Emily Watkins is a professional Millennial (read: precariously employed twenty-something). Each week, she will answer a generation-specific query from the depths of her on-brand existential crisis. This week, our Aunt lets a concerned someone know why snooping on their partner’s phone is never a good idea.
Please send any quandaries, issues, troubles or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org for a good dose of aunt-ing.
My girlfriend keeps ‘liking’ this guy’s Instagram posts, and I suspect there’s something going on between them. I’ve been tempted to read her DMs when she’s asleep or in the shower — she says there’s nothing to worry about and I don’t want to keep bringing it up, but looking would probably put my mind at ease. Do you think it’s ok for me to take a peek, or do I have to leave it?
Every now and then, someone writes in with a problem they’re having with another person – and I am faced with the task of delicately turning them towards a mirror. This, I’m afraid, is one of those times. In some ways, that’s good news – because hey, the problem you were seeking help with is nothing to worry about! But equally, it’s hard to hear – because there is a problem, and it’s you.
But Emily, I hear you cry. She’s messaging another guy! Why else would she be liking his photos? Surely I’m allowed to be concerned. And there, my friend, is that problem I mentioned. You’ve added 1 + 1 and got 12. First, liking photos is just liking photos – maybe she thinks he’s funny, maybe they’re old friends, maybe she likes the cut of his jib. There are lots of reasons that don’t stretch to her fancying him – but let’s say for a moment that she does! So what? Even if you could prove it – what then?
Look, I know this stuff is hard. Hauling your tender little heart out of your chest, handing it to another person and crossing your fingers that they won’t stamp on it, takes real courage – monogamy is a minefield at the best of times, let alone when you’re feeling jittery.
Flashes of jealousy, and dare I say even paranoia, are unfortunately part of the human experience – but that doesn’t make them sacred and valid, quite the opposite. Listen to me, because this is important: you’ve got to eat your worst instincts before they eat you.
As is so often the case, the lines you’re crossing are thin ones indeed – but isn’t that how all dysfunction gets rumbling? It’s fine to be nervous, but not to turn that into a problem for those closest to you. It’s normal to want reassurance, but toxic to break trust to get it. Worst of all, there’s some truth in that old saying: we create what we fear.
I don’t think you’ve got any reason to believe your girlfriend is looking elsewhere, but she will be soon if you don’t stop freaking out. You’ve aired your concerns and she’s reassured you; discovering you snooping through her phone might rightly be the last straw – and on some level, you know that. Otherwise, why do it behind her back?
Without more information, it’s hard for me to understand why you don’t trust your partner – but by insisting on an external solution (message checking) to an internal problem (your jealousy), you’re only postponing addressing the real issue. If you’re honest, I think you know that even if you got into her phone and found nothing awry, it would only be a matter of time until you found another niggle to obsess over.
You can’t prove a negative (what evidence would convince you something isn’t happening?), but you sure can drive yourself mad trying. Do yourself and your girlfriend a favour and drop it.