Is “checking up” on your partner a necessary precaution—or unnecessary paranoia? Does Googling your date to see what comes up qualify as snooping? What about doing a Zaba search to determine her birthdate or Zillowing the value of his home?
It’s natural to be curious about someone you’re just getting to know, or to use the internet to verify facts shared by someone you don’t know well. But at what point does snooping get in the way of a healthy developing relationship?
Let’s say the man or woman you’re dating accidentally leaves his/her phone at your place. Do you start pushing buttons to see if you can read texts or discover phone calls made or received? What if you’re at your partner’s apartment and he/she goes into the restroom for a few minutes. Should you peruse the datebook left on the table or quietly open the desk drawer to see if anything interesting is in there?
It may be tempting, but think long and hard before you proceed. Some basic fact-checking may be prudent and predictable: Whatever the other person posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other sites, he or she has to expect it will be viewed by anyone and everyone. But here’s the risk with more sneaky forms of snooping: It’s a trust-breaker, which is difficult to re-establish.
To help guide your actions, ask yourself five questions:
1. “Why do I feel compelled to snoop?” Your motivations and intentions reveal a lot about you and the other person. If you’ve been badly hurt by someone—especially by someone’s dishonesty or disloyalty—you may want an extra measure of self-protection. Or maybe there’s a vague, nagging sense within you that the other person isn’t all he/she purports to be. Perhaps you’re just plain ol’ nosy. Honestly answering that all-important WHY question will offer insight about yourself and the unfolding relationship.
2. “Would I want someone snooping this way about ME?” You probably don’t care if your new love interest looks into your life in some basic ways; in other ways, it’s none of the person’s business, at least not at this stage of the relationship. To paraphrase The Golden Rule, don’t snoop unto others what you wouldn’t want snooped about you.
3. “Does this level of investigation cross the line?” For any relationship to go the distance, respect must be maintained, boundaries honored, and honesty adhered to. You need to determine where the line is between sensible information-gathering and suspicious prying. Then stay away from the line. Would the other person shrug off your inquisitiveness or throw a flag for interference? Discern the difference and act accordingly.
4. “Could the energy I spend on snooping be better invested?” If you’re snooping for the forbidden thrill of it, realize that it takes effort to keep your secret searches hidden from your partner. What’s more, that effort can distract you from the real work–and joy–of getting better acquainted through open, honest dialogue.
5. “Am I snooping so I don’t have to be vulnerable and initiate a potentially uncomfortable conversation?” If you are suspicious about something, you may be enticed to do detective work to dig up information. But ask yourself if that is more helpful or harmful than just broaching the subject in a gentle but up-front way. Snooping may in fact circumvent the hard work of honest communication with your partner. If his late nights at the office leave you worried or her lunches with her ex make you nervous, these may be difficult subjects to address, but they are important conversations to have as you work together to build trust and defuse threats to your budding relationship.
The most promising romances begin with openness, honesty, and trust. You can’t control what the other person does—but you can do YOUR part to maintain these three vital qualities.
Have you ever snooped? In retrospect, are you glad you did or would you handle things differently?