Confessions Of A Snoop

Tempted to peek at your sweetie’s emails, text messages, or other private stuff? Here, one woman explores the impact this can have on a romance.

By Carrie Blake

s exciting as the beginning of a relationship is, it’s also fraught with insecurity, which leads to all manner of perverse behavior: jealous tirades, game playing, over-clinging. All because you don’t know exactly what the other party is thinking or feeling—and no one wants to sound desperate by coming out and demanding: “Exactly what are you thinking or feeling?”

That’s where snooping comes in.

The lure of looking
I admit it: I’ve stooped to snooping on boyfriends on many an occasion. Most recently, it was one guy’s personal journals, which
According to a Happen poll, one in ten of us snoop on our significant others regularly.
he’d conveniently left in an unlocked trunk (how cute, he trusted me). We’d been dating long-distance for awhile and I’d just flown in to see him, but still wasn’t sure how seriously he took our relationship. I’ll just read this and then I’ll know exactly what’s going on, I thought.

That’s the problem. You will know exactly what’s going on. And you might not like it. As I flipped through each notebook, scanning for my name — and, of course, any girl’s name — there was one that popped up again and again. Mia said this. Mia and I did that. Which would be fine if my name were Mia. But no. Mia was the friend of a friend he traveled with in Germany over the summer. Just a friend. Nothing going on there. But Mia got a lot of ink. Where’s my name? Scan, scan, scan. There it is. Carrie is coming to visit next week. Wonder how that will go. That’s it?

By the time he returned home from work, I was curled up in a chair, mute with hurt and disappointment. And the worst part was, I couldn’t let it out. I wanted to rage at him Why not just hook up with Mia and get it over with? Why are you leading me on like this? But all that really said was: I just read your diary, and I’m not happy with what I found. Yeah, that would go over great.

Soon after my diary-diving turned up an alarming lack of attachment to me, I extricated myself from the relationship. Peeping on his private musings, I reasoned, had no doubt saved me a lot of time, energy and eventual heartbreak… or had my surreptitious behavior blown any chance I may have had of making things work?

Who else snoops?
As abominable as many people may find my behavior, I’m hardly the only person who’s ever tried to navigate the dark jungle of a relationship by combing through diaries, scrutinizing credit-card statements, or scrolling through cell-phone messages. According
Looking into a date’s email inbox is not quite the same as looking into his heart.
to a Happen poll of over 1,000 people, one in ten of us snoop on our significant others regularly; an additional 27 percent said they would if there were reason to be suspicious. And technologies such as email and text messaging have given us even more trails to pursue. Geri, for one, regularly checked her boyfriend Jake’s cell-phone history to see whom he’d been calling while he was out of town.

“At 11 p.m. each night, before he’d go out to bars, he would make a call to a different girl,” she says. “Names I never heard of before, so I knew they weren’t his friends.” The last straw was when she spotted a series of text messages between Jake and his ex-girlfriend, Rachel—in one of which he confessed how much he missed her. Jake, when confronted, swore Geri was reading too much into the message, putting Geri in a position where she almost regrets snooping to begin with. “What’s the point of looking? I’m not going to break up with him over a text message,” she says. “And now this has just created a wedge between us. He’s creeped out.”

What to do with the dirt you find?
Unfortunately, many people who snoop find themselves in this sort of “snoop limbo” of sorts: They know something’s up but aren’t certain what they know, if anything. Anne, who was trolling the networking site and found her boyfriend Bob’s page was linked to an ex-girlfriend’s, knows this truth all too well. She now checks both pages obsessively to see when both have last logged in, trying to suss out if the twosome were trading messages via Myspace before hooking up. And, like all snoopers, she doesn’t want to rat herself out by confessing her snooping. “He might stop doing what he’s doing or find other ways of doing it, and then I’ll never know for sure if he’s doing anything at all,” she says.

What’s the moral of these sordid stories? For starters, I’m not here to tell you not to take a peek at your honey’s private stuff because that would be hypocritical. It may be distasteful to be a snoop, but perhaps there’s some benefit to it: Who knows how long I would have pursued my long-distance boyfriend without reading his diary? But I can also tell you that unless you see exactly what you want to see, snooping only inflames your already-heightened insecurities and will perhaps destroy a budding relationship that needs trust to get off the ground. And while some snoopsters might argue with me, looking into a date’s email inbox is not quite the same as looking into his heart. That’s one fortress that can never be broken into. It can only be given away.

Carrie Blake is a freelance writer in New York City. She swears she is a completely reformed snoop.
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