Should you spy on your spouse?

Not if your relationship has open communication, healthy respect and space

woman inspecting a tieExtra-marital affairs are on the rise; so is the income of detective agencies. Many are hiring detectives to spy on their spouses or are snooping in their spouses’ emails and mobile phones for evidence. Some are even enlisting the help of friends to find out whether their spouse has strayed.

You resort to spying on your loved one, when open and healthy communication breaks down—when you do not trust your spouse to give you the truth.

But why would someone in an intimate relationship with you, lie? There can only be two reasons.

Reason 1: To escape consequences

Individuals, who believe that they have wronged their spouse, or have corrupted the sanctity of the marriage, keep the truth from their spouses, especially if they do not intend to change their ways.

This is because such spouses want to have their cake and eat it too. They know that if you know the truth, you might [reasonably] insist on fidelity for any further relating. And they want to live on their own terms [unreasonably] without the discomfort of changing the status quo.

They want to escape accountability, and do not want to face the consequences of their infidelity. They want to go with their unreasonable desire with no regard for what is reasonable, and not feel the conscious inner responsibility of their chosen action.

Such individuals view fidelity as ‘discomfort’, as it means denying themselves the immediate gratification of their desires, which is intolerable to them. Their low frustration tolerance often compels them to insist on an ‘open marriage,’ in which there is no discomfort of either subverting their desires or of losing their spouse.

Such individuals know fully well that their spouses do not subscribe to their views and will ask them to make a choice. Hence, they not to disclose their double life.

Reason 2: To avoid confrontation

Individuals also lie when they do not believe they have wronged the relationship in any way, but fear that the spouse may beg to differ, and insist on giving up their ‘reasonable’ lifestyle.Such individuals want to escape being told by their ‘authoritarian’ spouses to do something they find ‘unreasonable’, because they lack the will to be assertive and refuse. They feel their ‘reasonableness’ will not be respected and fear that their assertiveness will be misconstrued as aggression. To them, such confrontation is ‘painful’ and to be avoided.

Lying gives them the escape from conforming to an unreasonable demand placed on them without the ‘discomfort’ of confronting the intimidating person.

Spy inside before spying outside

Whatever the reason for lying, you need to first ‘look within’ to see which of your attitudes or behaviours towards your spouse has provoked him/her to withhold the truth. Examine your own insecurities, neediness, self-worth issues, inappropriate display of emotions or your demanding attitude or behaviours. See whether any of these could be pushing your love against the wall, compelling him or her to take the easy way out of ‘disaster zone’ by lying.

If you do identify any of these unhealthy traits in yourself, then work on your own issues first. Create a more healthy and relaxed environment, conducive to authentic and open communication. Once this happens, there will be trust in the relationship. And there will be no need to spy.

Sunita had low self-worth and was insecure. She was extremely controlling of Subodh, and would begrudge him even his leisure time. Even things as small as reading a book or some time spent with his family/friends once a week, became matters of major conflict. She constantly called him at work and demanded that he come straight home from work. If he stopped on the way from work for a swim to unwind, she would throw a tantrum. Subodh had to lie that he was at a business meeting, if he wanted to meet up with family or just unwind with a book at the club reading room.

Little did she know that her emotional outbursts were also creating auto-exacerbation. Her insecurity and tantrums over his reasonable behaviour were pushing him further away more from her and lie. This in turn made her more insecure and demanding, which then kept him away even more.

Depressed, she came for counselling. She complained that her husband was constantly busy with work and suspected that he was lying and was probably having an affair. Should she hire a detective to spy on him? Through the counselling sessions, she was able to identify and work on her own self-worth issues, found her own creative release, and stopped controlling Subodh. This brought a much-needed relief in Subodh’s life, and the relationship became more relaxed and ‘real’. There was no need to lie or to spy.

Trust your instincts

couple in bed with woman awakeIf however, despite your not contributing to your spouse’s lying, they continue to lie, it means s/he wants to live ‘unreasonably’ and escape accountability. At such times, if his/ her actions go against your very fabric and against what the relationship means to you, you might want to seek evidence for his/her actions to make a final decision. However, in such situations, many spouses have claimed that there were several clues pointing out that something was wrong in the relationship—clues, which they chose to underplay or ignore.

This is because they did not want to encounter the ‘truth’, as it would have compelled them to take an uncomfortable decision.

In this regard, women are believed to have powerful instincts. They often invariably instinctively ‘know’ what they will find, much before the detectives submit their report. So again, there is really no need to spy.

However, often women either do not trust their own instincts, or want to believe otherwise. So they need an outsider to tell them what they somewhere deep inside already ‘know’. The detective simply makes it ‘official’.

Prakash was living a life of bi-sexuality. He was married to Kavita, who was the mother of his children. He also had homosexual contact outside his marriage. He withheld this information from Kavita, knowing fully well that if she knew the truth, she would consider getting out of the marriage, or abstain from sexual contact with him.

Kavita had clues in the form of his low libido, his preference for a male secretary, and his frequent stag parties. But she chose to ignore her ‘instincts’, till one day he fell ill, had a prolonged fever and lost weight. She mustered courage asked the laboratory, where his blood was being tested, to also test his blood for HIV. It turned out positive! Even before the test results were out, she somehow ‘knew’. She then made a decision that she had been avoiding so far, as it would have disturbed her ‘set’ life. She took her two daughters and left.

Remember, if both of you work on having a strong relationship built on Care, Commitment, and Clear Communication, and systematically remove all contaminants brought by you into the relationship, no one or nothing can come in the way. There will never be any need to spy. If such a strong relationship does not exist, your spouse could stray in body or mind. And when that happens, feel reassured in the knowledge that you have lost nothing, because s/he was never yours to begin with.

Minnu Bhonsle
Dr Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Dr Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre


  1. I want a counselling session for my marriage life as i am undergoing mental stress from past 1 1/2 year, pls advice me how do i go about it


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here