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Cheating Or Snooping: Which Is Worse?

If you are in a relationship or married, which is worse: cheating or snooping? Is a deep friendship or online flirting, actually cheating?

We relationship therapists get asked this question a lot. Usually first comes the cheating or other betrayal and then comes the snooping. Either way, cheating and snooping are both betrayals of trust.

Cheating is always defined in the eyes of the non-involved partner. If the betrayed feels insecure that there has been some sort of rupture of trust in the relationship, people tend to snoop. When there is security and safety in the relationship people tend not to snoop.

What is healthy to keep private from your romantic partner?

The first step in recovery from infidelity is for the unfaithful spouse to open up their phone and share all the passwords. This is a great way to recover trust. If a person doesn't have anything to hide, they will do this willingly. If, on the other hand they won't, the trauma of infidelity will continue for the non-involved partner. The point is to have complete transparency.

Snooping: Is it wrong? Or is it the right thing to do in marriage?

Consider this: how would you feel if your spouse or significant other wanted to read your emails, text messages, and your internet browsing history? Most of us would cringe a little.

Now, consider if they installed tracking devices, key logger on your phone, or GPS in your car to determine your whereabouts at all times without your knowledge. I think most people would agree that this example could possibly be an invasion of privacy.

People do this when they are trying to figure out their reality. Remember that the non-involved partner has been lied to repeatedly. Their loved one told them they weren't having an affair, but it still feels that way to the betrayed person. I have seen people do this when the involved person's behaviors indicate there is something still going on. In an article on Huffington Post:

Cyber-snooping constitutes, in my view, a second betrayal, and this begs the rhetorical question: do two wrongs make a right? Leon Walker, 33, is a Michigan man who faces five years in prison, if convicted, for allegedly hacking into his wife's e-mail, when he suspected her of cheating. Not surprisingly, Walker and his wife are now divorced... It got me thinking not so much about the legal or even ethical ramifications of cyber-snooping, but about the issue of spying on one's partner from a relationship perspective. Personally, I don't think spying on a partner's e-mail account should ever be punishable by law -- not because it isn't a violation of privacy, but because it's really more a violation of trust, which is a relationship issue, not a legal one. (read the full article on

Understanding The Motivations Of Snooping

Snooping results when there hasn't been transparency about the affair. Sometimes emotional affairs are worse than physical affairs because of the emotional connection made. This can cause a lot of unease in the betrayed partner and slow down the recovery process.

There's an interesting analysis I came across on a Subreddit:

Snooping — what is it really? Your cheating spouse showed you, finally after D-Day broke over you in waves of anguish, that they are someone who would choose to keep secrets from you.
They are someone who would intentionally lie to protect their secrets, and they valued their secrets more than they valued you.
In order to ever trust them, at all, again, you need to see that they would be willing to stop fucking keeping secrets from you. That's what transparency is all about. Mostly you want this to be spontaneous, owned by the person who cheated to make constant and active efforts to demonstrate their addressing past selfish and cowardly secret keeping.
Sometimes though you just want to check and make sure, what with all the intentional lying your most intimate parter choose to do. Usually repeatedly. That isn't snooping, that's checking for secret keeping. It would be like sweeping for empties with a recovering alcoholic. (

Infidelity Stats By The Numbers

In a previous article on Evolve Therapy (, we noted some interesting stats:

  • 25% of the couples seeking counseling have encountered cheating.

  • 1 in 3 marriages are unfaithful.

  • 0% of affair partners go on to marry each other.

  • If affair partners marry, that new marriage has only a 25% chance of survival.

  • 10% of affairs are a one-time experience.

  • 10% of affairs last just a month.

  • Sex is not typically why people have affairs.

This is confirmed by several other case studies.

According to, "over 60% of all marriages experience infidelity, one of the most painful experiences a betrayed spouse can have in life." (Read the full article here:

How To Heal After A Spouse's Infidelity While Respecting Their Privacy

Healing a marriage from infidelity requires transparency from both partners. Forgiveness is one of the most important elements in the process of emotional recovery.

Snooping is addictive and doesn't really help form trust. Better to talk with your partner about your fears. If you are in couples therapy, bring up the mistrust in session.

Snooping doesn't solve any problems and doesn't bring couples closer. Affair recovery is about learning to talk and get closer. If you are snooping to get reassurance it is better to ask for it directly.

What are the stages of recovery from infidelity?

Recovery from infidelity and building trust is a process and usually takes 18 months to 2 years to recover and move into forgiveness. People often ask what the stages are. These stages are the same for physical and emotional affairs.

The website outlines the stages of infidelity recovery.

These stages are:

  1. analyzing your relationship and the affair

  2. evaluating the purpose and basis of your relationship

  3. addressing underlying issues

  4. establishing a clear path to recovery

While the stages of recovery might differ from one couple of the next, the goal remains the same. If the couples are to survive, they must work with each other to bring about forgiveness and healing.

While the need for forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to stay in the marriage, but then, it is as important for your partner as it is for you.

The first stage of recovering from an unfaithful partner:

The first stage is the point where you critically analyze your relationship and the affair. Here, you need to examine your relationship carefully and what led to the affair.

  • Why did it happen?

  • What problems led to it?

  • Is it possible and are we willing to fix the problem?

The truth is that there is a reason the affair occurred, whether it makes sense to you or even your partner, or not.

You and your partner need to sit together with your therapist to analyze your relationship and try to uncover what the next steps will be — stay together or break apart?

The second stage to recovering from being cheated on:

During this stage, it's important to rediscover and evaluate the purpose and the basis of your relationship. Taking an honest look at the relationship will help you make constructive decisions.

Consider if you want to stay with your spouse or not, and what the future condition of your relationship might look like.

The third stage of recovering from infidelity:

In the third stage, you work on uncovering the deeper issues, because an affair, most of the time points at some underlying issues – like depression, loss of passion, substance abuse, or past traumas that may not have been paid attention to.

Infidelity doesn't just happen, and you may need the help of an experienced therapist. Seeking the help of a therapist may help they can help uncover issues you may not know how to articulate. You won't be able to move past the infidelity and rebuild your marriage and your life.

There is the point where you address the pain and the heartache that the affair has caused you. This is particularly important because until you do so, you won't be able to move past what has happened and move on with your life.

You need to express to your partner how their actions make you feel, do not hold back what you feel.

This is critical to your healing and this stage must be done with the help of a therapist who can help you process the roller coaster of emotions that you are feeling and how to deal with them and move forward.

The fourth stage to recovering from infidelity:

Recovery timeline/plan. Whether you have decided on staying in the marriage or leaving, you must give yourself time.

Draft a timeline; take as long time as is needed depending on the depth of the emotional pain and other factors.

Allow yourself to heal, because only then can you make informed and healthy decisions concerning the next step for the marriage and yourself.

is the stage of forgiveness and healing. This is mostly the hardest stage because it can be tough to forgive someone who has betrayed your trust and hurt you so badly.

This stage is important for both of you, and the process can differ depending on the people involved and the circumstances of the infidelity and, generally, the marriage.

Forgiveness may not necessarily mean you have to remain with your spouse. However, it will help you get over all the negative feelings like disappointment, fear, betrayal, anger - which you feel when you remember what your partner has done.

This stage is important for the two parties involved, whether they decide to remain together.


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