Last weekend I went to a party with some friends, and the next day my boyfriend asked how it was. I hadn't mentioned the party to him, but it turns out he read it in my calendar! He told me that he knew my password and had been reading my email for months. I was floored and pissed. He said it was no big deal, that he was just seeing if I was being straight with him. He also said he didn’t have any secrets and offered to let me read his email anytime I wanted. I'm seriously thinking of ending the relationship over this but am not sure if I'm overreacting. Is this common?
He Said: When it comes to trust, people usually fall into three groups: those who are suspicious of everyone, those who don’t trust new people until they prove themselves, and those who naturally trust others until proven wrong. Your boyfriend was wrong to read your calendar and email. Period. If he was suspicious of you, he should have had enough integrity to be honest about his feelings instead of acting like he trusted you while he hacked your account. But before you make any decisions about breaking up with him, ask yourself what group he falls into. Is he suspicious of everyone, only people he doesn’t know very well (assuming you guys are a fairly new couple), or just you?
As a sidetone, it does sound a little strange that you made absolutely no mention to your boyfriend in passing of going to a party. If you were my girlfriend, that would perk up my ears. But I wouldn't crack your accounts to find out about it. Bottom line: I don't know if his suspicions about you are warranted. But I don't think this one incident is a deal breaker. Tell your boyfriend that if he has any doubts about your feelings for him, he should ask you directly, not spy on you. And while it’s not a good idea to partner with someone who thinks everyone is out to get them, you can usually overcome lesser levels of suspicion.
She Said: Well, I have two takes on this, one from your side and one from his. I'll start with yours. What he did was wrong, and since you were "floored and pissed" enough to want to end things, you need to be very clear that he can't do it again or you'll break up with him. Some couples do read each other's emails (it sounds like he'd be fine with that). Some even share accounts. You can set any level of openness you like in the relationship. But to secretly dig up your password and then hack into your account was just plain wrong and a violation of privacy. Having had some experience with this issue personally, I know that peoples' views on privacy vary greatly, so use this experience to clearly state where your boundaries are and give him one more chance, now that it's all out on the table.
I advocate for another chance because I've been in your boyfriend's shoes. I've read emails—and, I'm sorry to say, even journals—that I had no right to read. Did I know it was wrong? Yes. But the emotional, semi-subconscious temptation to find out what you may suspect when no one's looking can be very strong. One partner, who himself held to a strict moral code but was fairly unshakable when it came to putting up with my antics, let it go. Another, who also had a strict moral code and expected the same of me, told me in no uncertain terms that if I did it again, we were through. I can tell you from experience that if you care about your partner, and you get that message, you will avoid the temptation to violate their privacy in the future. So give him another chance—and don't tempt him by letting him know your new password.
Confused? Heartbroken? Send your submissions to email@example.com