Some time ago, Amelia and I were chatting over IM about snooping. If I remember correctly, it was in the context of a discussion about sharing passwords. Should you share your email password? Your Facebook password? Your debit card PIN number? Is it a big, serious relationship step to do those things or not super-serious at all and just a byproduct of our digitized lifestyle? I was very pro-sharing passwords, because I have nothing to hide. Go read my emails, I don’t care! The only reason I wanted to share passwords with my boyfriend was to make life easier: we share his laptop at home and I needed to be able to log in whenever I needed. My reason for wanting passwords was not at all motivated by wanting to sneak around in my boyfriend’s private business. I sincerely believed he had nothing to hide from me either.
But more importantly, snooping in someone’s email, or listening to their voice mails, or any of those other privacy-violating things, just seemed like a douchey thing to do. It implied a lack of trust. It implied suspicion. It implied an insecurity on my part. I am a huge, huge, HUGE believer in the Golden Rule and I would never snoop in someone’s private business, I thought, because that is not the way that I would want to be treated. “I just couldn’t go into someone’s emails like that,” I surely told Amelia. “You say that now when everything’s fine,” she replied, in words that have stuck in my head ever since. “But if you really thought something was up, you would do anything at your disposal to find out what he wasn’t telling you.”
So, my boyfriend and I did exchange passwords. Maybe not all of them, but several of them, and as I suspected, it made our lives easier. Knowing the passwords that Mr. Jessica uses to log in to certain technological gadgets or on certain sites was actually no big deal, as I had thought. I never snooped around — not even one little bit. Obviously, I’m aware he talks to people/meets people/does things when he’s out of town for work, but I was fine leaving well enough alone. I think keeping that sense of mystery in the relationship is important, to a degree. He was able to surprise me with some extraordinary Christmas presents, for instance. And it should go without saying that I was able to surprise him this Christmas, too! So, secrecy has its appreciable benefits.
The iPad was my downfall. The iPad has a “Mail” app and you can put as many email accounts on it as you need. He has one for work and one for personal use, while I simply have one for personal use. You open the feature, click one of the accounts, and then it is open within that app. Hundreds and hundreds of times, Mr. Jessica and I have clicked the “Mail” app only to end up in the other person’s mailbox. Having just glanced at his emails hundreds of times before, they seemed thoroughly boring — not even tempting to go snoop in, had I even possessed the wherewithal to snoop.
Then we hit a difficult patch. For the sake of privacy, I won’t get into it, but I will say that I decided to extricate myself from the situation. Emotional exhaustion and confusion are no way to live one’s life. I realized everyone could use some space to clear their heads, calm down and distract themselves a bit, so I packed a bag and left for my parents. That was definitely the right decision, but of course with any time apart you are stewing and freaking out and worrying. As much as I was trying to keep calm, I was definitely subsumed with slightly panicky thoughts of “What is really going on?!?! I want some answers, damn it.”
Mr. Jessica had generously insisted I take the iPad with me, in addition to the laptop we share. I was using the laptop predominantly for work, but I knew that on the iPad his mail account was sitting right there the whole time. One day, I saw it sitting on the desk in my childhood bedroom and, impulsively, I intentionally clicked it open and went to Mail. I didn’t even have to use a password; it was just there. And I looked — not grazed my eyes like I normally do when I see it, but looked and read. And what I read freaked me out even more. But at the same time, it made me feel weirdly at peace. Maybe it wasn’t an answer, but it was an element to consider, an element which heretofore had been unknown to me. I felt, like, “OK, now I know a little bit more about what I am dealing with.”
Now I feel like complete s**t that I did that, though.
I am, in many areas of my life, a big strong ox of a woman. I thought I could have better self-control and overcome that suspicious impulse. I have pretty high standards for myself, I guess, and I let myself down by doing that. I still believe in the Golden Rule and I have disappointed myself.
But I also disappointed him. I violated his trust. There’s no two ways around it. I called him up and I told him what I did. He took it quite well, actually. I would have expected him to be more pissed. He was bothered by my snooping, but understood why I did it and was accepting of my reasons. In fact, he used it as an opportunity to talk about Big Serious Relationship stuff that we needed to talk about anyway. I took the ensuing discussion quite well, too, in part because I appreciated the fact he had enough love for me to forgive me.
Do I regret snooping? Yes. No. I don’t know. Those are all the answers to that question. Was it worth it for what information it gave me? In the short term, yes, but it remains to be seen whether there will be long-term consequences for violating someone’s trust that make it not worth it. No one wants it flung back into their face for the rest of their life: “You went searching in my email!” Considering how bad I feel right now, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I still, still, still believe in the Golden Rule. But then again, you know what life has taught me in the past few weeks of difficulty? Sometimes, it is just full of surprises.