Shouldn't have snooped, feeling anxious: Part two
September 27, 2013 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I find myself in exactly the situation of this recent poster, with one difference: My girlfriend knows that I snooped but hasn't confronted me, and I haven't confessed. What now?

I could have written the post above, except that my girlfriend knows I snooped. She called me from work and asked if she'd left her phone at home. I checked and it was on the living room table. In a moment of insecurity and anxiety, I scrolled through her phone. I glanced at the first couple of lines that displayed but felt so guilty that I didn't read any emails. But I did load several and they showed up in her inbox. She's not dumb, so I am sure she was suspicious that suddenly dozens of new emails were in her box when she got home. It's possible she thinks her email was hacked or something and hasn't mentioned it. But I am pretty sure she is suspicious of me.

I know that privacy is important to her, and I think she would be upset that I broke her trust. But since she knows, I don't know if I am breaking her trust even more by not confessing. Or maybe she doesn't really care and has written it off, or is waiting for me to bring it up. She has been totally loving and "normal" (except she now carries her phone with her everywhere, in a way that she didn't before) since it happened but the guilt is tearing me up after several days. I'm also feeling paranoid that there is something brewing since she hasn't brought it up: is she just faking this stuff until she decides on a breakup plan? She's not the sadistic type, so I don't think she's enjoying watching me walking on eggshells.

We have been going through some hard times in our lives and relationship (hence the insecure snooping) but have an overall solid foundation. Our main issue is that we sometimes don't talk about things that frustrate us immediately (her more than me) so that was another reason for the snooping.

FWIW, we are in a serious relationship for 2.5 years, with desires and plans for life partnership and kids. This was the first snooping on my part, and will definitely be the last. I can't even look at her phone or computer now.

Mefites: please help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You didn't really snoop.

Just tell her, "I'm feeling really guilty about looking at your inbox when you left your phone here the other day. I wanted you to know that I didn't read any of the items. I had a moment of weakness and insecurity and I apologize and hope that you'll forgive me."

If you can't discuss these simple things with each other, your rocky relationship isn't going to get any more stabile.

She's allowed to be disappointed in you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on September 27, 2013 [30 favorites]

If I were your girlfriend this would be a zero percent big deal to me. It's clearly a big deal to you, though, and you aren't going to feel okay until you talk about it. So just tell her, "Hey, when found your phone the other day I scrolled through your inbox but then I immediately felt guilty, so I closed it without reading anything. I'm really sorry, and I feel badly enough that I would never even consider doing it again."

So that's it. Unless your problems are big enough that a breakup is inevitable anyway, I can't imagine this is going to destroy your relationship.
posted by something something at 9:49 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ok, first of all: take a few deep breaths. You looked at her phone, once, and didn't find anything. You didn't run over her puppy. You didn't accidentally make a pass at her grandmother. This isn't the gigantic all-consuming catastrophe that your brain is turning it into.

On preview, Ruthless Bunny has an excellent little script. Sit down together and use it. Don't make it a Huge Deal, because it isn't a Huge Deal. Be calm, apologise, be prepared for it to spark some more serious discussions but remember that sometimes adults make mistakes and sometimes we have to apologise and most of the time it doesn't mean the world is going to come crashing down around us because, guess what! Nobody's perfect.

Breathe. Apologise. Don't do it again. It will be OK.
posted by fight or flight at 9:53 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Early in my relationship with my partner, I did something similar with his computer. And I said to him exactly what people are suggesting you say: "I did this thing, I feel really bad about it, I wanted to tell you so you'd know, but I also want to say how sorry I am and that I'll never do it again."

He was really OK with that. And I felt like even though I had acted without integrity when I looked, I acted with integrity when I confessed, and so I felt much better about myself.
posted by not that girl at 9:53 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with the others. Talk about it lightly (as in "hon, I need to admit to having committed a relationship oopsie" not "OMG the world is about to end!"), apologise, and if the two of you have an otherwise strong foundation of trust, this won't be a big deal to her. If you do it (or something like it) a second time though...then you have more troubles than you thought. And so does she.
posted by Halo in reverse at 9:56 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just fess up. I agree with others, this isn't a big transgression. Don't go to her with it as a big big deal because it isn't. It was a minor and very temporary lapse in judgement. You just want to clear your conscience. Slightly sketchy alterior motive - if she doesn't know that you know that she knows it would look even better for you. It is one thing to fess up when you know you're caught. It is another (much more honourable) thing to fess up when you could have gotten away with it.

Just say "Look, I just want to tell you what happened. I did this, I don't know why, I feel like a bit of a jackass and I just wanted to own up to it. I promise I'll never do it again."
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2013

Not really a hard question to answer and I suspect you know the answer yourself before asking:

"Say, I'm sorry for looking through your phone, hon, I feel like it was an invasion of your privacy and I feel guilty about that. I promise not to do it again."

If she is upset, say why you did it and that it wasn't a good excuse, validate her feelings let her be angry for awhile


don't do it again.

posted by edgeways at 10:07 AM on September 27, 2013

If she wanted to know about it, she would ask you about it. Deal with your guilt privately, stop beating yourself up and go forth and sin no more.
posted by inturnaround at 10:09 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you are most likely wrong about your girlfriend knowing. Phones download email in the background, the fact the inbox looked different 8 hours later, assuming she would even notice, means nothing.

I'm not even sure glancing at the inbox rises to the level of snooping. This is a no harm - no foul situation in my view. If it'll make you feel better tell her, but I don't think it is necessary.
posted by COD at 10:13 AM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would think this was a big deal - but only if you didn't tell me. The positive side here is that you have a good opportunity to talk to her - you tell her what happened (in a less guilty way than you did here), and admit why you did it, because that's the important part. Look, I picked up your phone and glanced at your inbox. I didn't read anything. I feel terrible about it, and I've been feeling terrible about it for days and I wanted to tell you. I've never done it before and I won't do it again. [respond to her reaction] I've been thinking about why I would even do that, and I feel like we have a solid foundation but I'm feeling insecure and anxious about us right now. I feel like there's stuff we're not talking about. [then ask for what would make you feel better - a bat signal if something's wrong but she isn't ready to talk? a way to eliminate some of the frustrations in general? etc]
From experience, ease up a little. I'm not minimizing, but sometimes relationship anxiety spirals and feeds on itself. Do your best to remember that you have a good relationship and you're going to have ups and downs, but don't let it make you crazy.
posted by KAS at 10:15 AM on September 27, 2013

Similarly, my phone inbox loads immediately when I open it so I don't think it is as glaring an evidence as you may have built up in your mind. It probably re-loaded when she opened it again.

I wouldn't want to know if you did it. If she is suspicious just try not to act sketchy/shady for awhile, she will probably forget/trust rebuilds, and don't do it again.

I do think that what you should address is the insecurity: "Our main issue is that we sometimes don't talk about things that frustrate us immediately...reason for the snooping"
posted by inevitability at 10:23 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband and I have been together for 7+ years. I demand privacy, in that I don't like it when he watches what I do when I'm in email or on Facebook, but that's mostly the "stop reading over my shoulder" thing. If we're about to go someplace and I need to look up the address, he thinks nothing of going over to my laptop (which is always open in the kitchen) and searching my inbox of Facebook feed for the info. I've got nothing to hide, and I don't think he's looking at other stuff, but it kind of makes me feel awkward, in the "someone is in my apartment and I haven't cleaned in days and that's my underwear drying on doorknob" kind of way. I don't exactly wish he wouldn't do that, but he knows I'm uncomfortable with it, so I can safely assume that he doesn't go into my stuff when I'm not home, not that he wouldn't have ample opportunity if he wanted to.

My point, then: the longer the two of you are together, the less it will matter that you have read the names and subject lines in her inbox. It's not anything you've DONE that's particularly blameworthy. For a lot of couples, access to each others phones or email or whatever is all perfectly normal. The fact that you feel bad about it basically means that you're acknowledging that while you were doing something that wasn't particularly invasive, you were feeling way more curious and nosy than you wish you'd felt.
Maybe the conversation you have with her would go: "You know when you left your phone the other day? I don't think of myself as being nosy, but I looked at some of your email headers, and I feel really guilty about it. I stopped myself before I read anything, but I was really surprised at myself for even thinking about it. So I thought I'd apologize, mostly because it's driving me nuts. If you're angry, we should talk about it."
posted by aimedwander at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

You didn't even open an email. As someone who has snooped, that isn't snooping. It's nice that you respect her privacy show much and have boundaries about her stuff, but I really wouldn't beat yourself up about it. I'd let it go.

I've never heard of a phone waiting for you to load emails though. That sounds annoying. Tell her I recommend she get an Android phone. Either way, I am sure she automatically refreshes her emails as soon as she picks up her phone. I doubt she noticed anything anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:16 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going to tell her then do it sooner rather than later. It looks like more of a big deal the longer you wait.
posted by mlle valentine at 11:35 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've done this, and my girlfriend has done this to me. We talked about it. We felt sheepish. We apologized. It wasn't that big a deal for either of us.

I actually decided to sort of embrace an attitude of "go ahead and read my emails" although I would be uncomfortable if she was really digging around in there at length. I'd rather just accept that this might happen than have to have a huge hard fight about it in the future. That's just me.
posted by latkes at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2013

Not a big deal, but clearly a big enough deal to you that you're going to be weird about it, so just tell her. "Hey, I feel bad because when you asked me to find your phone this morning the email started loading and I didn't look away. I didn't read it, but I still feel guilty about having even looked at your stuff. Are we ok?"
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

People have different opinions of things like this. It depends on your girlfriend's point of view on this sort of thing, which you may or may not know already.

My wife will routinely pick up my phone and go through it in front of me, even though she KNOWS it pisses me off, and I've told her so many times. She thinks the fact that it pisses me off means I have something to hide. I don't, and she sees that ("Wow, your e-mail inbox is really boring" has been said to me on several occasions). It's a privacy thing with me. I was raised so that things like that are private, and it bothers me when they're not. We've had SEVERAL huge fights that have started whenever I've put a passcode lock on my phone to prevent this. "Oh what are you hiding from me?" Nothing; I have nothing at all to hide, never have, and never will. But that's never, ever believed. Honestly, I think it's just a difference in how we were raised, and I'll have to just get over it.

Similarly, if I need to know an address or something, an exchange like this frequently ensues: "Can you please go into your e-mail and get me the address where we're going tonight so I can put it in the GPS?" "Go get it yourself -- I've told you the password." "Yeah, but I purposely forgot your password because I don't think I have a right to know it."

I've never suspected her of anything, but I don't think I'd be able to snoop even if I did.

In your shoes, I'd probably tell her what happened, note that I read nothing, and apologize profusely, and state it will never happen again. She may take it as a big nothing and wonder why you were even upset, but she may not.
posted by tckma at 1:18 PM on September 27, 2013

If she wanted to know about it, she would ask you about it. Deal with your guilt privately, stop beating yourself up and go forth and sin no more.

Seconded. Odds are she doesn't realize that you did it. I find apps loaded and having done their thing all the time when I open my phone, when it hasn't been out of my possession, simply because I pawed it funny when it wasn't yet asleep. Open to text conversations that haven't been active for months, set to reply to an email that I didn't think I'd opened yet, calendar opened to a random date from two weeks ago-- none of it raises an eyebrow.

Say nothing. Confessing is likely to cause more distrust than snooping has(n't). You learned a lesson-- the guilt of it isn't worth the temporary satisfaction-- and it doesn't sound like you'll forget it any time soon. So right now, you're richer for what's happened. Keep it that way.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've got a story that might resonate. In a similar moment of weakness I clicked on an event when a girlfriend's Facebook page loaded up before me. AN EVENT. Later that day she said she didn't know where said event was taking place and I told her. She wanted to know how I knew, and I told her the truth straight away. Two hours later we broke up, and occasionally I wonder whether we would have had that not happened. We probably wouldn't have split up that very day, but it absolutely definitely WOULD have happened at some point, regardless of my possibly-not-even-an-indiscretion indiscretion.

My point is: I learnt that, for me at least, stuff like this shouldn't cause relationships to pitch and roll all over the place. If it does, wrong relationship.
posted by fishingforthewhale at 4:10 PM on September 27, 2013

Instead of directly confronting her and confessing the snooping, I'd take her aside and explain why you feel insecure in the relationship to begin with to see what action steps can be taken to fix the problem. This will allow you to actually solve the problem in the relationship instead of taking away some of the guilt you feel.
posted by lotusmish at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2013

Just as a data point, if my partner took this approach: "Say nothing. Confessing is likely to cause more distrust than snooping has(n't)." I would much, much, much more upset than I would by my partner just confessing she read my email.

I know everyone is different - you're the one who knows your girlfriend best.
posted by latkes at 7:28 PM on September 27, 2013

Show her this post. You should be fine, you're being human.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 12:52 AM on September 28, 2013

I'm very big on privacy in relationships but did something like this once. I admitted it, along with the reason I was feeling insecure enough to do it, and he laughed and said he didn't care. But the discussion about why I did it was by far more important and made our relationship stronger. So 'fess up in the tone of "I noticed a disturbing symptom that provides us useful information to help us as we work to make our relationship healthy and strong," not in the tone of "I committed a mortal sin."
posted by salvia at 4:36 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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