His phone vibrates just as he stands up from the couch and walks out of the room, leaving you alone with the opportunity to cast an uninhibited a glance at its glowing screen — or scroll through his recent call list. But in a marriage, where open and honest communication is key, is it ever okay to snoop on your spouse?
First, we asked experts what exactly constitutes snooping. After all, when you share a home and a sock drawer, rifling through your spouse's things is a daily occurrence. "Here's the litmus test," says Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat on Your Husband (With Your Husband). "If you feel guilty or secretive when looking through your partner's things, you're likely snooping!"
And what might wrack you with guilt might be nothing to another spouse. "A husband and wife need to mutually agree about what their boundaries are," says Patrick Wanis, relationship expert and author of Find Love Fast. "Some couples are completely open and share email addresses and contents. Other couples hold tight onto their emails and cell phones and believe that their partner has no right to them."
Once you know your boundaries, you can ask yourself if you're willing to cross them — and accept the consequences. "Most of the time, it's not respectful to snoop on your partner," says Syrtash. "Trust and respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. If you're snooping on your partner, you may be compromising both."
So before you snoop, Wanis recommends, you should "speak to your partner about your feelings and senses" that are leading you to snoop, such as insecurity, a gut feeling something is off, or even scars from a previous betrayal. "If your partner denies it and you sense that he or she is lying, then you might snoop to verify your gut feeling. [But] consider that once you snoop, you may also lose the trust of your partner — he or she might feel forever betrayed."
Another viable reason to go through your partner's things? "It's okay to snoop and investigate if you feel you or your partner may be in danger," such as if you suspect he's involved in gambling or another addiction, Syrtash says. "Or, if you're planning a special — and positive! — surprise and need to access something of his or hers."
Otherwise, these experts advise you keep your proverbial nose where it belongs and focus on what might really be going on. "Those who feel the need to snoop on his or her partner may have a larger issue on their hands," Syrtash warns. "Do they feel their partner is hiding something? There's a better way to find out information. Communicate more openly and express what's on your mind. Otherwise, if you do your own PI work and investigate, you'll potentially put the pieces together the wrong way and this can lead to hurt feelings on both sides."