In the modern age of technology, text messaging can have a powerful affect on any relationship. Who is your spouse texting and what are they texting about? Answers to these questions could lead to peace of mind and maybe even a better marriage. Adversely, knowing what your spouse is texting about could lead to troubles in the marriage or even its end. Ultimately ethics in this case becomes almost relative; is it more wrong to snoop through your mate's text messages or to commit an act of infidelity?
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When it comes to reading your husband's or wife's text messages, one thing must be remembered first and foremost: you can't get caught. The perception (whether accurate or not) of a lack of trust can single-handedly ruin a relationship, not to mention that if you get caught while trying to snoop through your spouse's phone before you've found what you're looking for then you're one hundred percent to blame and your spouse is completely in the clear. Your nosiness may have been somewhat light-hearted and more curious than devious or suspicious but once discovered differences like that can be hard to sell to your spouse.
There's two ideal situations in which to read a spouse's text messages; while they're asleep or while they're in the shower. There may be other times that arise when you can read through your husband's or wife's texts without them being over your shoulder (if they leave for work and forget their phone at home, for example), but always take firmly into account how much risk of getting caught you are taking. If there's any reasonable chance of you being discovered, then you should wait for a better opportunity.
Reading a spouse's cell phone texts is a little bit different for a wife than for a husband, so I'll take a look at both situations separately. As a husband or wife you should be able to look at both sets of suggestions and use them to your advantage, whether in understanding what to do to avoid having your texts read by your spouse (or even by planting “good” texts for them to read) or understanding what to do to read your spouse's texts.
First from a wife's perspective: Men in today's world use texting as a means of courting women, communicating plans with women, and even straight forward dirty talk with women (the term “sexting” having recently been popularized to describe this). Also men often use text messaging to talk very plainly and honestly with their guy friends. For the purpose of spotting possible infidelity, not too much stock should be placed in texts like “so and so is hot” placed to or from your husband's male friends. This is just guy talk and you'd be hard-pressed to find any man, married or not, who doesn't let out steam in this way to his friends at least periodically. Even texts like “can't wait to get to the bar tonight and hit on some chicks” should be taken with a grain of salt for the same reason. You'd be better off letting text messages like that slide than confronting him about it and blowing your spy cover. In this example it'd be fairly easy for your husband to argue that he was just joking and that you are in fact much more in the wrong for going through his personal stuff. In general, it's the texts to and from women that should be analyzed more closely. Texts sent from your husband such as “you're cute” are definitely a suspicious sign, and should push you towards checking his phone at a later time to see where the conversation went from there, but still probably aren't good grounds for confrontation. Obviously “sexting” or texts such as “I had a great time with you last night” are grounds for confrontation.
If you're a man reading your wife's texts, similar ideas apply, but with some exceptions. Women (outside of Sex and the City types) tend not to have the frank bluntness that men do when talking amongst themselves. Where men often talk to each other as if sex is all important, women generally don't like to portray themselves as promiscuous. As such, if your wife's saying “can't wait to get to the bar and get some action” there may be something to worry about. On the other hand, when reading texts to your wife's phone from her guy friends (particularly her single guy friends), you shouldn't be too surprised to see a some mildly flirtatious messages, with “Oh you, hehe” types of responses from your wife. This is anything but an indicator of infidelity; it's just your wife dealing with a game-spitting guy without being mean to him and risking the friendship. Clearly there's a line to be drawn, and your judgment will come into play, but when it's small harmless back and forth there's probably little to be concerned about.
When reading your spouse's texts, always remember to check both sent and received messages. Also be sure to look at the pictures on your husband's or wife's phone. If there are any inappropriate pictures (that you didn't know about) of your spouse or of anyone else among the pictures then chances are good that at least an emotional affair has occurred.
Text messaging has become a staple of modern day communication. It can be used for simple convenient conversation as well as much more devious interactions. Remember that if there's no reason to suspect that your spouse is doing anything wrong, then you should respect their privacy. If you decide to read your husband's or wife's texts and find that they've done nothing wrong, then make it the last time. It's not difficult at all to find yourself on a slippery slope of mistrust that's very difficult to break out of.