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October 24, 2019

Should I Tell My Partner if I Snooped in Their Private Messages & Found Something That Upset Me?

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Today on The Morning Show, Jess joined Carolyn and Jeff to take viewer questions about creeping on your partner’s DMs, dealing with an interfering in-law and talking about your exes and previous breakups. Check out the video and recap notes below.

1. How much should I tell my partner about my past relationships? Should I tell them how many partners I’ve had? Should I tell them if I cheated on an ex or why I broke up with my exes?

You’re not required to tell your partner anything about your past, but sharing that information can help you both to understand your needs, boundaries, and triggers to improve the present and future.

If you have seen patterns or can identify themes (positive and negative) from previous relationships, it can help you to learn about yourself and help your partner to better understand you.

I don’t think numbers matter, so if it’s a matter of curiosity, you might want to share. If it’s a matter of judgment or confidence, don’t bother.

If you cheated on an ex and it’s relevant, you might want to share. Just because you cheated once doesn’t mean you’ll cheat again — if you take responsibility for your actions.

If the story or reason for a previous breakup is relevant to your current relationship or deepening understanding, go ahead and share. But don’t assume that knowing everything about your partner will make for a happier relationship. It’s okay to have parts of your life that you keep for yourself. You’re also entitled to privacy.

2.  My father-in-law interferes in our relationship to the point that I think it’s driving a wedge between me and my wife. He undermines us with the kids, is manipulative with money and criticizes our relationship. How do I get him to back off and how do I talk to my wife about this?

Start by asking your wife how she feels about his behaviour. Does she share your concerns? Don’t start with complaints or criticisms; instead open up a discussion so you can better understand her perspective on the same interactions. Your perspective may be coloured by your own experiences, your relationship with your parents and other personal sensitivities. And chances are that she is likely dealing with some similar concerns, because you share the same values and goals for your kids and relationship.

Once you’ve considered your wife’s perspective, discuss your preferred boundaries with specificity. Do you want to pick certain days of the week when he will visit? Do you want to set a specific time frame for time spent with the kids?

When you say he’s manipulative with money, is it because he’s involved in your finances? Does he help to support your family? Can you change this arrangement? If you don’t take money from him, he will likely have less power with which to manipulate.

3. I checked my girlfriend’s DMs when she left her phone unlocked and I see she’s chatting with her ex in a flirty way. Should I bring it up?

I receive so many questions like this one!

If you bring it up, your partner may respond with anger that you checked their phone. They may be unwilling to listen at all because you violated their trust. They may be so caught up in your misstep that they refuse to address their own behaviour. There is a universal desire to be right and not acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong or hurtful, so we focus on what someone else has done wrong.

If you don’t bring it up, it will eat at you. You will have trouble trusting your partner. You’ll be second guessing every interaction.

This is why I believe it’s fine to share your passwords, but it’s never advisable to check your partner’s private messages.

But what’s done is done. So I suggest you bring it up. You can come clean and let them know that you were feeling insecure and checked their phone and now you’re feeling even more insecure and guilty and want to talk about it. Be vulnerable and honest and be prepared to acknowledge your wrongdoing. Doing so may be disarming and open them up to being more honest as well. Mea culpa goes a long way to start intimate conversations.

The other option that many people choose involves not coming clean, but still asking questions about this relationship with their ex. This can still open an important conversation about your feelings, but it will be limited since you will not be acknowledging your own missteps.