Is it Ethical to Monitor a Spouse?

Broadly speaking, ethics involves how people should treat each other. From an ethical perspective, spying on a spouse is rarely the right thing to do.

People have expectations about how their romantic partners should behave—including expectations for privacy as well as honesty. Furthermore, spying on a spouse may be illegal when surveillance equipment is used in a way which violates federal and state laws (see surveillance issues and cheating revealed by a mouse).

If you want to obtain information about your spouse, the most ethical way to do so is by simply asking questions. Asking questions is an honest and straightforward way to discover the truth. Unfortunately though, asking questions is not always effective (see limit use of questions).

Surveillance, on the other hand, is the most effective way to find out what is going on.

Essentially, what is effective is unethical, and what is ethical is often counterproductive. How to resolve this dilemma?

If you spy on your spouse and actually discover that he or she is cheating, this does not necessarily make spying the right thing to do. But at least the discovery exposes the truth and brings hidden problems to the surface. It's impossible to fix problems until they are acknowledged.

If, however, you spy and discover nothing—well, you may feel reassured, but you’ve violated your partner’s trust. Now you have become the person in the relationship who has something to hide.

Simply put, there are no easy answers.

Most people want to know the truth, But in reality, effectively getting at the truth usually involves some form of surveillance or careful observation (see tips on surveillance).

Related Information:

See more common questions.

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