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.

For a treatment of this question from a Jewish legal perspective, please read Do I Have a Right to Read My Spouse’s Texts and Emails?