Spying in the name of love

Thirty-three percent of dating couples and 37 percent of spouses — slightly more women than men — say they have checked their partner's email or call history on the sly, according to a survey last year by the gadget shopping site Retrevo.com, which queried more than 1,000 people online. Among those under 25, almost half reported snooping. Just 9 percent discovered evidence of cheating. (Tribune illustration / January 24, 2012)

It's unfair to project insecurities or baggage from prior betrayals onto an innocent partner and go searching for faults, Young said. Innocuous material can easily be misinterpreted. And hypervigilance can be controlling and push someone away.

If, however, trust has been breached, privacy goes out the window and it falls to the betrayer to make their life an open book, Young said. He or she should proactively announce who just texted during dinner or just friended them on Facebook, and allow phones and email accounts to be snooped, to earn back the trust broken. It's best if the transparency is voluntary, not a penance that feels like a parent checking up on a bad child, which invites rebellion, Young said.

Jill, a 47-year-old Houston woman who asked that her last name not be published to protect her family, said she felt like a 5-year-old having to account for her every move after her husband discovered her yearlong affair, but she knew it was necessary to save her marriage.

"I think anyone who is capable of lying, being deceitful and ruining somebody's life, you damn well better put your cellphone on the counter, you damn well better hand over your passwords, and you damn well better shut your mouth," said Jill, who with her husband founded Survivinginfidelity.com, an online support group.

Jill believes snooping is justified if your gut is screaming at you that something's wrong; the vast majority of the 34,000 registered members in her group discovered infidelity by spying on cellphones, emails or Facebook accounts, she said. Her own husband confronted her with more than 10,000 emails between her and a man she'd met on a website; her original intention was to flirt, not to launch a physical affair.

"I knew it was wrong every time my husband would walk in and I would shut my laptop," Jill said. "It snowballed before I even realized I was on the slopes."

Masterson, now divorced, said she and her new boyfriend have found a healthy balance between transparency and privacy. She said she would happily hand over her cellphone if he asked, as would he, though she would be angry if he peeked behind her back.

Most important, she tells him everything, especially about any "light friendships" with other men. Whereas she used to consider that her private business, she now prefers openness.

"That's a slippery slope I don't walk anymore," she said.


Your partner doesn't have to know everything

Your journals. Your hobbies. Your box of old love letters. Friends' confidences. Family dramas. They're no one's business but your own — and sometimes it's healthiest to keep it that way.

Iris Krasnow, a journalist who interviewed 200 women for her book "The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married" (Gotham), said the happiest spouses were those who maintained a separate identity, some by taking separate summer vacations from their spouse, others by keeping their "soulful secrets" — dreams about what they want to do or be, thoughts about the fabric of their lives — to themselves.

Having fulfilling friendships with both sexes also breeds happiness, she said — including flirting (with boundaries), to get that shot of flattery that you can take back home.

"It takes a village to make a happy person," Krasnow said. "I have so many great men friends, I just make sure my husband loves them, too."

— A.E.R.