Sitting on the couch watching TV while her husband Jared gets a snack from the kitchen, Carla sees his phone sitting on the coffee table and wonders if she has enough time to take a quick peek at it before he gets back. It’s not suspicion or paranoia, she tells herself—it’s just curiosity. Jared’s been texting up a storm since dinner. She doesn’t want to come out and ask him, but she’s dying to know: who has he been texting and what’s it about?
Jared is the best person Carla knows: he’s funny, warm, affectionate, and a hard worker. He’s a great provider for her and the kids. She has no reason to suspect him of anything at all. In fact, she’s sure he’s never even considered cheating on her. But she’s extremely curious about who he emails and texts. If they’re together and his phone chimes, it’s almost impossible for her not to ask who it is, even though her questions have started to really bother him.
How about you? Do you struggle with a desire to read your husband’s texts and emails? Do you wonder if it will really hurt anything if you do a little checking that he’ll never even know about, just for your peace of mind?
Here are some thoughts on what you—and Carla—can and should do to address this issue… before it becomes a problem.
Curiosity killed the cat!
You know that phrase “Curiosity killed the cat”? Well, an unwarranted, suspicious, controlling curiosity could kill a marriage too. It’s not unusual for couples to share who’s texting, of course. But when you know logically that there’s no reason to be suspicious, and you still act as if you are, that’s a problem.
You may have an overwhelming curiosity. Okay, so you’re curious. Everyone can be at times. But if you act on that curiosity by checking up on your husband, what you’re essentially saying is, “I have an overwhelming feeling that I want to follow right now, and I’m going to follow right now, even though it is completely illogical and the wrong thing to do.”
We can all think of times when we’ve done something we knew was wrong, out of overwhelming emotion. When has it ever ended well? Letting negative emotions rule how we respond to things can even have life-shattering consequences. Like what could happen if you convey to a man you trust and adore that you don’t actually trust and adore him.
Snooping causes a loss of trust.
In a 2013 study reported in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, 34 percent of women said they’d snooped into their partner’s emails or texts. And it’s not just females who fight curiosity—nearly twice as many men (62 percent) said they’d done the same thing. And the respondents admitted that the loss of trust caused by snooping either started a relationship into decline or finished it off completely. Don’t go there.
Fortunately, your actions don’t have to change solely out of sheer willpower. You can also change your feelings. The ultra-happy couples I surveyed for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages were happy, in part, because they had learned not to simply “exercise control” over the negative feelings; they had actually learned how to change those feelings and talk themselves out of being mad or upset… or curious and suspicious!
Redirect your actions to redirect your feelings.
What might that look like? When overwhelming curiosity comes upon you, you could tell yourself something like: I want to ask who just texted him, but if I do it will be a signal to him that I don’t trust him. I do trust him, and I’m just curious, but that curiosity is not worth telling this wonderful man that he’s worthy of suspicion.
You will find that if you redirect your actions, it will help to redirect your feelings. All of which helps to ensure that we are in charge … not our crazy emotions. In the Bible, God tells us that when we act on and think about what is right and true, the positive feelings will follow. On the other hand, if you act on the negative thoughts, you’ll reinforce them. Whatever your faith background is, I would urge you to ask God for His help in this area. And look for and rehearse what is right and true—it’s always there somewhere.
Focus on your husband’s wonderful qualities.
If you still find yourself with an overwhelming curiosity, even after all of that, then it might be time to get some more specific help. Consider finding a certified therapist who can help you figure out why this suspicion is so hard to crack when there’s really no reason for it. Is it a desire to control? If so, why? Perhaps you’re feeling out of control in other areas and trying to over-control your husband as a result. Or despite your assurance that there’s no reason for suspicion, maybe you worry, deep down, that there might be. Concerns like these could be addressed with the help of a professional, before curiosity has any chance of killing the marriage.
In the meantime, remember what Carla loves about her husband—that he’s funny, warm and affectionate? What qualities do you love and admire the most about your husband? Dwell on those wonderful qualities whenever your curiosity wants to get the best (or the worst) of you. Show your husband that you have faith in him, and enjoy the blessing of a relationship that’s based on openness and trust.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.