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"He wants my e-mail password - that's private!"

By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle

"He wants my e-mail password - that's private!"

He wants my e-mail password – that’s private!”

Sandy says: Sam has been bugging me to give him the password to my e-mail account. I often chat with friends via e-mail about things in their lives I’m sure they’d rather Sam not read. And I do believe I should be able to have some privacy. My refusal to give him access to my e-mail is causing a rift between us.

“What is she keeping secret?”

Sam says: We’re married – and so we share everything. That’s my philosophy. Does Sandy not trust me to keep her friends’ secrets? I’m not planning to sit and read her e-mail every night; I just don’t think we should be locking each other out of parts of our lives.

What do they do?: Maybe the first question asked should be, “Is this the only instance where privacy is demanded, or are there other areas? For example, do Sam and Sandy open postal mail and packages addressed to each other, or is that considered private? Do they have individual bank accounts, individual credit cards, etc.? If e-mail is the only “privacy” issue and the other areas are shared, we can understand why Sam is confused with the inconsistency in the rules.

To start, Sam and Sandy should talk about the feelings involved. How does Sandy feel about Sam’s request? How does Sam feel when Sandy does not wish to share it? Then each of them should answer the question, “why” do I feel that way? It appears that trust is at the root of this issue. If Sandy has Sam’s e-mail password, then it would be appropriate for Sam to have hers – if you trust each other, why does it matter?

On the surface, it appears that Sam does not trust Sandy; he needs to know her every detail about her life. Likewise, it appears that Sandy does not trust Sam with the conversations she has with her friends. It looks like there is a lot of distrust going on in Sam and Sandy’s relationship. One way to successfully discover the root of the problem is to approach it together and to do so prayerfully. Take a lead from Scripture, James 1:19-20: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry …” Sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with each other requires each to listen without interruption.

After listening, gently paraphrase back what you heard and, if needed, let the one speaking clarify any misperceptions. Then switch roles and repeat the process until both people understand the other’s feelings. During the process, Sandy and Sam should be mindful of the respect and honesty owed to each other. They will experience a deeper level of trust in their relationship and discover their communication skills will improve on other topics as well.

We believe the lack of trust is a result of some deeper issue that is not being dealt with; the e-mail is only a manifestation of the deeper problem in their relationship. It might be best if both Sandy and Sam were to reflect on the “real reason” this has become an issue and then share it with each other. Is it that Sandy is afraid Sam will not approve of the discussion Sandy is having with her friends? Is Sam afraid Sandy is keeping secrets or talking about their relationship “out of school?” Sam and Sandy would best serve each other out of love and consideration by reflecting on the trust as it relates to their relationship; e-mail is only the medium, trust is the heart.