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Should My Husband's Text Messages Be Private?

Should My Husband's Text Messages Be Private?

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Question:

Are text messages private? My husband and I have a major disagreement over this. He gets furious when I lookHe gets furious when I look at his phone at his phone, saying I have no business reading his private messages. I feel that as a married couple we should have nothing to hide from each other. I am not saying I am at all suspicious of him, I completely trust him. But should his inbox be totally out of bounds to me?

Answer:

The answer to your quandary is right there in front of you—on your finger. Just look at your wedding ring.

A ring represents the ideal relationship. It wraps itself snugly around the finger. It has to fit securely, otherwise it will fall off and get lost. But at the same time, a well-fitted ring should not cramp the finger. It can't be so tight as to cut off circulation. A comfortable ring will hug the finger, not strangle it.

This delicate balance of holding on tight, but not too tight, is the balance required in a marriage. Being married means being intimate. When we are in love, we want to embrace our spouses on all levels, surrounding them with care and showering them with affection. We want to share every experience and explore every layer of their being. We want to hold them tight and be there for them every second of the day.

But this devotion can go overboard. What starts as inclusion can become intrusion. If we smother each other to the point where lines distinguishing us are blurred, when we invade the private space of the other to the point where nothing is sacred, we have drifted from being loving to being over-bearing, from supporting to squashing.

Even loving partners need space.We want to share every experience Not everything has to be shared, and not all that is mine is yours. For me to maintain my dignity and my identity, I need to protect a certain level of privacy, a domain that is mine and mine alone.

Every couple has to find the balance between intimacy and privacy that is right for them. Some couples share one email account and are fine with that. Others would find that stifling. Your husband has shared with you where he draws his line. You feel differently.

But if, as you write, you indeed trust him, then his wishes deserve to be respected. Be like a wedding ring—tight enough to be intimate, loose enough to give some space. He doesn't want to feel like he's being bugged, he wants to feel like he's being hugged.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Rex Yeagley Washington August 30, 2017

The answer is only half right, in this article. The fact is that a woman or man should be able to trust their spouse wholeheartedly. But, this man who won't even allow his wife to see his messages? What's he hiding? Any trustworthy spouse would allow his or her spouse to read their email, letters, messages, and so forth. I trust my wife and she trusts me. And we allow each other to see anything we care to see. Everyone knows that people want things that they cannot have, such as in this case. This looks suspicious and makes her suspicious. Whoever answered this article needs to learn to answer a question like this better. An open book is just that. When you speak of privacy, that stuff should be what goes on in the bedroom, or the bathroom. All marriages should be an open book to each other. Reply

Guy Minnesota August 30, 2017
in response to Rex Yeagley:

"Whoever answered this article needs to learn to answer a question like this better." I don't think that the criterion here is that the Rabbi answer the question the way you want. I have been married to my wife for 32 years. If I asked to see her texts, she would say "no," and I would say the same to her. We have a joint email, but we also have private ones that we don't share with each other. We love each other dearly, therefore we don't need to meddle. Your opinions are your own. Good for you. Your litmus test for trustworthiness is yours, and it wouldn't be one that we share. One of my five children is divorced from a woman like this. She started wanting to see his texts, then started receiving them on her phone, then had him give her access to all his social media, so she could monitor them, then had him put tracking software on his phone, and then made him quit his job because women also worked there. After this, I would never let her touch my phone. It is assur. Reply

Rex Washington September 6, 2017
in response to Guy:

You see, that's the problem, there is no trust whatsoever. Once someone with this sort of attitude and really non trust then they tend to go overboard. When I say that my life, as it should be, is an open book, to my wife that's what it is. We trust each other and have no reason not too. So, what's the deal, you talk about a joint email, then separate. You asked to see her emails, she says, "No." Why? What's the problem? Does she give you any indication of a secretive life? Maybe? When she says no, does that not make you, even in the slightest, curious? What is she hiding? You say, sometimes that neither of you should meddle. Is that meddling? I don't think so. Apparently husbands and wives tend to not be that person their partner thinks they are. My wife would open up her email, text messages and everything, as I would to her. We have nothing to hide. Beware of those who say no to your wanting to see their "private" thoughts. Reply

Anonymous AZ August 29, 2017

Why do I think it would be a pleasure to please my wife by opening my text messages to her? Reply

Anonymous August 28, 2017

I always trusted my spouse, and never looked at his phone. We had a great relationship...or so I thought. If I had, I would have seen that he was cheating on me with multiple women for about half of our 23 year marriage Reply

Nechama Jerusalem August 28, 2017

Torah Source for Privacy in Communication Rabbenu Gershom ben Yehuda, known as Me'or haGolah, made a takanna about 1000 years ago that is considered binding as a Cherem d'Oraisa (to help prevent rechilus) that it is assur to look at someone's private correspondence. This applies between husband and wife as well as between business partners, etc. It applies between parent and child unless the parent has reason to believe that his/her child is in danger as a result of the communications. Questionable as to whether it applies to a postcard. With today's technology, it would seem obvious that it applies to sms's, email, etc. but not to something posted publicly Reply

Lisa Providence, RI June 10, 2017

You should only invade your husband's privacy if you have reason to believe he's lying or cheating on you. Reply

Zalman Earth March 20, 2017

Bh. I agree wish what Moshe said. And I've seen this many times....

If someone is getting a response from a rabbi it should be a torah response. If possible backed up with sources. If torah doesn't say anything about it or if the rabbi doesn't know whether the torah said something then it should be clear that that is the case.

I don't disagree necessarily with the response, but torah is Hashem's knowledge not human made. So the rabbi should be delivering that message if he can.

Thanks, I hope this is taken in the right spirit.

Basically I'm saying let's hear what does torah says. Thanks Reply

Sheldon Steinlauf Park Ridge June 11, 2017
in response to Zalman:

Well said. Reply

Cyrus "makes everything about ethics" Alexander February 26, 2017

He gets to exist as a whole person--and he's not the only person there Aside from the fact that her husband deserves to have private conversations the same way he (presumably) can enter a room with a friend without wearing a wire, any interaction he has involves someone else, too.

Even if we assume marriage means eternal consent--a prior we have to work with to deal with this argument as advanced by some commenters, but I disagree--if he's having conversations, there's someone else who didn't marry her, who even in that world didn't consent.

If my friendships are anything to judge by, there's half a dozen friends asking for relationship advice in confidence, needing someone to sit with them through crisis, brainstorming an essay they're worried will come out hurtful. None of them consented.

A bubble where someone can't reach out for advice is how abuse happens even when love is there too. Would she see "Sarah, can I ask you for advice? My wife and I are fighting over my phone, and I..." as him sharing her desire for resolution--or as subtle infidelity? Reply

Anonymous February 24, 2017

Essentially I agree with the rabbi's advice. You can't own people. But I married when the world was a much more simple place with no internet and smartphones. There was probably less reasons to be anxious whether you're husband or a wife, or parents for that matter.
It used to be that a person's belongings belongs to him or her, even if it was a family/wife/husband there is a certain respect you have for personal boundaries , and you ask if you want to see or use something. That sense of space has probably changed now also because of social media, I don't know. I also think that a dishonest person will betray you whether you control him/her or not, and fidelity depends on the person's inner locus of control/morality that is not dependent on someone else. Perhaps the Questioner here might communicate with her spouse directly and come to some agreement that both can be happy with long term. It'll be more effective than interacting with his phone. Reply

Alee Groves Macon February 22, 2017

Don't agree at all. Reply

shelly atlanta August 29, 2017
in response to Alee Groves:

I don't agree at all either. My phone and computer are open to my husband at all times. His are open to me. And because there is no secrecy, we have no reason to look. But, if we wanted to look, it's perfectly ok. Reply

Rex Washington September 14, 2017
in response to shelly:

Now that's what I'm talking about! Trust between husband and wife! We're the same way. I know she's not doing anything she shouldn't so why should i want to look. However, If I ever wanted to there would be no problem.
Thank you for your reply! :) Reply

Anonymous February 21, 2017

Do not agree. So, in other words, she is not entitled to that re-assurance that she obviously needs from her husband? Nice. I think it goes without saying that if a wife needs that re-assurance, then her husband needs to respect that about her as well and not leave her hanging with uncertainty. Reply

Anonymous February 20, 2017

Think positive What if he has been planning your surprise birthday party, or something special for you? Perhaps this is the reason he needs his messages to be private? Reply

Jay from ny Ny February 20, 2017

I'm going to have to agree with Ali from UK on this one... Hiding things from eachother only encourages more dishonesty. Privacy and individuality is important, but why ebcourage living a second life? Reply

Anonymous February 20, 2017

What happen to nothing is hidden in a marriage? Reply

Sheldon Steinlauf Park Ridge September 18, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

If you type it, own it. People who fail to identify themselves should be ignored. Reply

Ellen Israel February 19, 2017

One of the most freeing aspects of getting out divorced was not having to deal with a husband doing his businessto pornography. Especially when I was a creative and involved wife. When does not looking at a message become looking the other way? Reply

Sheldon Steinlauf Park Ridge, IL February 19, 2017

Keeping it to the polnt. The response could have been reduced to two short paragraphs. Reply

Moshe NY February 19, 2017

Surprises How else is he supposed to plan you surprise parties and such?
If you do trust him & he deserves that trust, then that's probably what he's doing when he's hiding things.

But rabbi Aaron, when I come to chabad.org I want to hear the Torah approach,not just some logical advice? Is there some Torah source that sheds light on this question? Reply

Anonymous February 19, 2017

Transparency A relationship without transparency is not a relationship. Reply

Ali UK February 19, 2017

I certainly believe that he should not hide anything, just like the wedding ring, be apparent on the finger and it isn't hidden. If one truly loves then he isn't afraid to show his or her phone, nor should they get frustatred because what is there to hide? You should be open like the scent of love that always flourishes from the couple.
From a Muslim Reply

Pinchas Johannesburg February 19, 2017

Amazing Brilliant Insight. With time and intimacy, as the relationship develops, after years, (in my case decades), this level reaches the point of absolute connection and unity. Reply

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