When & How to Snoop

Posted by Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT

Transparency is important in any relationship, from the professional to the personal, but especially in our romantic relationships. If you wouldn't say or do something in front of your partner, it's generally best not to say or do it in front of anyone. 


That said, accessing each other's email accounts, cell phone and bank records to track each other's every move can prove counterproductive to establishing trust. There's something about having total access to password-protected domains that says, "I'm waiting to catch you doing something wrong."

Plus, one or both people may feel as though they are being "tracked" or managed like a child. This isn't healthy for your relationship and it also isn't great for your sex life, since attraction grows from the charge of two individuals.

Even when in a relationship, each person is entitled to have some privacy. Sharing everything is sharing too much.

Nurture an atmosphere of mature trust in your relationship by finding a happy medium:

  • Keep passwords and other essential information, like bills and financial statements, in a safe place so your partner can access them in an emergency. If you don't feel comfortable with this arrangement, pick a trusted friend or family member to keep the information.

  • Leave your email open sometimes on the computer to show you're not hiding anything. Leave your cell phones with each other when you go for a run or take a shower. This creates openness and trust.
  • Stop text-messaging, emailing or calling old flames, even if you're responding to their messages. Say, "I'm in a relationship now. I wish you all the best."

Is it ok to snoop on a suspicious-acting partner?

Who hasn't snooped every now again at a partner's cell phone or looked through a pile of bills on the counter, while he's run out on a quick errand? It's only natural to be curious--and to look.


However, snooping because you think your partner is cheating on you is a different matter entirely. Usually, if you're spying on your partner, you suspect something is wrong. There are two possible outcomes:


  1. You discover evidence of infidelity.
  2. You find nothing, and either trust this discovery or continue to feel suspicious.

The real question to ask yourself is: Why are you snooping in the first place? Repeatedly snooping on a partner is an indication that the relationship is in trouble. If you suspect something, talk to your partner about it. If you're still not satisfied, only you can explore whether you bring trust issues to the relationship or if your partner is truly giving you reason to question his commitment.