(The Root) —
"My ex used to go through my phone when I would leave the room, and it would piss me off. He never found anything because I was being faithful to him. I decided to put a lock on my phone because I felt disrespected, now he's pissed. What do I do now?" —L.A.
If you've ever read anything I've written on cheating and snooping, then you know my position: This is ludicrous. Snooping is often done under the guise of getting necessary information. What it really is a lack of trust and a control issue.
In your letter, it's not clear whether you told your mate, "Enough is enough!" when it comes to going though your phone. If you haven't, putting a lock on your phone is a passive-aggressive way of saying, "This is not OK," and to someone who already has trust issues, the pattern change of you locking your phone is just fueling the situation.
Understand, you are not dealing with a logical perception here. Maybe people hold a rather cynical view of relationships. They believe that every partner will cheat, and thus they are justified in going through emails, cellphones, voicemails and stalking their significant other (and all potentials for the position) on social media. Their position: If you don't check to see if your partner is cheating, then how do you really know?
Snoopers believe that all their partners will cheat, which raises the question, "If you honestly think everyone will do it, and you aren't OK with it, then why do you even want a partner?”
You may be trying to avoid a frank conversation, but clearly one needs to be had. I believe you when you say you've been faithful, but it's imperative that you tell your partner that you're not comfortable with him going through your phone — not because you have something to hide but because you find it disrespectful. It also reveals that he doesn't trust you, and that is a huge problem in the relationship.
Your mate is clearly insecure, and it may be about something he's observed in the relationship that he doesn't know how to address in an effective way. Talk to him and see if you can pinpoint the reason behind his behavior with you.
The "with you" is important. If something has occurred in the relationship that's left him insecure, it can likely be addressed with better communication and transparency between you. However, if he just has a general distrust of women, and this is what he's always done, his actions are more about his baggage with trust and control, which he will need a therapist to dismantle, than anything to do with you.
It's unfortunate that he has these issues, but it's a big (and irrational) problem, and you are not obligated to put up with it. Make him aware that the snooping has to stop. If he won't quit, it's (past) time for you to consider leaving him.
Trust (and communication) are the core foundations of any relationship. If he lacks trust, then it makes no sense for him to be there. And if you know he doesn't trust you — not because there's reason, but just because — it's time for you to find a mate who will.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.