• Kristy Gnibus

Is Privacy Dead in Relationships?

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

A new text pops up on the phone next to you. You glance over and try to read it, hoping for some insight into the private conversations of the person with whom you know, or maybe you don’t know at all. Innocent, right? Yet what about in relationships?

In a world full of opportunity and limitless contact, where do we draw the line between what is private and what is open for our loved ones to have access to?

Privacy is a word that we all hear a lot, but nobody really pays much mind to. By definition, privacy is “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs.” That is the general definition, but privacy really means something else entirely when you are talking about your personal privacy in a relationship.

I recently had my email compromised by someone I was close friends with. I must have logged onto their computer at some point, and never logged out (lesson learned), or they figured out some way to get into my email. Either way, I felt exceptionally violated. My private emails were sifted through and read by someone who just couldn’t say no to the information at their fingertips. They went months deep into my personal emails, and I don’t think I will ever trust or feel the same respect as I once did for this person. This was a first for me. This person wasn’t even my significant other, so why? And, if they were, would that have mattered?

How about the series “YOU”? Joe was this dark, romantic, overly involved guy who stole Becks phone to spy on her EVERY MOVE...only slightly creepy until he starts murdering people. Okay, I get this is an exaggerated case made for TV, but it certainly gets you thinking about what you should share on social media, who you should trust, always use passcodes, and for the love of everything good, sign out when you use another persons phone, computer or tablet!

We have seen couples try to ward off temptation by having joint social media accounts, perhaps out of convenience or for the mere reason of trust. Is this comfortable, respectful, or quite the opposite? We can mock or respect their efforts. Yet, all of us at some point have had our phones, computers or documents crept on, or we’ve done the same to others. Maybe it was warranted, maybe it wasn’t. Was what you found worth it? I've been on both sides of the coin, and generally if I feel like I need to look, it's already over.

How in the modern world can we keep our own personal life yet still respect the people we love and care about? It seems so simple, except at every scroll, click, and swipe there are temptations to cheat, spy, and deviate from the acceptable norms of a monogamous and respectful relationship.


I am big on boundaries, in all aspects of your life. They create respect for yourself and accountability for others. I believe that you and your partner should talk about what things you both feel are private to you and should set boundaries. To me, that is not being rude, or secretive – it is being up front. If you set boundaries, then it is easier to respect the person you care about and creates trust between you by respecting your space.

I believe that if you both set boundaries and agree to them regardless of what the specifics are, it can work if you both respect the mutual boundaries that were set. However, the tricky part can be agreeing on them; you may think it’s totally acceptable to pick up your lover's phone and peep it, while your partner may find that to be a complete intrusion of privacy. In my opinion, discussing and compromising is your best bet for success.

Along with setting boundaries, I have always also been a fan of respecting privacy, as it is human nature to glance at a screen or hand someone their phone and look at who is calling. It is quite another thing to deliberately pick up their phone and scroll through without permission.

For myself, privacy is important, yet so is transparency. As soon as I feel the need to invade my loved one's space, or they invade mine, it is time to reevaluate what is really going on.

How many of us out there believe it is acceptable to have access to loved one's personal email, text messages, photos, and other documents? Where do you draw the line?

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