suggesting having an open and honest conversation with your partner,” Aranyosi says. She offers tips for doing so here.
In the end, boundaries and trust help sustain every healthy relationship like pillars holding up a Greek temple. In Greg and Grace’s case, Greg needed to respect Grace’s phone boundaries, especially if they’re as reasonable as asking for permission to make a call, send himself a photo or video, and so on. They should also agree to open a dialogue when something doesn’t feel right and to trust each other to follow through. They should take each other’s words and actions at face value instead of letting anxiety and insecurity take the wheel.
On the other hand, if Greg were to find evidence of infidelity, he would need to work through those emotions first and talk to someone he trusts. No matter what happens, whether Greg and Grace decide to stay together and rebuild their trust or go their separate ways, they (and you) will be okay.
If the time is right, you’re feeling anxious and insecure in your relationship, and you want to find peace, then hit me up on this page. I’ll respond ASAP.
Interested but not ready to commit to a coaching relationship? Grab your earbuds or turn on your Bluetooth to listen to “Your Relationship Is History—Unless You Fix These 3 Things That Are Making You Crazy.”