It can be really tempting to want to take a peek into your partner's phone. Since our phones have basically become our digital diaries, you can learn almost everything you could possibly want to know about your partner — what they are thinking, where they are going, who they are talking to, and what they are saying — just by spending some time snooping through their various apps. But just because you can, that doesn't mean you should. So, the question becomes, is it always wrong to go through your partner’s phone? Is it wrong to ask to see your partner’s phone? Are there any exceptions?
Growing up, I was taught that it is really important to respect other people's privacy, so I tend to default to not taking a peek in my SO's phone. Plus, no matter how valid your reasons for checking your partner’s phone are, doing so could create more problems for your relationship. “When people sneak a peek at their partner’s phone, it feeds secrecy and distrust into the relationship, both of which are likely to be the primary reasons the person is checking in the first place,” Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men, told Huffington Post. “So while this may seem in the moment as a good idea and justified, it only creates more of the problems that need to be resolved.”
In other words, going through your partner’s phone is almost always a bad idea — but there must be some exceptions to that rule, right? It can be confusing, especially when your gut is telling you something is up and you know that a quick browse through their phone would solve your questions. So what’s the right move?
TBH, I've never been totally sure what the actual protocol is around looking in someone else's phone, so I reached out to experts for their take on whether or not to snoop — and the answer is, surprisingly, that it depends.
Going Through Your Partner’s Phone Betrays Their Trust
First things first: Psychoanalyst Claudia Luiz makes it clear that going through someone's phone without their permission is a violation of their privacy. (Yes, even if you have legit reasons for being suspicious.) "Of course it is!" Luiz tells Elite Daily. But she admits that those boundaries can get a little blurry when you are really intimate with someone. She continues, "What’s 'private' when you’re so intimate with someone? Let’s face it, looking through your partner's phone is as common as telling them little white lies to avoid conflict; it’s what people do.” Still, that doesn’t make it right — or mean it’s a good sign for the health of your relationship. “Should they stop? Of course," Luiz adds.
Laurel House, dating and empowerment expert and host of the Man Whisperer podcast, agrees that going through your partner's phone, in most cases, is not OK. She also says the desire to do so is a sign of deeper issues of a lack of confidence in the relationship. "Looking at your partner's phone shows distrust and insecurity, and it builds on itself, possibly even becoming an obsession," she tells Elite Daily. It can quickly turn into a spiral of second-guessing every piece of your relationship. House warns, “If you’re looking for something inappropriate, you’ll find it. You can twist and mistake words and purposes. You can make assumptions and make up stories.”
Making decisions based on distrust is pretty much the opposite of what you should do in a healthy relationship. House adds, “You have to make the decision to trust. Yes, make the decision. Mutual trust and dedication to the relationship is essential.” If you can’t give your partner your trust or allow them their privacy, it might be time to move on.
Going Through Your Partner’s Phone Signals Deeper Relationship Issues
For the most part, the temptation to go through your partner’s phone wouldn’t exist on its own. This curiosity is usually an indication of something else that needs addressing. That kind of suspicious curiosity could be projection, according to House. “Oftentimes, the person who suspects something inappropriate is happening is the one who is actually doing the inappropriate acts. It’s top of their mind because it’s their own actions,” she explains.
Once you’ve checked in with yourself and made sure that it isn’t simply a case of projection, you can dig a little deeper into why you’re struggling to trust your SO. According to House, it may be your instincts that are telling you something is up. “[If] every time you see them on the phone, you wonder who they are communicating with or what they are looking at,” she says this may be your gut warning you something is wrong, and it’s time to talk to your partner about what you are seeing and feeling.
There’s One Time It’s OK To Look Through Someone’s Phone
Both experts agree that secretly going through your partner’s phone is not appropriate, but there is one scenario when it’s OK to have a look: when it’s part of being totally transparent after they have cheated. Notably, in this situation, you aren’t snooping on their phone or violating their trust. You both know what you’re signing up for and doing it as a way to rebuild trust rather than leaning further into distrust.
House explains, “The only time it makes sense to look at each other's phones is to get over cheating when complete transparency is the purpose. But this has to be communicated, mutually agreed upon, and without resentment or anger. If you are going to get your relationship back on track, you both have to be equally committed, in agreement, honest, and communicative." Basically, no sneakiness.
If you’re checking your partner’s phone or going through their messages without permission, you’re crossing a line. All successful relationships come down to setting and respecting each other’s boundaries. And this situation is no different.
Of course, what you agree on depends on each individual. And no judgment either way. But if you feel compelled to check your SO’s phone sans permission, it could be a sign that something is seriously off. On the other hand, if it simply turns out to be the case that you’re just a curious person, well then, let your partner know how you’re feeling and it's possible they may even be fine with you having a look. Win-win.
Kurt Smith, therapist
Claudia Luiz, psychoanalyst
Laurel House, dating and empowerment expert and host of the Man Whisperer podcast
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