In today’s digital age, even those of us in the most committed relationships may have felt the urge to check our partner’s social media accounts or devices from time to time.
We've all heard horror stories about women discovering their other half has a secret life online. But is it ever ok to pry into your partner's digital world?
"In a day and age where technology is contributing more and more to affair and infidelity – thanks to second phones and more opportunity for secrecy – transparency is important," says relationships expert and couples counsellor Melissa Ferrari. Here, she shares her expert advice on what to do when you're feeling on edge about what they're up to online.
1. Remember everyone has a past
“Unfortunately, many of us come into relationships with past hurts. Sometimes this includes pain, infidelity, secrecy and rejection. A lot of the time our expectations can be that when our partners eventually arrive in our lives, they arrive ready for a relationship. The reality is – most of us don’t come to relationships fully intact or having already addressed those past hurts. I see it every single day in my practice. To create a good relationship that has longevity, passion, aliveness, engagement and love – we have to have the basics of safety and security first. Everything else can’t happen unless you and your partner both feel you have this.”
2. Be open and upfront
“If you’re a couple that has full transparency – for example, you might know each other’s Facebook passwords, iPhone pin codes, and your phones sit upright instead of down on the tables – then you know that if you leave your Facebook page open and your partner happens to look at it, you’re going to be OK. In that instance, it’s not about snooping or invasion of privacy, but it’s really important to remember that just because we might have our partners password doesn’t mean we have a right to continuously go back into their account and see what they’re up to."
3. Check yourself ...before you check anything else
“When we’re in close relationships, the brain will always go toward negative – this is called negative bias. In the beginning, we get all those positive hormones like the oxytocin and serotonin but eventually, that subsides. That’s when our old insecurities start to emerge. Sometimes those niggling fears may not be pointing to the fact that your partner has played up – they may be pointing towards trust issues in the relationship and these don’t have to be about just infidelity. They can also be about whether your partner has your back. Do you feel safe with them? Will they defend you when you’re around and when you’re not? At the end of the day, this stuff is really hard, and all relationships can be difficult.”
4. If in doubt, discuss it
“If you’re regularly checking your partner's phone, that in itself is probably telling you something. It’s probably telling you ‘I don’t trust this person as much as I should, we need to work that out’. Before you decide to look, you might even sit down and talk to your partner. You might want to tell them you’re scared of what you mind find or that you’re worried they're having an affair. This gives them an opportunity to tell you the truth. And if you’re still not satisfied with their answer, but you don’t actually want to look at their devices, that’s when you need to go into a safe environment where you have the security of a couple’s therapist where you work on having these issues revealed and resolved.”
5. Keep calm and speak honestly
“If you decide to approach your partner about your fears, try to make sure your face, voice and tone are friendly. If you go in attacking or looking angry, you’re going to set their fight or flight response off in the brain and they’re not going to be ready to hear you. This is imperative – if you start off the discussion by attacking them, you can be guaranteed it’s not going to work out well. You also run the risk that you may, in fact, be wrong about your fears, so it’s important to make sure you’re approaching the subject it in a collaborative, mindful and empathic way. You can also take that time to acknowledge where you know your own vulnerability and issues around mistrust might lie. This may come from the past and may not have anything to do with your current partner.”
If anxiety or depression is an issue for you or a partner, seek help from a trained professional. Visit beyondblue to find support near you.