We live in time when we freely share information with our families, friends and strangers via the internet. However, those communications cause concern for many people in relationships, who resort to snooping to monitor their partners.

There are many bizarre tales about husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends who have spied on their spouses. Yet, snooping is actually a common practice. In fact, a 2013 study of 2,081 adults in the UK indicated that 62 percent of men and 34 percent of women spy on their partners’ devices.

Moreover, there are persons who go to extreme lengths to snoop. According to a 2016 survey of 1,000 married people conducted by OnePoll, 1 in 20 wives admitted to installing special tracking software on their partners’ phones.

Why people snoop

“People who snoop look for confirmation that their partner is up to no good,” states therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer in Men’s Health. “They need more than just their intuition to prove their partner is untrustworthy.”

Dr. Hokemeyer’s comments highlight an interesting mindset of people who snoop: They need to prove their partners are untrustworthy. In other words, they look for reasons to have conflict in their relationships, even when there are no obvious signs of trouble.

Perhaps, snooping stems from dealing with infidelity in the past or seeing the problem affect other couples. Regardless, the behaviour is connected to a lack of trust that has more to do with the person doing the spying than the victim. Indeed, as psychotherapist Michele Paiva states, that snooping stems from a lack of self-trust.

“People will say that it is the other person that they do not trust,” Paiva says to Bustle. “But in snooping, we are actually feeling like we are not enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

Simply, when we read on our partners’ communications without their permission, we don’t only uncover their secrets. Rather, we reveal our insecurities about our own self-worth and our capacity to be loved.

Snooping is a lose/lose situation

When you snoop, you will find something to confirm your suspicions of your partners’ infidelity. However, that’s not because you’re a brilliant detective. Instead, as relationship coach David Wygant states on The Huffington Post, you will weave bits of information into a pattern that serves you.

Moreover, an unsuccessful search doesn’t thwart determined people from finding the details they want. They simply dig deeper until they have proven themselves right. Unfortunately, the search results only spur discomfort and jealousy, as stated by the University of South Wales’ Dr. Martin Graff.

Say you snooped on your boyfriend Danté’s phone, for example, and found evidence that he has been flirting with a co-worker via Whatsapp. This will probably make you jealous because Robert from accounting is hitting on your man, and Danté is reciprocating.

Also, you will encounter a dilemma concerning whether or not to confront Danté, therefore admitting you snooped. Both decisions will lead to resentment, further distrust and conflict. Additionally, if you misunderstood the communications and accuse Danté of cheating, you will feel guilty because you have proven to be the untrustworthy partner.

The way forward

If you feel insecure about your partner’s communications with other people, be open about it. Psychiatrist Dr. Catherine Birndorf states in SELF that a direct approach is preferable to snooping, especially when we own our feelings.

As such, try admitting your suspicions to your partner by saying, “I enjoy being with you but I sense there’s an issue we need to address.” That’s a healthy alternative to hacking a Facebook account or spying on text messages.

Furthermore, ask for what you need, even if it’s the password to your partner’s phone or social media accounts. This is particularly useful if your spouse has been guilty of cheating in the past.

“Some couples in serious, long-term relationships share passwords,” says psychotherapist Daniela Tempesta. “Coincidentally, it’s likely that these couples rarely check each other’s stuff because the open door policy eliminates the feeling that there is anything to be ‘found.'”

On the other hand, Robert Weiss states that it’s important for both parties to be involved in setting boundaries in a relationship. Thus, understand that while having the password to your partner’s phone may calm your anxiety, he or she still has a say in how much they want to share.

The reality of the situation

Having access to your partner’s phone and social media won’t prevent cheating. Honestly, if Danté wants to hook up with Robert, there are many ways he can make that happen without you knowing. Therefore, unless you plan to stalk his every move, you either need to trust him or leave him.

As Dr. Peggy Drexler says, sharing passwords won’t create trust or a genuine connection where none exists. Hence, addressing the underlying issues is important for building a healthy relationship, and curbing the urge to snoop.

Finally, address your insecurities. Understand that your past experiences or those of your friends don’t define your current relationship. By being grounded in the present and aware of your thoughts, you will let go of your discomfort.

“The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – John Milton