Have you ever wondered if your significant other or spouse is cheating and been tempted to play sleuth? People have been catching their spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends cheating for centuries, but it took some real effort. Nowadays, it has become so easy due to technology.
Thirty-three percent of dating couples and 37 percent of spouses — slightly more women than men — say they have checked their partner’s email or call history on the sly, according to a survey last year by the gadget shopping site Retrevo.com, which queried more than 1,000 people online. Among those under 25, almost half reported snooping. Just 9 percent discovered evidence of cheating.
Retrevo.com spokeswoman Jennifer Jacobson said she doesn’t think young couples are less trusting. “It’s just that technology has made everyone’s communications highly accessible and people probably don’t see it as a violation of trust, because of how easy it is to do.”
When Patricia Masterson’s boyfriend broke into her email account in search of evidence that she had been cheating, she was deeply offended by the violation of her privacy. The fact that she had, indeed, been cheating hardly seemed like a good excuse.
She changed her tune 10 years later, when, married and pregnant, Masterson innocently spotted a text message on her husband’s cellphone from a woman regarding a baby. Her husband said it must have been sent to him by mistake, and Masterson, sensitive to privacy, left it alone — until a few months later, when the woman contacted Masterson through Facebook to reveal she’d recently given birth to her husband’s child.
Masterson said, “I became a snooper.” She poured through cellphone records and installed software to recover deleted emails, gathering all the details she could. “It was so not me; up until that point I had believed in absolute privacy.”
When, if ever, is it OK to invade a romantic partner’s privacy? Many say it’s often the only way to confirm suspicions of infidelity when all else fails. I am not sure what “all else” includes – asking and hoping for an honest answer? Hiding behind closed doors and eavesdropping on phone conversations? Following your partner? Hiring a private detective to perform surveillance on your partner? Place a GPS tracker on their car?
According to a study, it depends on from which generation you belong that determines your probability of using today’s technology to spy on your partner.
Larry Rosen, author of “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us” (Palgrave Macmillan), said millennials raised on a culture of Facebook stalking view privacy differently from baby boomers or Gen-Xers (roughly people over 35).
“For older people, the lines are clear: Private is private, public is public,” said Rosen, a research psychologist and professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills. “For younger people it’s much more murky.”
Flirting with Fire
Technology has made it easier to spy, but it has also made it easier to cheat, blurring the lines of what is considered appropriate relationships. Let’s take Facebook for example. I know of a few couples that broke up over Facebook “friendships.” Facebook invites flirting with exes, and some people never know whom their partner is texting. Is that OK? It depends on the couple, but it can get out of hand.
The ping of a saucy text message stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers, as does cocaine, and people want more, Rosen said.
He recommends people abide by a five-minute “e-waiting period” before sending an electronic communication so that they can be more clear-headed about whether it’s a good idea. I think that’s always a good policy anyway – especially if you are about to send an angry email. You should avoid that impulse to hit the “send” button before giving yourself time to think clearly.
“It’s an issue of higher-level thinking versus lower-order responding,” Rosen said. “We have turned into salivating dogs, and we have to back off a bit.”
Generally, a relationship is harmful if you’re redirecting intimacies and energies from your partner to someone else, or if you’re hiding behavior because you know it would make your partner uncomfortable.
“People are trying to hang on to two worlds, and it’s been my experience that those things blow up,” said Randi Gunther, an LA-based clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, and author of “Relationship Saboteurs” (New Harbinger). “Do you want to spend your life looking over your shoulder?”
I am in complete agreement on this one. You can be cheating on your partner without having any physical contact with another person. There have been numerous studies that show women are more threatened if their partner is having an emotionally intimate relationship with another woman than if he were sleeping with her – not that the latter is very comforting. The exact opposite holds true of men. They are more upset about the physical contact than about their woman seeking emotional support from another man.
It’s up to each couple to determine what’s appropriate regarding privacy, but the problem is that most couples don’t talk about their values until someone gets hurt, said Linda Young, a counseling psychologist who sits on the board of the Council on Contemporary Families. Young said couples should get on the same page about their expectations (What is cheating? How transparent should you be? Do you have access to each other’s passwords?) just as they would about children or finances.
But first, she added, it’s important to understand why you desire a certain level of privacy or transparency.
It’s unfair to project insecurities or baggage from prior betrayals onto an innocent partner and go searching for faults, Young said. Innocuous material can easily be misinterpreted and hyper-vigilance can be controlling and push someone away.
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