The following conversation occurred in the Save My Marriage private Facebook group. All identifying information has been removed.

QUESTION:
“I thought things were going really well with my husband and I… then this morning he forgot his phone and this is what I found…. What do I do? Do I confront him and take a thousand steps back, do I ask him if he’s got something going on and play dumb or do I leave it alone and work like crazy to keep him? She’s in Colorado…

In my mind he’s had 2 affairs already. Both were via text/email. None of them got physical…but I see this ending very badly. However, he has a tendency to pick people to “cheat” on me with that he knows won’t get physical. Like this one – we are in one midwest state and she is in a completely different one, so he thinks it’s safe. And of course most of the messages were from a few weeks ago, when we were still very questionable.

Since that time, he has come back home. The only messages he sent since coming home were telling the other woman that he was starting his day shift “tomorrow.” Of course he followed it up with “being able to see you again might be easier” and asked if that is something she would like. She said it would be nice and he said, “Yes. Very nice.” I’m so lost and torn.

Joe Beam what advice do you have for me, as a man who has been there? This week has been really good for us. We are spending a lot of time together, talking, laughing, and he’s working his new schedule out to go on vacation with us at the end of the month. It seems like he’s really trying – but also maybe wanting to keep this thing going with the old flame on the side.”

ANSWER:
As we always say, you have to make your own decision as to what to do.

If I understand correctly what you wrote above, the offending texts were written weeks before you found them when he left his phone at home. I assume that means that you looked through his phone and that’s how you found them. In other words, the texts weren’t there on the screen so that you inadvertently saw them. You searched through the phone. That actually makes a difference.

Our experience working with couples indicates that if he feels you were snooping and invading his privacy, the conversation won’t be about the things they wrote but about you going through his phone. If that occurs, usually only bad things happen. The focus moves from what he/she wrote to what you did and things degenerate quickly. We often tell people that if they choose to take actions such as planting a GPS in the car, secretly looking through emails or phone, and the like, they should be ready to divorce because those actions rarely lead to making things better and typically make things worse.

If you had stumbled across the texts innocently – you picked up his phone that he left and there those texts were right on the screen – then asking him about them would be in order. Even then, I would suggest that it not be in the form of an attack “I CAUGHT YOU” but in the form of personal hurt “I didn’t mean to see this and it hurts that I did.” That can lead to the person not responding in defensiveness but in compassion to your hurt.

Again, if I read correctly what you wrote, you say that the texts were sent before matters between the two of you began to improve. That’s significant. If it were I, I would not mention the texts and keep everything moving in the positive direction you now have. Later, when your marriage is better, some of the other issues you mentioned will very likely need to be dealt with (his not viewing texting as cheating, etc.) but I suggest you leave those to a time when the relationship between the two of you is much stronger.

And I end as I began. It is your choice as to how to proceed. None of us can tell you what to do. May God grant you wisdom and courage.

Someone else chimed in:
And he said “to start seeing you again?” That’s definitely cheating! I’d text her and let her know he’s your husband !

My response to that:
There’s an old adage, “Do you want to win the battle or win the war?” I think that definitely applies here.

Contacting the other woman or making an issue out of this under the circumstances would have a very strong possibility of stopping progress and ending this marriage. If he is involved with this woman still – remember those messages were BEFORE things got better with the husband- then it will come out and should be dealt with then. Bringing them up now – after they’ve made progress since the texts were sent – will very likely create a firestorm.

I understand hurt and anger. However, we always suggest people think 10-10-10. How are you going to feel about this – and what will the consequences be – in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? Popping her or him might make you feel like you won, but for how long? Will you in 10 months wish that you had focused on the progress made after the texts rather than moving backward and focusing on the texts?

She has to make her own decision. You are free to share your opinion, just as am I. I truly hope she focuses on the present and not throw a bomb into this over what they texted before he started moving in the right direction in his marriage.

What Can You Learn From This?

1. Don’t Snoop!

If you don’t walk away with anything else, at least remember this: snooping brings more harm than good. It seems that the main reason that people snoop is to soothe their own conscience. “Is my spouse doing something he or she is not supposed to?”

First, if your marriage is rocky and/or your spouse is straying, then likely your spouse is doing something he or she is not supposed to. If you snoop and find something bad, it will only taint your stance on standing for your marriage and make things harder. If you snoop and find nothing, it could lead to false hope as well. The only time that “spying” on your spouse is appropriate is during the reconciliation/accountability stage of saving your marriage, or if you and your spouse are doing well and have agreed that both of you can look freely through the others belongings.

2. Think long-term, not short-term

In the short-term, when finding out surprising information, you may be likely to respond in an attacking and defensive state. Don’t trust your gut reaction. Take some time to take deep breaths, think about what has happened, and arrange a long-term plan that will help you save your marriage, not make it worse.

3. Be careful who you listen to

People mean well. However, some people want you to react the way that they have reacted in the past. Many times…that does not lead people down a helpful road. Be careful who you seek advice from. More importantly, be careful how much advice you seek. If you seek expert help and opinions, such as the team at Marriage Helper through the Save My Marriage course, and then call friends and family members for their insight, no one will agree. It will leave you confused and unsure what to do next.

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10 thoughts on “What Happens When You Snoop on Your Spouse

  • January 22, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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    Hi Joe: Thanks for this – I am in the same spot. My husband had an affair that was mainly by email. He does not know that I know his phone password so I check it – when he is in the shower, late at night etc. From reading your advice above, it seems this is not a good idea. But after the horrendous blow I received of discovering his affair (all the stuff of limerence was in his email exchange with her, villifying me etc etc), it seems the only peace I get is from knowing no contact has been made. Any advice on how to help myself to STOP doing this? It borders on obsessive, I feel good after I have checked his phone but within a day or two, I start worrying/thinking about it again.

    Reply
    • January 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm
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      Stop doing this by starting to initiate self-control. We begin snooping when we decide to snoop. Decide not to do it – and keep the willpower not to do it! Much like when people go on a diet and decide not to eat a certain thing, they remove the temptation. If they are put in a situation where they are tempted, they have an accountability partner or they have an exit strategy to get out of the situation. Then, start replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. If you are a Christian, use Bible verses or prayer. Or start reading a book. Get a hobby. Do something else instead of ruminating on the negative thoughts.

      Reply
  • January 23, 2016 at 3:13 am
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    My wife, while I was on deployment, intentionally read all my journals from years ago. She told me she was going to. I begged her to not to ad I knew they were full of old stuff much of which I didn’t really want to recall and I knew it would not lead to anything good.
    She read them anyway. That was a few years ago and to this day she brings very little detail up against me. Things I wish I’d never written because I’ve moved on. She keeps shackling me with my own past and it’s terrible. Yes I erased her trust but so did she to me by doing that.

    Reply
    • January 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm
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      I’m so sorry that happened. It’s true that what she did was wrong. Instead of letting this set you back, do what you can to start rebuilding trust and working through forgiveness.

      Reply
    • January 29, 2016 at 8:02 pm
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      This is unfortunate. I will pray for both of you. She should get counselling.

      Reply
  • January 12, 2017 at 7:06 pm
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    OK–about snooping. So what about MY case:
    Last March, my husband of 27 years started out helping some pregnant woman who was getting physically abused by her boyfriend. (he didn’t know it THEN, but she was an addict, alcoholic, & her and her boyfriend were selling live sex acts for drug money. And just in a BAD place). At first, he asked me to get involved, but because of the uncertainty of her situation, and my horrendous work schedule, I was hesitant..but DID offer to get some baby clothes together that he could give her. Once in awhile, he would let me know how she’s doing….but said they don’t talk much. But unfortunately, he got overly involved, and couldn’t get out I guess. felt SOOOO sorry for her. He paid for her phone for 2 months, gave her his bank card number (she only used once), helped her dad move her out of that abusive apartment, kept in touch with her while she was in the woman’s shelter. (she eventually moved in with her parents before the baby was born in August–which he lied to me & said he had a meeting, but went to the hospital instead).

    LONG story short – they texted and called each other for MONTHS behind my back – he lied several times for her benefit when I asked him just how often they talk, he lied. I saw texts for a few weeks in July and they were calling each other hon, honey, babe, doll, sweetheart, girl, love, etc. and meeting up without my knowledge. Is this appropriate?? I confronted him. He defended himself – for 3 months we fought. He even apologized to me for having an emotional affair, but took it all BACK a week later!! We went to counseling, he lasted for one session (STILL thought HE was the victim). Finally he did send her a “goodbye” text that was FULL of emotion- and he only sent it to her because me, our kids, and our counselor thought they were having an “affair” of some sort (although he denies it to this day). He kept telling me if I can’t TRUST him, then it’s already over. (Apparently he thinks “affairs” are only sexual – and kept saying they have NO attraction to each other).

    Of course, the goodbye text did not work, she continued to call him…masking her phone number so I wouldn’t recognize it on the phone log. He finally started telling me when she’d call…(at my request), but then must have stopped telling me. I stopped asking him about it around end of November (we were tired of fighting, & everything was great when I wasn’t bringing the subject up). so there was never any resolve.

    So, now the knife goes deeper, on December 14, he secretly bought a Tracphone so I wouldn’t be able to monitor his calls/texts anymore. (he HATED being under the radar). So now they talk & text (and think I don’t know). I am SNOOPING a lot trying to get evidence that it may turn physical now. do I have a right?? I know it has to come out in the open SOON – I can’t handle much more. it is WRONG. and he will NOT admit it’s an emotional affair. (with his sexual innuendo type texts to her I’m skeptical all over again). and yet he verbalizes how much he loves me every day – and how great I am – etc etc. ARE they JUST FRIENDS? AM I OVER REACTING??

    WHAT DO I DO??

    Reply
    • January 16, 2017 at 8:17 pm
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      I am so sorry to hear you are going through this.. I can only imagine the stress you are under..

      My first recommendation is for you both to attend our 3 Day Workshop..

      If that is not an option, I would strongly encourage you to join in on our Save My Marriage Course. It is an online course devoted to saving your marriage. It also comes with another course specifically for marriages in the middle of an affair. Whether that affair be emotional or physical. Please visit this link if you would like more information >>> http://www.marriagehelper.com/savemymarriage

      Last but not least, please look into our Save My Marriage Facebook Group. It is free to join & offers support from people in similar situations.

      Reply
  • June 3, 2017 at 11:10 am
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    My h has been in an emotional affair since Oct 2016 with an old friend from high school. In the past 2 weeks he has told me he wants to make our marraige work and has been seeing the “red flags” with her.
    He is still in contact with her though. He has withdrawn the past few days, like he is unhappy or depressed. I have not been checking the phone bill for awhile and now I find myself looking to see if they are in contact. Any advice would be helpful.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2017 at 11:21 pm
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    So, I did go through my husband’s messages. I confronted him after he confessed a relationship affair. His LONis in Afghanistan, and they spend most days texting each other. I want to stand for my marriage but my husband is adamant that our marriage is over. We still live together and he has asked me to keep living together until we both have money saved to live independently.
    I have two questions: 1) how do I know it’s limerence and 2) can this marriage be saved, even though he is refusing any type of marriage help?

    Reply
  • August 5, 2017 at 6:07 am
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    My husband of 20 years had an emotional affair that went on for over two years. I found this out not by snooping, per se, but by wondering why there was an unrecognized number on the phone bill – one he was texting late at night, early in the morning, three times as often as he texted any other number. I asked him who he was contacting so frequently, and he told me it was his boss. A few months later, I talked to his boss and made a joke about how often they texted. The boss laughed, but looked confused and uncomfortable. So I asked hubby again, and he said it was a different boss. Well, he’s a terrible liar. I asked if he would show me the texts, and he refused. It was only then that he admitted it was a woman at work – one he’d been training and talking about all the time. I trusted him (silly me), and asked him to cut back on the frequency of the texts. He agreed. Flash forward a few months later, the texting actually increased. I asked him about it again, and he swore it was nothing – they were just friends. I again asked to see the texts, he again refused. So I snooped. He was gushing over her for months about, buying her gifts, meeting her for lunch… Nothing sexual, but I was still very angry. Some texts made fun of me. He ended his texts with Xs and Os, called her beautiful, offered her money… As near as I could tell, she didn’t reciprocate. When I confronted him, he was really angry that I had snooped. But if I hadn’t, I never would have known, and we never would have started working on our communication. He has ended it with that woman, but now he seems to be texting someone else a lot. I haven’t snooped this time, but I am tempted. I just wish I were good enough that he wouldn’t go elsewhere. I pride myself on being a devoted, thoughtful, hard working wife. Apparently, all of that isn’t enough… I have never felt like such a useless loser. Not even my husband loves me…. Any advice for a completely useless and undeserving wife?

    Reply

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