Dear Christine, Nosy in Novi

Dear Christine,

I discovered something the other day in my wife’s dresser drawer. We’ve always done each other’s laundry so I’ve never had reason to look in or open her drawers. I don’t know what possessed me the other day because in 10 years I’ve never done this but I was feeling snoopy. I decided to be nosy and riffle through her drawers.

Underneath her sweaters I found a small box that I opened. It was loaded with rolls of cash! I was too nervous to count it but it was a lot. $100 bills!

We’ve never had a lot of money but we get by pretty comfortably. We also keep a joint account plus our own personal accounts so I have no idea why she wouldn’t just keep the money in her account. Plus, I have no idea how she was able to squirrel away this kind of cash, like I said, we get by with a little fun money at the end of the month.

Now that I’ve snooped, I can’t tell her what I found or question her, or should I? My question is, should I just mind my own business and stay out of her stuff, or should I tell her what I did? Thanks,

Signed, Nosy in Novi

Dear Nosy,

What you do depends on the basis of your relationship and your character.  Who are you as a person?  What agreements do you have with your wife about each other’s privacy and what should happen if the norm is violated?  Boundaries in relationships create safety and trust.  As a psychologist, I strive to maintain confidentiality with and about my clients.  I am human.  If I slip, the first thing I do  is to contact the client and tell them what I said and to whom.  I don’t want the client to figure it out from someone else. Being legally married, your individual rights to privacy are questionable, as I learned from Daniel Gwinn, JD (who also writes a regular GOAL column).  For  legal particulars, consult with a lawyer.  I believe in privacy in marriage, particularly when requested it, it has legal and practical limits.

I would be quite surprised if I found a wad of $100s in my wife’s sock drawer.  First I would ask to have an important conversation when we both are free from other interruptions.  Since we jointly own our home and cars and bank account, I would own up to what I found, so she hears it first from me.  Then, I’d ask her forgiveness for my snooping, then if she is willing to tell me about the money.

However, you snooped for the first time in 10 years of marriage.  What was driving your urge?  Intuition?  Fears? Some change in her behavior?   Questions about infidelity?  Concern about siphoning money for abuse, such as for gambling?  Search your heart as to what it was that led you to move aside those sweaters.  You now know that you cannot un-see whatever you find.

You have the choice to keep quiet, for sure.  Sometimes it is best to not confess something hurtful from the past that your spouse doesn’t know about, particularly if it is to clear your own conscience, but leave her with a burden.  Say, you confess f you had an affair 8 years ago that lasted a few months.  You are relieved to get it off your chest, and now she is burdened with your infidelity, hidden for 8 years.

Ask yourself these questions, do some private writing (not blogging, please, to respect your own and your relationship’s privacy).  See what conclusions you come to and what your gut response is.  Then commit to whichever path you choose:  Silence or request an honest conversation with your wife.  Good luck.  Let me know how it goes.

Christine Cantrell PhD

Fully Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067


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