I admit it. I used to constantly check my partner’s cell phone.
When he came to bed after I was already sleeping, I used to wake up and sneak a peek at what he was doing. Whenever his phone vibrated, I used to hear myself asking “Who’s he texting?” and look to see if it was another woman. I even used to borrow his laptop and glance through the names on his iMessages to make sure he wasn’t cheating. All because of my unresolved trauma of abandonment and rejection.
My husband never cheated on me. He doesn’t even seem interested in other women, even when we’re at music festivals together where most of the women are half-naked (although he’ll take an occasional peek). I made up stories in my head about all the ways he could hurt me, and I projected them onto the ways he uses his phone. None of it was true. I just believed that I was so unworthy of love that he would leave me for anything he read, anyone he talked to, anything he watched through his phone. Obsessively checking your partner’s phone is an addiction that stems from past trauma. When you see something “suspicious” on your partner’s phone, like a text from an unknown number, there are two paths you can take:
- Investigate further.
- Trust that it’s nothing and move on.
Before I healed my trauma, I was guilty of always taking the first path. A little research into a random area code turned into, “Let me just check all his text messages” and then, “Are there any dating apps on his phone?” And then it just snowballed from there. I couldn’t control myself. Investigating further usually led to an ugly place inside of me. Now that I’ve healed my trauma, I ONLY take path #2, even though I still have that initial thought of, “What if?” Once I learned to trust myself and understand my worthiness, I believed I was good enough for someone to commit to me as a lifelong partner. I trusted that my husband wasn’t going to leave just because he was texting a woman I didn’t know.
The Need to Know
Old trauma makes us addicted to “knowing.” There’s this urgent, uncontrollable need to acquire information to protect us from getting hurt again.
- “I NEED to know if he’s going to hurt me.”
- “I NEED to know if he’s going to leave.”
- “I NEED to end this relationship. I can’t deal with the uncertainty of it all.”
The problem is that we can never have 100% uncertainty about anything in life; this is no different. Even as you dig further into your partner’s phone, you’re still left with the unknown. Maybe you found nothing on their phone, which could still leave you questioning, “What if they’re so good at deleting their messages I can’t find anything… but they’re still cheating?’
It never ends.
So how do you break your addiction to checking your partner’s phone? The first step is to simply stop yourself from doing it. You have to go cold turkey, because one little snoop fuels the next, and the next… and before you know it, you’re hiring a private investigator to follow your partner and watch their every move.
It’s hard when you first hold back from checking your partner’s phone, but it does get easier. There is no other way if you don’t want to sabotage your relationship.
And let’s just say that you relapse and end up checking it “just one time.” Even if you see something that could be potentially suspicious, ask yourself, “Is it impacting my relationship?” If you took away all of those pieces of information – that there’s an unknown number in their text inbox, an incognito tab open on their browser, or that your partner takes their phone for extended bathroom breaks– if you didn’t know ANY of those things, the question remains: “How does your partner treat you?”
Do they treat you well? Does your partner show you how much they love and care about you? Because that’s all that matters. None of the suspicions you have is real until they’re real. The only thing that’s real is how your partner comes home every day and kisses you. Or cooks dinner for you. Or stops at the supermarket to get your favorite snack when you’re feeling sad.
If there are other things bothering you about the relationship, deal with those things. Don’t deflect your worries onto made-up stories about what they’re doing with their phone. Your unresolved trauma is triggered by your partner’s phone and making you push them away. If your relationship is healthy and loving, but you can’t stop checking your partner’s phone, then you are letting your old trauma ruin your relationship.
Checking your partner’s phone won’t resolve your feelings of unworthiness or insecurities. You can back up your fears with “facts” like research showing how porn creates more disconnection in relationships. Or how 20% of men cheat on their partners. Even if those things are true, are they true for your relationship? Or are you just backing up your insecurities with information to prove that you’re right?
The Power of Suggestion
It’s like hearing about your friends who are getting divorced. It immediately creates a fear of, “Are we going to get divorced, too?” You have to be so secure in yourself and your relationship that you can separate what’s going in other relationships from your own. You have to be completely present in the reality of your relationship to know what’s true.
When there’s unresolved trauma, your brain and nervous system are incapable of staying in the present reality. Any faint reminder of past hurt – whether it’s the “weird” way your partner looked at you when you asked who they’re texting, or they’ve come home 20 minutes later than usual – will trigger memories of past trauma with other partners and make it feel like they’re happening all over again in the present.
If this is happening to you, it doesn’t mean that you’re broken or damaged goods; this is how unresolved trauma impacts everyone. Until you release that trauma from your body and nervous system, it will continue to hijack you at every phone beep, pop-up notification, and email alert.
Heal the trauma that’s making you insecure and “forcing” you to obsess over your partner’s phone. Being suspicious and constantly communicating a lack of trust with your partner will undoubtedly push them away, especially when your feelings are not based on current reality.
It’s not fair for your partner to carry the burden of your past trauma. Checking your partner’s phone isn’t about them. It’s about you not being able to believe that you’re amazing enough for them to be 100% dedicated to you. If your partner has told a white lie about something phone-related in the past, then you also must take responsibility. What kind of environment did you co-create that they felt the need to bend the truth? I’m not saying it’s your fault. It’s equally their fault AND your fault. Yes, they should be honest with you, but you also need to create a space where it’s safe to be honest. Have you been so jealous, insecure, and controlling that they were afraid to express their truth?
No matter “who started it,” you need to resolve your old trauma to be able to trust again and enjoy the deepest, loving relationship possible, even if your partner has trauma, too. That’s a message you need to hear loud and clear.
About the Author
Orit Krug is an award-winning Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist. Ms. Krug specializes in helping individuals & couples heal from past trauma and enjoy healthy lifelong relationships using her unique approach with Dance/Movement Therapy. For more information check out her website at https://oritkrug.com/.