Reader Question of the Week: Is it Trust or Accountability?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Every weekend I like to throw up a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question is about trust in marriage and accountability.

I have noticed a lot of discussion among my friends for years about how much “keeping an eye” on your spouse is “normal” or healthy. One of my friends thinks that if you don’t go thru emails, text messages, and even the finances looking for odd dinners, etc. then you are just naive and stupid. Another friend says it shows lack of trust to check up on your spouse. But what do you and your readers think? Where does healthy accountability end and paranoid spying begin?

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Don’t forget this summer: The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex makes a great gift for any woman about to get married!

Comments

  1. I trust my husband and respect his privacy. I leave the convicting to the Lord. If he wants me to hold him accountable for something, I gladly do that but a marriage built on suspicion instead of trust seems very unhealthy to me.
    Lori recently posted…Lovers Of PleasureMy Profile

  2. That’s a good question! I haven’t really thought about it too much in my own marriage–we know each other’s passwords for email and facebook, and we also tend to just leave those things up on the computer, so it’s very common for us to see each other’s “private” stuff. We also both tend to be a little nosy, so if we happen to see an interesting subject line, it’s no problem with either of us to open it up and see what it’s about.

    As for the finances, if you have only joint accounts, and you’re on a budget, so you know where all the money should be going anyway, then routine budget making, combined with routine categorizing of money spent (“Hey, Sweetheart, I see that you took $100 out of the bank–what’d you use it for?” and balancing of the accounts, ensures that there are no financial secrets. I guess it’s possible that one of us could get up to something with our discretionary money (we each have money that we can use for whatever we want without clearing it with each other first), but even that has to be shown coming out of the budget/checking account, so it would be harder to not raise suspicions. There is an element of trust there, but a marriage completely devoid of trust isn’t healthy anyway. Of course the financial part only works if you *both* take a role in managing the finances, but I think that’s important anyway in case something unexpected and tragic happens–you both need to know the current status of your finances, where to find all financial information, and how to understand the budgeting and record-keeping system you’re using, so it makes sense to both have a role in keeping the records, even if it’s just looking over it all once in a while to approve the budget the other made.
    Deborah recently posted…My Name is DeborahMy Profile

  3. I think it very much depends on the spouse. My husband is trustworthy, so I don’t check up on him. If he were to confess a weakness, I’d offer him my eyeballs to keep him accountable, but until he shows some sign of needing that, I’ll not insult him by demanding a peek at his browser history or whatever. If I were to ask, I’m sure he’d hand over the passwords to anything I want to see. A man who has more of a past (or present) problem might need more help, though.
    Cindy recently posted…What Good is Dad in a Hillbilly Homeschool?My Profile

  4. Oh gosh…I think the most important thing is for spouses to be open with each other so you know how much you need to “keep an eye on things” for the sake of accountability. My husband and I know all of each other’s passwords for things like email and Facebook, so while we have separate accounts we could access them if we ever needed to. I’ve never felt that need. And I am very involved in our finances so I don’t worry about him doing anything shady that I wouldn’t know about. There are no secrets between us (except the fun kind like surprises) and he’s never given me a reason not to trust him.

    None of what I say is to brag or make it look like we’re perfect. Heck, we’ve only been married five years, we’re still figuring this thing out! LOL What we’ve learned so far, though, is how important it is to be honest about our struggles, to both be in tune with God and praying for each other. Those things go a long way towards trust.
    Melissa recently posted…I think…My Profile

  5. So, what do you do when that trust *has* been violated, but the other partner doesn’t want to give passwords, ability to check on the credit cards, etc.? It dawned on me last night I’m not in a healthy situation & started inquiring of God what to do. (BTW, I came to the Lord 2 years into my marriage; my husband still has not, so we are unequally yoked. We’ve been married 18 years this August.) Now what?

    • Naomi, I have been where you are. The trust was violated. Initially, some accountability was set up; but slowly the passwords began to be reset, the phone began to be hidden or glued to his side, and refusals of accountability in general began to increase. In my humble opinion, a marriage can’t survive that way. Trust is vital. Obviously prayer needs to be a top priority. After that, I would suggest counseling. Like others have said, that attitude of of sneakiness or unwillingness to be open, is an indicator that something is being hidden. I would not suggest letting it go.
      Heather recently posted…Not Just A New ChapterMy Profile

    • Check out this website for some encouragement on being unequally yoked.

    • Trina Serrano says:

      I am and have been in the same situation. I have no idea what to do on a daily basis. I find myself thinking all the time about divorce. I honestly don’t trust him and I don’t know if I could ever trust him.

    • Naomi, I’ve been there and I can only offer you one piece of advice…you’ve got to hand your marriage over to God and surrender all your fears and pain to him. God is the only one who can rebuild that which is destroyed. Also, for a couple of really wonderful mentors and a great support group, check out Lynn and Dineen”s website “www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com”. These ladies will bless and inspire you! May God be with you in this.

  6. This is tough. I never felt the need to “watch” my husband. Late nights on the computer never bothered me – we were in an exteremly stressful situation and my husband just couldn’t sleep – at least he didn’t keep me awake.
    In a seriously deep conversation about if we were where God wanted us, if we even believed in God, and what we were going to do next, my husband. confessed to looking at things he shouldn’t, the shock of the moment really left me unable to say anything. I asked if he had asked God’s forgiveness, he said yes. I asked if he still looked, he said no. And I shrugged and said ok. I didn’t know what else to do!
    Almost a full year later the subject came up again – he was ashamed, still, over his actions. And upset that I hadn’t gotten more angry. I explained I hadn’t known what to say. I had trusted him, I had felt no need to check up on him, especially since he had put safeguards in place.
    But you know, he had passwords to those safeguards.
    Now I have a watch program on our computer – and we both have the password. Which means, yeah, we can still get around it, but we can’t delete a browser history without the other needing it.
    I’m very happy to report that since that horrible conversation, God has moved in our lives, has shown his face and placed us in a much better place where our faith is nurtured and growing, still being strenghthened through testing – but not ripped to shreds through storms.
    Our marriage is better, my husband is healthier in all the ways you can be, and so am I.

    I still trust my husband. I rarely check our browser history on our watch program. But I think we both learned that each other is human, and in extreme situations, we fail. And we love each other more for it. And we take care of each other more for it – I am much more willing to do those risque things that used to embarass me because I know my husband wants to see ME doing things JUST for HIM – and I want to keep his full attention. ;)

    We’ll be married 9 years this summer – and I trust and love him more than the day we were married.
    Its ok to trust and not be ever-watchful, but talk with your husband, be completly honest with each other – you may be surprised what you learn and how wonderful it can make things.

  7. That’s a very good question! My husband and I have been married for 28 years, and the internet and media age came upon us slowly. At first, it was easy to check his history every once in a while, or peek at his emails (all of which he encourages.) But now, with cell phones, multiple email accounts (one for spam, one for business, etc. etc.) it’s nearly impossible!

    There are a few factors to this: One is that I trust him, but I don’t trust his sin nature. Just like me – I trust me, kinda, but I put up barriers in my life because I don’t trust my sin nature. And it’s the same with my children – I may trust them, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have rules, or that we don’t check up on them every once in awhile.

    Another factor I think for me is the attitude I sense from my husband. He encourages me to check up on him; he wants me to be his accountability partner. If I sense a reluctance for me to check on his stuff, then that’s a problem. If my children balk at my requests to look on their computers, it’s a signal that there really is something I should check on.

    Those who are newly saved, or have unbelieving husbands should proceed with caution, for sure. Remember it is through your changed life that they come to the Lord, not through your inspection of their activities.

    My conclusion is that, since it would be impossible to check everything, there must be some measure of trust, but the attitude is the real indicator of a problem. And, Sheila, I believe just like you do – being offensive in getting and keeping my man’s heart is the best defense!

    Great question!

    Lisa
    www. TheCourageousJourney.com
    Lisa recently posted…Couch Potatoes, Arise!My Profile

  8. I can’t imagine feeling the need to check up on my wife like that. Moreover, I would feel pretty shocked if she felt the need to pour over my internet history and everything else with me.

    I can understand it if trust has been violated, but when it has not, it would feel much more like she is treating me like a six year old. I married her so she could be my companion, lover, and friend… not my mother or my jailer. If she wanted to check up on me, so be it, but I’d *REALLY* want to know what’s going on that makes her feel like it’s necessary. Paranoia isn’t attractive in a spouse and one persons “keeping accountable” can be somebody else’s “psycho hose beast,” and that line can get crossed pretty quickly when there’s not been any violation of the marriage bond to rouse suspicion.

  9. Heather P says:

    My first thought after reading the post was that I have no room to comment, because I am in a marriage relationship that is very strained. However, I would like to point out that when one spouse is continually checking on how much the other spends and not allowing certain things to happen, that is considered not trusting. Thus, my marriage. It creates tension and tiptoeing in the relationship. Not a good thing. BUT GOD is love and can bring good out of it some how.

  10. securelydesired says:

    My husband is my IT guy – so we both know where all the passwords are for all our accounts – he insists on it “just in case”. That said, even if it wasn’t the case, I think I’d like him to know I could check if I wanted, but only if I had a concern would I bother. It also helps that we both have laptops and sit across room from each other typing away. I know what he’s doing and he knows what I’m doing. I’m also now blessed with a very trustworthy husband.

    In my previous relationship there was online pornography use, and I’d find myself “sneaking up on him” to get a peek at his computer screen. I did not like how that felt at all…

    I also have friends who have suffered through EXTREME unfaithfulness and mistrust (both physical and financial), and in that situation the passwords were changed, phones hidden – the whole bit. I thank God that she did have the ability to prove her suspicions. We differ in our definition of accountability in this case though. She says she has now forgiven him and no longer needs to “check up” – but I think, if it was me in that situation, I would maintain the demand for accountability for a good long time and there would be routine checks made.
    Isn’t it ‘funny’ how from the outside looking in, sometimes we are much slower to “forgive and forget” than the person who has been wronged?

  11. Julia Wells says:

    I agree with Phil – just because someone expresses surprise, shock, or even upset at being “checked up on” doesn’t mean they are hiding something. They could just be upset that you feel the need to busybody them.

    Everyone’s situation is different, and sometimes that sort or reaction does mean they are hiding something – just remember that that isn’t ALWAYS the case. Nobody wants their spouse to be a parent!

    Ideally, there should be a measure of trust where you can simply talk with your spouse enough to know what’s going on in their life, and it doesn’t come down to checking their history on phone, browser, et cetera. And I think the biggest risk is probably when people get so absorbed in their own spheres that they aren’t paying attention to their spouse – Sheila has a great post on drifting that covers that idea. You and your spouse should have a little “me” time, but you should never get to the point where you don’t talk or know what’s going on in the other person’s life.

    Now, if there HAS been an issue of trust in the past, then the situation is different, and there should be some accountability, and he should realize that you will need to be able to check up on him at your own will until you feel trusting again. That will just be the new normal for a time – although it shouldn’t be the permanent normal. o.0 Who wants to live like that forever?

    But if there has been no reason to worry? Just make sure you are talking regularly and taking care of each other. If you are there for him, he has no reason to go anywhere else!

  12. I trusted my husband completely for the first 20 years of marriage. Then, 5 years ago, he became computer literate. On more than one occasion, I have found him dallying with dating websites and porn. At first, each time I discovered he was doing this, it was totally by accident…like coming into a room to ask him something and seeing what was on the laptop screen just before he suddenly closed it. The first time was a huge shock to me. I thought we worked it through, and I built my trust in him until the next time and the other times that followed. Now I find myself consciously checking up on him and feeling guilty about it, but in some ways that is better than feeling like a fool. I really wish he could just be honest with me, open up and tell me what is really going on in his head. In most other ways, he does seem committed to our marriage.

  13. That’s good subject! I am 13 years married. So far, we didn’t have such issues. Our emails, facebooks and other web media are always open, without hidden things, but I’ve been thinking of that: if I would see he is signing out all the time he isn’t on his computer, that he is going with his phone even in bathroom, that would trigger me to check up on him. As I know myself, I would communicate that. I would let him know how I feel and see his reaction.
    I don’t know, honestly, I am just thinking and sharing it. Not an easy thing at all, especially for those who already have trust issues!

  14. I’m reading all of these comments and I find it interesting when it is mentioned a spouse has strayed it’s a man. I was the wife who strayed. I think we all need a little checking up from time to time. Anyone who says otherwise is living with their heads a wee bit in the sand. Husbands, wives, children we all need to be held to a higher calling. There our times we may not even recognize danger when it is there. A good example 50 shades of Grey. There our plenty of folks reading these books not even realizing it is “soft porn.” When I hear the “you’re not my parent” or a little to defensive red flags should be going up all over the field. I really appreciated the way Lisa put it. I trust him just not his sin nature. I think we truly should want to have accountability we all fall short and who better to help us back up but the one you chose to be beside you for our time here on earth.
    As my daughter frequently says, “just saying.”

  15. I wish my husband had shown more interest in the family finances. Since Day 1, he’s been completely hands-off, even when I’ve wanted to sit down and go thru a budget or talk about “the state of the union.” Even after we declared bankruptsy more than a decade ago, he still left it all up to me. I’d say it’s some form of blind trust, but in reality, he simply doesn’t do any paperwork or record-keeping that isn’t required by his job. As a result, I feel very alone in trying to make things work each month, and my only true accountability is the bank balance!

    As for inappropriate use of the Internet — porn or a virtual relationship — if that were to occur, I would not want to be my husband’s “accountability partner.” I’d want him to have a strong Christian man mentoring him. (I won’t try to predict what he’d want if it was reversed.)

    I do need to give him all the passwords to all of my/our accounts, just in case something happened to me. He would be completely unable to access vital finances and records!
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…TPC “lite”: Living Buy the Book (Part 1)My Profile

  16. I think that if you spent the same amount of energy “speaking” your husband’s love language (read Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman), you wouldn’t need to check up on him! When he is feeling your love, he won’t look to someone else for it. I learned my lesson the hard way!!!

    • I dont really like your answer, because I was trying and doing it all. I was being that “help meet” and things still happened…. This has been my question too. I dont mean to obsessively look at everything, but where is the accountability? We are his help meet, but that goes to other areas and to help our husbands be the man God wants him to be. Yes he is the head of house, but there needs to be accountability. There needs to be trust, but where is the line? My motto, if things are hidden from each other something isnt right…..

    • I was married almost 20 years. I loved my husband dearly and he knew that. I never checked up on him. I trusted him. One day I came home early from a trip. I still do not know what he was doing. I called and called upstairs and he came down startled and dressed to leave the house. He said for me to go to lunch with him but acted strange. The next day a voice told me to check his computer.. I said to myself, I do not need to do that. I trust him. The next day the voice was louder and the 3rd day the voice was yelling for me to check his computer. I did and I found lots of things such as porn, aliases, etc. We separated. I believe God was the voice. There was need for me to check on him. His sin and Gods voice alerted me to the horrible other life my husband was living. We are separated but still see each other. I lost almost everything that day. But God has been watching over me forever. I do not need to search, He will tell me the problems and take care of me. he always has!

  17. I was blind-sided by my husband’s porn addiction 22+ years into our marriage. I trusted all that time. Now I’m more wary. I have filters on the computer to keep that stuff away. (Even so, there’s enough stuff out there that sneaks through–as I found with my teen son recently.) My husband stays off the internet for the most part and is fairly computer illiterate. I’m not ashamed to say I do occasionally ask him where he’s been online, and I believe he tells me the truth. As far as checking up on his online excursions…well, that could happen as I’m watching where my sons travel online. He knows I check up on them, so I’m sure that’s something that encourages him to do right himself. He also has other checks for his own sexual safety, but he understands my need to feel safe by asking sometimes, too. A porn addiction left me feeling like I had been cheated on. Trust has to be rebuilt…ours is growing, and we will have a day without issues from the fallout of all of this. I believe it with all my heart!

  18. I don’t know where the line is drawn but in my own experience, I found out a lot of stuff from going through my husband’s phone and emails. I did so out of a strong gut feeling. It was a VERY painful time but thank God it’s behind me. Nowadays for some reason I don’t snoop. I’ve asked God to protect my marriage. Whether you snoop or not, DON’T DISPLAY UNFOUNDED INSECURITY, it always works against you.

  19. Seems that its not a bad thing to check up on a spouse, but they should know what you are doing. Seems wise to check up on your kids, too, and they should know that you are going to check up on them. They should know you will call friends parents to confirm plans, that you will snoop in internet histories and even, gasp, go into their room. A journal should be private unless there is a *really* good reason to read it, but that’s about it.

    Though ideally a spouse should be given more trust, afterall, he/she is an adult, they haven’t always earned it. or perhaps they lost that trust some way. You can love them without trusting them. And though the person keeping them accountable (asking them, talking, etc) is, hopefully, someone trusted and outside the relationship, the husband/wife is the one right there in the home. If you know your husband or wife has a problem, hopefully you’ve approached them about it, and you’ve both laid it all out bare. And they know you are checking up on them. No sneaking around, on either side.

    Heck yeah, passwords should be shared, even if no trust has been lost. Joint back accounts are a must! Hubby has the amazon prime account (we each had an account from before we were married, and its a lot of work to migrate a wish list!), so he sees every kindle purchase or borrowing I make. Let there be honesty!
    Rachael recently posted…Book Review: Wild Things, The Art of Nurturing BoysMy Profile

  20. Phyllis says:

    Been there! Even as recently as 2 weeks ago I was checking his cell phone on his dresser while he was in the shower. I keep looking for provocative texts etc for fear that he is carrying on with someone else. I finally had to tell him that I was insecure about him finding someone else and leaving me and that I have never felt like I deserved him or his love so it was just a matter of time till he found someone else. I realized I was driving myself crazy, and making us both miserable. I also realized that we can’t take any steps toward mending our marriage if I don’t trust him. I kept telling him it wasn’t him I didn’t trust..it was the other women. But I think we both knew it was him I didn’t trust. I’m really working on this…and when it starts to overwhelm me and I want to check I close my eyes…pray for God to take the urge away…and I don’t open my eyes until I’m sure God has taken it from me….

  21. Jessica says:

    Ok, I’m coming at this from a different side of the issue. My husband had very bad control issues and was constantly telling me where I could go and when and for how long. It was always a huge fight if I deviated from his expectations. He had overly religious ideas about my role in the home and never wanted me to read or watch anything (christian or not) that was even slightly romantic. He monitored the phone records to see how much time I was “wasting talking to friends or my mom”. He would go onto the internet history and add up how many hours i spent online. Being a non-confrontational person I just got sneaky. I would delete the history on the computer, rent and watch movies while he was at work, and get cash out when I got groceries to make purchases he couldn’t track. To me all that was easier than confronting the massive issues he had. Finally we began addressing these issues in counseling but I still feel intensely protective of my privacy! Even tho he would no longer have a fit if I watched a chick flick with the gals I still feel like hiding the recept. Sometimes trust issues aren’t just about porn, affairs, or addictions. Sometimes one or both have serious control issues!!

    • My husband also has control issues in some areas, how any money is spent(what I make too) where I go and how long I’m there. And I haven’t been able to entertain my friends in our house in over 30 years. And until 3 years ago I didn’t believe I needed to see his emails or calling history or internet history. In that time I did not have insecurity issues concerning his female co-workers or internet book club participation. And then…….. I tried to run a percentage use on my cell phone and didn’t realize that his number was plugged in. And he had spent over 6000 minutes of air time with one number ALL unseen because they were middle of the night and while I was working. So after 33 years of marriage, I checked his email and the never seen before email that he had forwarded pictures to and I checked the computer history. What I found made me physically ill. There were provocative pictures cybersex, comments about phone sex in our bed. Every pet name he had for me over the last 3 decades was being used for other women. And the nick names for three of them tied directly to the violent women with women video sites he had visited. And one of them referred to herself as his “bride to be”. These are online only connections. With one exception they have NEVER met him, in fact he presented himself as sober(because of them of course) when he was drunk most of his computer time. And like the country music video “Online” the real life him is vastly different from the online “him”.

      When I confronted him about the time on his phone he screamed in my face that she was nothing more than a sister to him. He changed his passwords, switched to yet another email address and declared that I was the cause of his behavior that I have ALWAYS been suspicious of his friends, etc, etc. In spite of the fact that zero snooping was done for over 30 years, he declares that HIS privacy was violated through our whole marriage.

      As I stated at the start, my husband controlls the money, ALL of it. He believes he has the right to dictate how ALL of my time is spent and who I spend it with. He has refussed physical intimacy for over a decade because I wouldn’t submit to talking about being beat up to turn him on. When I’m late from walking I never know if his is going to threaten to break something. I don’t try and figure out his new passwords or try and check up on him, but he portrayed himself to the intern we briefly saw as the victim of a controlling wife who NEVER gave him any privacy.
      On my exit session with her, she strongly recommended that I contact a women’s shelter and read about abusive men. I have since learned that it is common for controlling and abusive men to believe that they are the ones being controlled and abused. My husband professes to know he Lord and yet he lives as a non-believer.

      • Debbie, I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this. As for your husband, you will know them by their fruits. It doesn’t matter what he says it is; what is the fruit?

        It is extremely common for abusers to attempt to control all the money in the house. This sounds like an extremely toxic relationship, and I think your counselor was right. If you fear making him violent, and if he’s taking all the money, you really need to protect yourself. I’d recommend that you read this post that I wrote recently about abuse, and I pray that you will get help!

  22. I’m not sure where I stand with this. I never felt the need to check up on my husband even though I knew he was into porn and it caused us some problems in our early marriage. As time passed I just got absorbed with the children and then one day I went through his briefcase…I’m not sure why I did that…and found a copy of an email he’d sent to a co-worker for valentine’s day. This was 15 years into our marriage. I believed him when he cried and said it meant nothing and never really snooped, until 4 years later when I got this sudden urge again. I found out a few things and when I confronted him he lied through his teeth to protect himself until eventually he broke down and I found out that he’d had an affair…12 years before when we’d only been married for 7 years and had 3 children under the age of 8. Its taken so long for me to build back trust in him and I’m not sure I’m even there yet! I have looked at this phone a few times and when he left hisemail up I went through it, but it felt wrong. I’ve never asked for accountability, for passwords or access to anything. Maybe I’m naive, but I feel like that’s not really building trust and I’m trusting in God to keep on rebuilding on marriage and our relationshipwhich is the best its been for these past 3 years. I know there is still a great deal of fear that I could be betrayed again. I guess its normal to wonder if he has really changed and I will admit to having very rough patches from time to time…I’ve always had insecurity issues, which the porn did not help at all! But I can’t let my insecurities and fears keep me shackled and prevent me from enjoying what God has recreated and what my husband has been working hard to rebuild.

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