Confessions of a Snooper
There’s a finite amount of trust in any relationship, and snooping is a sure-fire way to chip away at that trust. Once formed, though, a habit is hard to resist.
I have a confession. I’ve spent far too many girl nights, feigning shock and horror at stories told over sulfur masques and hair bleach – stories about people we know who have broken the number one rule of Do Not Ever Snoop. I’ve complained about snoopers I know, sworn an oath of fealty that I would never, ever snoop and shared the gospel of Thou Shalt Not Snoop.
But now it’s over. I have to confess. I am a snooper.
Oh, yes, I’m a snooper. I started out young, in the inaugural days of computers and passwords and boyfriends, a time when a girl no longer had to wait to hear through the grapevine that her boyfriend kissed Sally under the school bleachers last week. Information was now ubiquitous and readily available. There was no reason I shouldn’t check his email account if he didn’t logout after using the computer, right? He clearly had nothing to hide, and I, his loving girlfriend, would simply verify that fact to ease my mind.
Those first sessions of online snooping soon became a habit. Despite going into every new relationship with the promise of a fresh start, unlimited trust and sometimes even a verbal promise of “I will definitely not snoop on you like I did the last guy,” I would eventually succumb to the Snooping Beast. Something would inevitably trigger my “something doesn’t add up here” button. An odd turn of phrase, an increase in name-dropping of ex-girlfriends, a text from a girl I hadn’t met yet. I would get the urge to snoop. To give myself some credit, I wouldn’t immediately snoop. The impulse would linger for a few weeks, percolating and frothing more flavor into the tempestuous distrust stew that was my suspicious mind. I would examine his every move, word, and look; taking every minor action and twisting it around to give credence to the e-mails I was just dying to read. Lesson number one: I was looking for reasons to snoop, and when you’re looking for a reason, you’ll find it. I thought I was giving the poor boy a chance. Surely, if he wasn’t actually guilty of cheating, he wouldn’t be acting this way. He was digging his own grave. If I didn’t check his email or phone after what he just said, then I’d be the idiot, right?
It’s unfortunate, because once you get one validating experience (Ooh, a flirty e-mail exchange with an ex! Score!) it makes it more difficult to not snoop on the next guy. Lesson number two: If you do snoop and do not find any condemning evidence the first time, it doesn’t ease your mind one tiny bit. Perhaps he deleted the evidence (whoops, need to go back in and check the deleted items); perhaps it was an off-day (harumph, I’ll check tomorrow). Questions only lead to more questions; doubts only yield more doubts.
Oh, yes, it was very easy to convince myself that I needed to take a gander at the boy’s e-mail. And once I had taken a gander at the email, I immediately wanted to goose the facebook, the linkedin profiles, and every online dating site I could find (No, seriously. Did you know there are dating sites dedicated solely to World of Warcraft, swingers, and being richer than everyone else?). There was no end to the sewers of internet snooping I could sink to. I realized I had finally hit my low point when, after a clever boyfriend password-protected his computer, I downloaded a password-cracking program in order to login. I had officially hit a new low.
I won’t go the classic “but if you trust him, you shouldn’t do this” route, because I know that argument never worked on me. Often, the urge to snoop has nothing to do with the trust one has in their loved one. It has to do with the lack of trust in yourself. The lack of trust that a person you’ve chosen to be with, has also chosen you. That you are, in fact, loveable. Lesson number three: You have to believe that this person has chosen to be with you, and isn’t just treading water before heading onto greener, less-snoopier pastures. My big issue wasn’t that I was dating a jerk, it was that I couldn’t believe he would want to be dating me. And once this thought got into my head, I would find justifications for it. It would become my goal to find the girl he actually wanted to date.
The fourth and final lesson is this: Most of the evidence I “found” was incorrect. Again, see above, if you are looking for a lying, cheating cad, a lying, cheating cad is what you will find. I’d find e-mails with cutesy words, inside jokes and winking emoticons and form an entire backstory in my mind. With exactly zero frame of reference for any of the texts or emails I read, I’d decide that I somehow knew exactly what was going on between the boy and the girl. That winky face after “See you tonight?” – it definitely meant they were hooking up; it couldn’t possibly mean that they had both been joking about running into that old high school friend that had wet his pants last year at a similar party. When I’d confront the boyfriend about what I’d read, he’d often have to sit me down and explain the actual situation behind what I’d read. I’d very quickly go from triumphant and validated to silly and embarrassed.
All these lessons are tinier parts of the final lesson: Snooping is simply not worth it. There’s a finite amount of trust in any relationship, and snooping is a sure-fire way to chip away at that trust.