Marriage: Open (e-mail) relationship?

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What is your take on couples’ e-mail? Should this be something that is completely private? Even when married? Or do you feel that if there is nothing to hide, there is no need for privacy? What are the privacy boundary lines? What if at one time you found out your partner responded to a personal ad on the Internet?



We’ll get to the general issue of privacy in a relationship in a minute, but you’re asking a much more specific question: Is it OK to check your partner’s e-mail because in the past you’ve caught him/her trolling the Internet?

Although it might be tempting to snoop, especially combined with other investigative techniques, such as private detectives, or implanting a GPS microchip while the partner is asleep, that’s not really addressing the core issue: What screen name should you choose for your new match.com profile?

OK, we’re half-joking. The serious half being the question of why you’re still with someone who is answering personal ads while ostensibly in a relationship with you. But for our purposes today, that will have to remain a matter between you, your partner and Jerry Springer.

No, the real issue here is one of trust. Let’s assume you two have worked through your difficulties regarding the earlier transgression, but you have lingering suspicions about your partner’s digital faithfulness. Plus, you know his/her password.

Resist the urge. Everyone deserves a certain degree of privacy, even if married. Perhaps especially if married. That’s why they invented basement workshops and sewing rooms with deadbolt locks so no one can see those obscene needlepoint projects.

Let’s look at it this way: Would you open a letter addressed to your partner? We think not, even if it was scented with Eau d’Infidelity. (You may want to hover, though, as she/he opens it.)

Same thing applies to e-mail. If it’s not addressed to you, or sent to a joint account, leave it alone. This idea of “If you’ve got nothing to hide, why can’t I see it?” is the same argument being used by the Department of Homeland Security to install video cameras in every room of your home. Hey, why not? You’ve got nothing to hide, right? (Except maybe those needlepoint samplers.)

So under normal circumstances (i.e., your partner is not cheating on you), respect their privacy.

Or do you, readers, disagree? Are we entitled to a degree of privacy, or should a relationship or marriage be completely transparent? Let us know what you think, at malecall@mercurynews.com. Let’s not have any secrets between us, OK?

Male Call answers questions from men and women on etiquette, relationships, men’s style and more. Write to malecall@mercurynews.com.

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