When 920 middle-aged couples in the UK were questioned:
- 10% of wives said they secretly checked their husbands’ Internet browsing history (vs. 7% of husbands).
- 14% of wives said they read their husbands’ e-mails (vs. 8% of husbands).
- 13% of wives said they checked text messages (vs. 6% of husbands).
The study, published in Computers and Human Behavior, demonstrated that women are more likely to be concerned about their own and their partner’s behavior when it comes to the Internet, and women are more likely to secretly monitor their partner’s online activities.
In a recent survey, we found that about 30% of men who use our Accountability Service volunteer to have their Internet reports sent to their wives. For some, this is the ultimate deterrent to going somewhere online they shouldn’t go, and this helps to keep temptation at bay. For others, it is a gesture to their spouse that says, “My life is wide open to you. I have no secrets.”
But for some wives, regularly checking on their husband’s Internet history can become an obsession that brings harm to their relationship (regardless of what is discovered, good or bad).
In a recent podcast we asked several sex/relationship experts their thoughts about this. Dr. Mark Laaser, of Faithful and True Ministries, points out the slippery slope of spousal accountability. Many women, he says, have often found “they sometimes get into controlling their husband’s behavior” when they are always checking in on their Internet activities. Amy Smalley, of Smalley Marriage and Family, says she sees this tendency in women quite a bit—when the need to build trust turns into an obsessive curiosity. These obsessive thoughts often feed unforgiveness or a desire to control or manipulate, she says. Joe Dallas, of Genesis Counseling, similarly says when a wife is engaged in accountability on a deep level with her husband “it puts the wife in a rather maternal position,” which he thinks is very unhealthy for a marriage.
Building Trust with Your Spouse
When it comes to surfing the Internet, temptations abound. There’s always tempting images to feast your eyes upon. There are always flirtatious interactions to engage in. So how can couples build trust and accountability without leading to unhealthy probing that leads to tension?
- Volunteer your Internet history. Never make it a habit, no matter how benign the activity, to hide what you are doing from your spouse. Never make the places you go, the things you see, the people you talk to, or the time you spend a secret thing. These are habits that might give way to bigger secrets down the road. Talk with your spouse about subscribing to Covenant Eyes and having your Accountability Report sent to him/her. Sometimes just volunteering this will begin building trust.
- Leverage the power of friends. For some women (or men), they know having access to a spouse’s Internet history is a temptation to be obsessive or controlling. Instead, find someone who is a trusted friend to both of you, someone who can receive your spouse’s Accountability Reports and encourage them in their commitment to integrity.