Are you so afraid of being hurt again that you constantly survey your environment for signs of infidelity and secrets? While playing detective might give you a temporary feeling of control, in the long run it sabotages your peace of mind and your relationships. Here’s why.
Whether you’re with the same partner or a new one, playing detective is an unhealthy coping mechanism you may turn to after being hurt in love. It makes sense given that snooping is probably the way you originally realized you had a problem.
Snooping is how I discovered that my marriage was in trouble. I had a feeling something was off, and I didn’t trust my husband to tell me the whole truth. So instead of sitting with the discomfort and addressing it in couple’s therapy, I took matters into my own hands.
I launched an investigation that uncovered evidence enough for me to feel confident in ending the marriage. I ran, felt betrayed to the core, and freely shared my version of what happened.
When the Tables Turn
About a year later, I got a taste of my own medicine. Someone took an interest in me and started watching me. The person gathered information from their observations and turned it into a horrible story about me, which they believed to be absolutely true. When confronted with this story, all I could do was laugh. I could see how they had arrived at some of their conclusions, but they were off. They didn’t have it right and had taken the liberty of assuming the worst about me.
Fast-forward to a year later and despite my intellectual understanding of how details can be taken out of context, I still couldn’t let go. I found myself replaying events from my marriage and trying to decode what really happened. I applied my newfound detective skills to each new romantic relationship I entered—especially the ones that mattered the most.
Getting to Ah-Ha
An intellectual understanding of how toxic snooping can be was not enough for me. Instead I had to wait for my trust issues to come to a head.
It happened the night that my boyfriend at the time willingly uploaded a backup of his phone to my computer so that I could help him extract some data. Like any self-respecting survivor of infidelity, I proceeded to extract his requested information and then explored the rest of his phone in the midnight hours. I found something concerning and immediately showed him what I found.
After three hours of conversation and a night of minimal sleep, I realized that I had put him through the ringer for a conversation from months ago that occurred between the two of us rather than some random third party. Once we figured it out, his heart stopped pounding and he asked if I was okay.
I burst into tears and replied, “Did I end my marriage over doing stupid stuff like this?”
There were very real things that led to the end of my marriage. But I acknowledge that I’ll never know exactly what happened, and the worst-case scenario that I so freely shared in the early days may not be 100% true.
That night was a big turning point in my trust issues. I learned that spying on your significant other is a great way to start a fight and possibly end a relationship whether your partner is guilty or not. Despite his self-professed faults, the man I was dating was being faithful to me and I was the one driving myself nuts by snooping through details. That’s when I realized I needed to let go—let go of my victim mindset from my failed marriage, my need to control and prevent future hurt, and my obsession with snooping that was getting in the way of my ability to live in peace.
There comes a point when you must let go of all the junk in the storage box of your past. Sorting through the details of what happened may or may not be helpful or even possible. And in present relationships, the only person you can control is you. What people choose to put forward in their interactions with you is their business. Letting go of all the clutter that was never yours to take care of in the first place makes room for things like forgiveness, healing, and new life—things you may not be able to imagine having space for right now.
Choose a New Way
Changing the instincts you’ve acquired as a result of your past is hard work. You have to choose new thoughts and do new things in the face of temptations and overwhelming impulses. You have to trust that you’ll see what you need to see when you need to see it. You have to trust yourself to recognize when you’re not being treated the way you deserve and learn how to ask for what you need.
I know this isn’t the end of my trust issues, but it’s a significant step forward in releasing the story of my past and embracing my unfolding future. I’m sure there will be more instances when I observe details and assume the worst. What I’m hoping for is to develop a way of being based on the ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness: Ho’oponopono.
In Ho’oponopono, you repeat the mantra “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” as a form of mental and spiritual cleaning. I also love a modified mantra from spiritual coach Nicole Oman that is more specific and relevant to someone with trust issues. When I notice something that concerns me, I want to feel free to talk about it with my partner and say “I’m sorry. Please forgive me for having that idea. Thank you for taking care of it. I love you.”
How is snooping getting in the way of your healing process? Is it distracting you from something else that needs your attention?