Pop culture inundates us with clichés about relationships.
We’re told if he cheats with you, he’ll cheat on you (probably true). We’re fed ‘inspirational’ quotes from Marilyn Monroe (except not at all), saying “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best” (lol, OK). When heterosexual couples are frustrated with each other, we’re reminded that after all, “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” (kill me).
Yet the trope that bugs me the most is the one about snooping. We’re condescendingly told, “If you feel the need to snoop in the first place, the trust is already gone.” Women regularly feel ashamed that they’ve looked through their partner’s phone and found clues that he/she is cheating – and in the world of ‘relationship advice,’ they’re led to believe having looked in the first place is just as bad as, you know, ACTUALLY RUINING A RELATIONSHIP BY SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE ELSE.
Well, whatever. I’m a snooper.
Since my partner and I started dating eight years ago, I've always loved a good ol' snoop. I know all his passwords (because if he didn't share them with me then I'd be suspicious), and I'm always keen for a snoop through his text messages and Facebook. It's just... interesting.
Like a lot of men in their 20s, my partner fails to tell me all the things I'd like to know. While I come home and give him a comprehensive timeline of my day, including what I ate for lunch and why, what dogs I saw on the street and how cute they were, and what my mum told me about my weird cousin, he typically describes his day with just one word: "good."
When I ask him if he has plans for the weekend, his default answer is "nah," only to then get to Saturday morning and tell me there's a very important family dinner and, um, do I have something nice I could wear because it's kinda a special occasion?
My snoopiness isn't about trust, it's about practicality. But also mostly nosiness.
I get bored of MY Facebook feed and MY friends and MY messages. I want to see what his looks like. What are his friends talking about? What's his brother doing? What's he been liking/following on Facebook? What's he been saying about... me?
I care because I love him and I'm generally interested in his life. In years of snooping I've never found anything concerning, other than a few conversations with my mum that are pretty embarrassing on her behalf.
If a friend messages him with something private about a relationship or family issue or generally something he doesn't think I should know about, he deletes it. Which is fine. I still want to be two independent human beings who maintain our own friendships. I just also want to know all the things. All of them.
I'm genuinely frustrated every time I see women (and it's mostly women) being made to feel ashamed about going through their partner's phone. My sister used to have a boyfriend who didn't let her look at his phone, and the one time she did (because... obviously she did), there were dozens of incriminating messages to other girls. Why shouldn't she know that? Why should she be some pillar of trust and respect and maintaining boundaries while the person she was with wasn't subscribing to the basic rules of monogamous relationships?
In the most recent episode of the Love Life podcast, Osher Günsberg and co-host psychologist Leanne Hall were asked about this very issue. One caller said she had snooped through her partner's phone and found messages to an ex she wasn't comfortable with, but she knew she had done the wrong thing by snooping so didn't know how to bring it up.
Listen: Bec snooped on her boyfriend's Facebook and found him chatting with his ex about the wild sex they had and all the funny things they loved about each other. (Post continues after audio.)
NO. JUST NO. If your boyfriend is having (sexual) conversations with an ex-girlfriend, YOU ARE NOT IN THE WRONG. HE IS.
We hold women to this ideal standard of being 'cool' and 'chill' and having zero emotional needs. We're not meant to snoop because, well, that's a bit crass isn't it? It's not very classy. We're meant to let the men we're with live their lives without getting in the way, or God forbid, being annoying.
But screw that.
If you want to snoop, snoop. For me, it comes from a place of security and instinctive nosiness - not suspicion. And if I found something incriminating in my partner's phone, I'd confront him about it, because he shouldn't be doing the wrong thing behind my back.
He would be in the wrong for doing it, not me for finding out.
We put far too much pressure on women to behave a certain way in relationships, and for some reason, we've all taken for granted that snooping is inherently wrong. We're meant to believe we have trust issues if we do it and if we see something problematic, we're partly to blame. But that's just not true.
Whether or not you're comfortable with snooping is something you negotiate within your own relationship.
To be honest, I'm a little hurt that my boyfriend isn't at all interested in snooping through my phone. He has no compulsion to log in to my Facebook or check my messages.
But then again, he knows all he'd find are dog memes.
Listen to the full episode of Love Life here.