My Friend’s Wife Reads his Emails

Last week, I sent an email to a friend asking him a question about a matter we discussed earlier. He didn’t reply back and since it wasn’t urgent I didn’t call him but he did, two days later. He called me from his office to tell me that he just knew from his wife that I sent him an email. His wife has access to his email account. Being single I am not sure how much spouses share about their lives. I know another male friend who shares his email password with his wife. My emails to him are limited now to greetings and whatnot. I don’t send nude pictures of naked female celebrities to my friends but I don’t think everything I send to my friends should be shared with the wives.

As many spouses, my two friends are sharing their email password with their wives on the base that spouses share everything with each other. Understandable yet not all spouses do share their passwords. On the extreme case, there is snooping on the spouse’s email. In the US, a man is facing jail time for snooping into his wife’s email account. The felony charge carries a 5 year sentence. [source]

If the percentage below is accurate then I don’t know what to say.

About 45% of divorce cases involve some snooping — and gathering — of e-mail, Facebook and other online material, Lane said. But he added that those are generally used by the warring parties for civil reasons — not for criminal prosecution. [same source]

From the poll below it seems most Americans think it should be legal to snoop on spouse’s email: [same source]

email_snooping

I am against snooping on spouse’s email but in case one did snoop he or she should not serve jail time. A spouse may get suspicious and be tempted to snoop out of jealousy. It is bad but should not be considered a crime.

But snooping is the extreme so let us talk about normal relationships. Let us assume the normal case were the relationship between the husband and the wife is based on love and trust, no suspicious behaviors or unhealthy jealousy. Should spouses share their email password?

If no, why?

If yes, then I have other questions. To simplify the questions, let us consider the following scenario. Ali is a friend with Omar who is Married to Nadia. Omar and Nadia know each other’s email password. The scenario could be reversed as well, that is two women and one man.

  • Isn’t Ali’s right to be informed that Nadia reads his emails which are sent to Omar only?
  • If Nadia can read Ali’s emails without his knowledge doesn’t this mean that Nadia is invading Ali’s privacy?
  • If Omar and Nadia share their email password, would Nadia feel betrayed if she knew by mistake that Omar has another private email account (and vice versa)? Should Nadia insist to know the password of this new email account?
  • Who usually asks first or more concerned of sharing passwords the husband or the wife?
  • Is there a difference between different cultures regarding sharing passwords? Which culture the spouses share their email password more Arabs or Americans? How about Asians, Europeans and Africans?
  • Could sharing email password lead to jealousy in case a spouse receives an email from an opposite sex?
    One could argue that sharing email password is like sharing the ATM PIN or bank account that is to facilitate things. But in the case of banking no third party is involved like in the emails. So what do you think about sharing email password between spouses, good or bad? What do you think about any of the previous questions?
    I wonder how the future Mrs. Jaraad will think about sharing our email passwords.

23 thoughts on “My Friend’s Wife Reads his Emails

  1. Interesting topic that I am sure will get many mixed responses and not really have a clear answer.

    Having been married for a while, I really don’t think that spouses should share email passwords. I generally attribute that to a newlywed phenomenon – kind of like “His and Hers” towels. But when the honeymoon is over, there are just times where some things need to be confidential. Email has become a tool that has replaced many other forms of communication; for example, the husband or the wife might have a fight and one or the other might want to talk to their mother, sibling or best friend about how they are feeling; before email they would have had a private telephone conversation. Now they might email instead. This venting of emotion (and sometimes anger) and asking for advice should be a private thing.

    Playing devil’s advocate here, on the other hand, the internet has spawned new forms of marriage-vow abuse. Sometimes it can sneak up on a person who wasn’t even looking for an extra-marital fling. Chat rooms, Yahoo Groups and more bring people together in unprecedented ways, not to mention finding an “old flame” on Facebook. I think that in some marriages, one spouse or the other might feel a bit insecure about the unknown variables and might frame the idea of sharing an account as the romantic or right thing to do, when it is really a case of wanting to keep an eye on things. Of course, this insecurity is rooted in a deeper problem that won’t be solved by sharing an account – either one (or both) spouses are insecure and/or jealous, or one (or both) spouses are not committed to their wedding vows. No manner of account sharing can solve the underlying problem.

    1. One other thing I forgot to mention – in my marriage we have a different arrangement. We have always had our personal accounts, but we have a shared account as well. This is for services we use together (like an Amazon account), correspondence from our son’s school, etc. Perhaps your friend also has a private account? You might ask him for his private email.

      1. You see my two friends I mentioned in this post are Arabs so I wanted to know how non-Arabs think of this issue. Thanks for participating in this discussion.

        You brought up a very important issue, what if one of the spouses wants to vent to a parent or a close friend. As you mentioned people communicate through emails now more than phones. The husband for example shouldn’t know every conversation between the wife and her mother. Good point especially to spouses who share all their email password accounts.

        The shared email account for family related correspondence makes a lot of sense to me. Definitely will do in future.

        “I think that in some marriages, one spouse or the other might feel a bit insecure about the unknown variables and might frame the idea of sharing an account as the romantic or right thing to do, when it is really a case of wanting to keep an eye on things.” LOVE IT!

  2. well i do not agree of sharing, imagine my husband checking my friends emails and pictures! basically i do not believe in full sharing between partners, coz any thing could happen and the partnership stops!

    balah waj3et el ras i mean :)

    1. I agree with you but the problem is if one spouse feels that the personal email password should be shared and the other don’t. It is complicated because one of them may feel suspicious if the other refuses to share the password. Should one risk his own marriage for this privacy?

  3. It is a complicated issue, and the Opinions will be different, Well for me sharing email password is not a good idea at all, although that dose not mean there is no trust between a husband and a wife. There are many things should be confidential like men talk or women talk. There are many things that a man shares with his peers his wife should not know about and vice versa, this dose not mean that those things are bad or there are something to hide.
    I was married before I and my ex-wife never share our email password, the main reason for that is we trusted each other and we believe in privacy.
    For me if I knew that any of my friends is sharing his email password with his wife, I will keep my emails to him very formal….

    1. In your case, you both appreciate each privacy but what if one doesn’t. Should one risk his own marriage for this privacy?

  4. Excellent topic!

    Re: your questions

    Isn’t Ali’s right to be informed that Nadia reads his emails which are sent to Omar only? YES
    If Nadia can read Ali’s emails without his knowledge doesn’t this mean that Nadia is invading Ali’s privacy? YES
    If Omar and Nadia share their email password, would Nadia feel betrayed if she knew by mistake that Omar has another private email account (and vice versa)? YES
    Should Nadia insist to know the password of this new email account? NO
    Who usually asks first or more concerned of sharing passwords the husband or the wife? DON’T KNOW
    Is there a difference between different cultures regarding sharing passwords? Which culture the spouses share their email password more Arabs or Americans? How about Asians, Europeans and Africans? DON’T KNOW
    Could sharing email password lead to joyously [jealousy] in case a spouse receives an email from an opposite sex? YES

    My Personal Experience

    The hub and I don’t share email passwords; we never have, and never have discussed it. We know we each have accounts, and he knows I have separate professional and personal accounts. I guess he has an account at his corporate workplace as well as his personal account. We also don’t share emails. We may forward something that is a standard circulating joke to each other.

    We also don’t share ATM PINS. We have separate bank accounts, that we know each other has but not much else, and have one joint one that we access separately.

    He knows I have patient files in my home office, he never has accessed them. He does have access to my finance drawer; knows where to find patient contact information (totally separate from chart notes) in an emergency; and how to bill the provincial health insurance service provider if I can’t do it (has never happened yet).

    One friend told me as he gave me his email address “It isn’t private”, and the address includes both his wife’s and his names. We only use it to arrange coffee meetings, she knows we have them, and is happy that he reviews world events and news with me and spares her.

    My cousin just sent an email address that clearly includes his name and his wife’s. They are wanting to email family information and videos of their truly beautiful and delightful Eurasian granddaughter.

    One friend encouraged me to email his wife who was a new immigrant and isolated. They share passwords but have told me so, and usually don’t bother with each other’s accounts, except in emergencies. They email and chat side by side at the table or in bed, and share conversations. Again they are open about this. Their 1 year old has her own toy computer which she guards jealously. Sometimes she contributes to our chats; sometimes highly appropriately, like eeeeeeewwwww.

    I sent a friend what I thought was a private email, about the danger she was in of being axed from her Master’s program AFTER she had done all but the thesis submission (it’s been written and re-written as part of the machinations of the superviser from hell) and defense. The email included very pointed comments (though not rude) about the ways in which her husband was being a hindrance not a help, and things he should do differently–walk the five minutes to the government office; drive himself where ever especially midweek; be on parent duty in am and pm given he is home all the time anyway; encourage her to be in the lab everyday and to attend evening department and grad student functions; take over cleaning and cooking given he is at home all day (and not doing much); be morally and verbally supportive. I never thought she would send it to him. She did without telling me until afterwards, and it had backfired badly. He redoubled his efforts to end our friendship, and developed new and improved passive aggressive ways of trying to effect that, and of getting her to drop her Masters program and stay home to babysit him.

    …cont…

  5. …cont’d…

    My Opinions and Recommendations

    I think that husbands and wives should have private emails without sharing passwords, but the other should know of the existence of the account. This is much as Emi stated. There are things that may need to be vented to spare or save the marriage and would be hurtful and biased out of context. Also, as you said there are issues about friends feeling comfortable sharing their own thoughts and feelings about whatever topic, if they know the spouse is also reading.

    If the email accounts/passwords/individual emails are shared, then the correspondents should be informed about it before hand. Where the spouses have a joint email account for shared personal or shared business reasons this should be clearly indicated by the name of the account. One of my readers and correspondents has one, and it is clear that both of them are using it by the name.

    I think that spouses need to have enough trust to make private accounts (email and banking) possible and respected, because there are often good professional reasons for it, and they do each
    need private space. Current marital therapy ideas include that oversharing is detrimental to the relationship, as is overventing.

    Insecurities may be part of one spouse’s personality structure, or may arise because of issues in the marriage. Both of these need to be handled away from the issue of email accounts and without burdening correspondents.

    Email is like, and has largely replaced, snail mail for official, business, and personal correspondence. Privacy and confidentiality laws should apply. Most spouses wouldn’t take the other to court, but the gloves are usually off in a divorce case. One of my patients hacked her lover’s account, because she was concerned that on the lover’s graduation she would try to break up with her, and ultimately suspected she was having an affair. The lesbian lover was–with a man (making her bi-sexual). If she wasn’t headed out of the relationship before, she was after the hacking. It is a violation of the law, but also of personal and interpersonal ethics. How could you trust someone after they hacked you?

    Sorry for the long comments…looks like I should do a post and link back here to yours and the excellent comments from others! :D

    1. Oh my! I wrote “joyously” :)
      As usual very interesting comment. I think the internet and the new communication media are making major changes in our life. This topic deserves a post from you :) And if you decide to write something think of the question I asked Mayyasi and Mr. T.
      It seems the shared family account is a good idea. I also like that the email address has the name of the husband and the wife.
      I knew by chance that my emails to the two friends I mentioned are also read by their wives. It bothered me a little (even though nothing important in these emails) because they should mention that to me when we exchange email addresses. Glad you agree on this also.

  6. PS (how could there be a PS after all that! :D) Pick a Mrs Jaraad who is secure generally, and shares your views on this.
    I agree with Telecommunications about the value of separate guy talk and girl talk.

    1. From reading all these comments I am now sure that partners should not share personal emails and we will share a family related correspondence email account :)
      “Pick a Mrs Jaraad who is secure generally, and shares your views on this.” Do you hear that single ladies of the blogosphere :)

  7. I think this is a very interesting topic. When I do get married I wouldn’t share my password with my spouse. There has to be a mutual understanding of trust and privacy between the couple to allow for the privacy of each spouse. One of my reasons is what you mentioned above about how you would address that person. I talk to my friend differently when I am around his/her spouse than when we are alone. I would also feel betrayed that my friend lets their spouse read an email I sent them thinking it was just between us.

    I do like the shared e-mail account but other than that I don’t think they should know my password for my personal email.

    1. Thanks for participating in this discussion. It seems everyone wrote a comment here agrees that password should not be shared between spouses for personal accounts.

  8. Oh no, no sharing! That screams major problems that are based on nothing.

    Although the best policy in my opinion is to make your partner feel like you don’t mind if they have your password or if they read your emails, but that you prefer if they don’t because that could lead to problems in the future. Tell them they should have their own space and you should have yours while you trust each other.

    I hope Mrs. Jaraad is okay with that though :s

    1. You are right the moment one feels that the other is overprotective of his/her emails problems will occur.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion on the subject.

  9. Well, I guess I’ll be the dissenting minority voice :), but my view is one shared by most of my long-term friends from church. We all have a promise to be open and transparent, and we all have access to one another’s email. Most share a fb account too.

    My husband and I have always shared a family email account. I have two extras, one for work related and another for blog related matters, but he has the password. This is a marriage-hedge keeper: if I connect deeply with a guy I work with or one who reads my blog, and am tempted to exchange regular emails, if the fear of God doesn’t keep me from the sin than the fear of exposure will. He and I are very aware that most infidelity is progressive, sexual connection usually begins as an emotional connection.

    He has another email for ordering things and for his master’s degree details, and I have the password. He does not read my email, and he tells me what of his should remain private (ie: he has a friend who cheated on his wife and my husband is helping them through) and I honor that, and he trusts me to. If has only happened a couple times, all else is common stuff.

    We also have rules about venting our frustrations to a third party: only after we have done all to work it out together, and then only to people we can trust to defend both parties who will give wise impartial advice. We never slander each to someone else.

    As Christians, we believe that we ‘become one’ in many ways, and lead inter-dependent lives. There are not any aspects of our lives that the other does not have a measure of influence in.

    1. Kinzi, it sounds like you have a beautiful and healthy marriage.

      But the one thing I would add here is that talking to someone about a problem in a relationship does not have to be slandering – and your comment is a good reminder than it shouldn’t be slander to beging with.

      I am sure that many people have a special friend or family member they turn to as well. Having someone there to “talk you down” and help you make sense when your responses are needlessly emotional can be very valuable. An opinion from someone not intimately involved – to tell you, “You overreacted, you should apologize,” or “If this is really bothering you, you should be honest with your spouse and let them know how you feel.” And adults should know the difference between revealing hurtful details that do not belong in the public domain (slander) and a sincere search for advice (without nasty details).

      My 2 cents. :-)

      1. Emi, yes, well said. I realize it could be thought I was referencing your comment, which I hadn’t read thoroughly (lots of good comments here today).. I can see the need for a private email discussion.

        We do need people we can vent to (‘talk you down’, yes indeed), and not everyone is just a visit or phone call away for us expats – they are asleep when we are melting down.

        1. Sorry for not keeping up with the discussion. You know, 8 hours time difference and the freezing weather makes one want to hibernate like a bear.
          Kinzi, Although your opinion about sharing email passwords between spouses is different than mine and the insightful comments in this post, you decided to openly state your opinion. I really admire you for that and I appreciate hearing other voices.
          Now, as many other aspects in life between spouses I don’t think this subject has a definite answer. No one can say that spouses who share their passwords have a better marriage life than those who don’t share and vice versa.
          I do agree with you though that “infidelity is progressive” and can start by an email or accepting a new opposite sex Facebook friend. Some may argue that as long as trust is established between the couple no need to share passwords others like to take precaution. And I think nothing wrong with either. I learned in life that in some situations there could be two correct solutions.
          Thanks for your honest and insightful opinion. And thanks to Emi for following up.

          1. Emi, I love strong feelers like you…and knowing you a little, I am glad you have understanding people just a private email away. Hope I can be more like that :)

            Jaraad, I guess I have gotten used to being a minority voice here in Jordan. Or maybe at 50 you just start blurting more often? I wanted to say too that I will pray for a Mrs. Jaraad who is like minded :)

  10. It is a felony!
    Well, I don`t know Jarad, I guess -to me- it`s ok to have PWs between spouses!

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