5 Times It's OK to Snoop on Your Partner, Relationship Experts Say
There aren't many situations that qualify—but those that do are serious.
If there's one thing we know about relationships, it's that snooping is bad. If you resort to the behavior, it means you don't trust your partner, and no amount of scrolling through their text messages, hacking their social media, or listening in on their phone calls will change that. So, many relationship experts shun snooping entirely.
"If you're wondering about your partner, the best thing to do is have a conversation," says marriage and family therapist Luis Maimoni, LMFT. "If you don't trust their disclosures, then you don't trust your partner, and if you don't trust your partner after making the attempt to repair trust, then why are you still in the relationship?"
But just because snooping isn't recommended doesn't mean people don't do it. One YouGov survey found that nearly one in five Americans had gone through their partner's phone without permission, and 73 percent didn't regret it. If you decide to snoop, you'll want to ensure it's for a good reason. Here, relationship experts tell us the only times it's OK to snoop.
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If they might be hiding financial mistakes.
One instance where it might be OK to snoop is if you believe your partner is hiding some type of financial mistake or poor financial patterns that could impact both of you.
"People sometimes hide things like excessive debt, gambling problems, secret credit cards, or providing financial support to others without their partner's knowledge," says Sam Holmes, relationship counselor and editor of Feel and Thrive. "These issues can lead to trust problems and disagreements about money, impacting the relationship's stability and future."
However, before resorting to snooping, you should have an honest, blame-free conversation about the issue.
"Say something like, 'I've noticed we've been struggling financially; let's talk about it and find solutions together,'" suggests Holmes. You should be able to clear things up without resorting to an invasion of privacy.
If you're extremely concerned about their mental health.
A mental health emergency, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or an eating disorder, could also warrant snooping, especially if you have concerns for your partner's safety.
"For instance, if your partner has been exhibiting erratic behavior or has a history of mental health issues, checking in on their online activity may be a way to ensure they are not putting themselves in harm's way," says Holmes.
But before you do that, you'll again want to talk about things. "Express your observations without judgment, and let them know you're there to support them unconditionally," says Holmes.
You can also encourage them to seek professional help or assist them in finding a therapist or other relevant expert.
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If you're worried an acquaintance of theirs has ill intentions.
If you think someone in your partner's life may be harmful, it might be OK to snoop.
"There are a lot of examples to talk about here," says Marta De la Cruz, a licensed clinical psychologist. Some of the most common ones she sees are estranged parents and siblings who come out of the woodwork and pretend to have positive intentions when they actually need something (usually money, De la Cruz says). There are also cases of competitive colleagues with plans to sabotage people's work.
"If you think such a person is in your partner's life and is endangering them, it might be okay to snoop a little," says De la Cruz. "You just want to check if anything fishy is going on and protect your partner."
If you suspect substance abuse or self-harm.
"If you're genuinely worried about your safety or your partner's, like if there's substance abuse, self-harm, or illegal activities involved, snooping might be worth considering," says Tina Fey, relationship expert and founder of Love Connection.
"Whether it's wrong or not, given the circumstances, is a matter of debate, but if you decide to snoop, that doesn't make you a horrible person, just an incredibly concerned one—you're only human, after all," Fey adds.
Although this situation could potentially warrant snooping, you'll want to exhaust all other options first.
"Unless it's an emergency, always proceed with caution before taking matters into your own hands," says Fey. "Consider getting professionals or their closest friends and family involved to help you…tackle the situation."
That way, you can reach a solution without invading their privacy.
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If you suspect they're cheating…and you've talked to them about it.
One of the top reasons people snoop is because they suspect their partner is cheating on them. In those cases, Fey suggests talking about it openly.
"If that doesn't work, you might consider snooping as a last resort, but remember, snooping alone won't fix trust issues—it might even make things worse," says Fey.
Be honest about your worries and insecurities. If it turns out your partner is cheating, then they can hopefully provide you with the same honesty so you can each decide how to best move forward.