herald

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Why it's finally time to stop spying on my husband's text messages

ARE sneaks insecure or just nosy? Here, one trusting wife reveals why her man has asked her to leave his phone alone.

In a straw poll recently, four couples were asked if any of them ever read their partner's text messages.

One male and one female (not married to each other) admitted to having the occasional snoop, but the six others not only denied ever doing so, but strongly disapproved of the invasion of space. Full disclosure compels me to reveal that I was the guilty female in the group.

When asked why I'd want to read my partner's private texts I knew I had to answer honestly: "I guess I'm nosy," I replied. I wouldn't have picked the phone up every week, but I'd certainly have scrolled through my husband's SMS folder a few times a month.

The funny thing is he's not a big texter, and the content of most of his texts is usually fairly mundane and functional (such as 'Leaving house now. See you at 8').

By contrast, my texts tend to be much more detailed, full of lengthy sentences and covering everything from making plans to sharing affections with friends and general chit-chat. I send several texts every day, and reckon mine are far more revealing than my husband's. Were he the nosy one in our house he'd certainly glean much more information from my phone than I have ever done from his.

I can't remember when I first picked up his phone, or why I did so. Nosiness, no doubt. There are certainly no trust issues here, although I gather many couples are motivated to check each other's messages when they fear their partner may be cheating on them. I have never picked up my husband's phone looking for messages from unfamiliar names, although I imagine affairs are frequently discovered by nosy partners accidentally stumbling upon texts this way.

Over the years, countless celebrities have been rumbled playing off side, thanks to indiscreet texting. David Beckham was in the spotlight in 2004 when au pair Rebecca Loos came forward with sexy text messages allegedly sent from the footballer's phone during their supposed affair



Dancer

Closer to home Ronan Keating's then wife, Yvonne, supposedly found a second mobile phone belonging to her husband that he allegedly used to conduct a relationship with a 26-year-old dancer from his tour.

More recently it was reported that Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria had found dozens of inappropriate text messages on her husband's phone, which had been sent by the wife of one of his basketball teammates. The couple are now divorced after a three-year marriage.

Tiger Woods, Vernon Kay, Sandra Bullock's ex-husband Jesse James, Australian cricketer Shane Warne, Ashley Cole and Ashton Kutcher have all found themselves in hot water over inappropriate text messages. Some were rumbled by suspicious partners, finding what one New York Times writer calls 'digital lipstick on the collar'; others by their alleged lovers going to the press with evidence of their textual relationships.

In my house we leave our mobiles lying around on the kitchen counter, hall table or arm of the sofa. If I walked in on my husband reading my phone I'd probably just ask him sarcastically if he'd found anything interesting.

The funny thing is he doesn't ever read my messages as he has no interest in learning the minutiae of exchanges between my friends.





On the other hand, my favourite part of reading his texts is the witty dialogue that takes place with his best friends.

Usually sent during rugby matches, I find the one-line texts hilarious, and they reveal a side to his personality that I don't always see. The language is different, the tone different and they give me a snapshot of his relationship with his friends.

I love reading this very male humour, but now it seems I will have to stop, following a request from my husband. I'd never open a new message and read it before him, but now he'd prefer I didn't read his messages any more. He has always been aware of the activity, and I'd sometimes even discuss things with him that I'd read on his phone. Recently, though, he's decided he'd like more privacy, a request I intend to honour. One thing that never crossed my mind is that his friends may not like me reading their messages to him. Now I realise my actions were infringing on their privacy, too.

Some people may be alarmed if their partner suddenly asked for extra privacy, but my husband's request hasn't distressed me in any way. Research for this article has revealed that most people, like my husband, would prefer if their partners did not snoop around their phones. A small group even looked at me wide-eyed as if the thought had never occurred to them to pick up their partner's phone.

Funnily enough my research has also revealed that more people admit to reading their partner's text messages when asked on their own. Most questioned in the company of their other half tended to deny ever doing so.

So what makes a person want to read someone else's private messages? As far as I can see it's either out of nosiness or because of trust issues.

Relational analytic psychotherapist Angelina Veiga argues that issues of confidence and security can be to blame.

"If we have experienced secure attachments growing up we are more likely to enter into a relationship feeling free and knowing where we stand with the other person.

"If we had chaotic or ambivalent relationships we may find it hard to be in a relationship." I argue that I don't have trust issues, I'm just being nosy. "Someone who reads their partner's texts may have a sense of anxiety. They may also be motivated by boredom or a lack of self-interest that leads them to look elsewhere for stimulation," she explains.

"There could also be an element of excitement, doing something they shouldn't be doing. A sense of risk can be a big motivator."



I've no problem stopping reading my husband's texts.

But what of the serial offenders out there who can't stop themselves sneaking around behind their partner's backs?

"People should look within themselves to examine what it is that is making them do this," Angelina suggests.

"Much behaviour is motivated by our unconscious. Be curious about yourself. It can be frightening and exciting, but it is a great way to make sense of yourself and your experiences."

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