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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Privacy within the confines of a marriage: Is there a limit to sharing?  

Dear Rachel,

Please forgive me if I sound a bit agitated. It’s because I am. For over three years, while my husband was learning in Kollel (with my blessing), I was the sole breadwinner. No big bucks, but enough to get us by. We agreed on this arrangement before we got married.

My work is home-based and much of it requires computer input. I am also constantly in touch via e-mail with the various companies I depend on to keep my operation going. Naturally, I use my e-mail account to correspond with some close friends and family members as well.

To my husband’s credit, he has recently ventured out into the business world. The nature of his or my work is not relevant to the subject matter at hand, so in the interest of privacy I will not go into details.

Let’s just say my husband began piecemeal and was at first able to conduct his work by phone and by meeting people in person. While he was learning in Kollel he had no use for an e-mail account, and for the odd occasion that necessitated electronic correspondence, he would utilize mine.

In recent weeks, his business activity has increased and my e-mail account is being flooded with his e-mails as a result, often with ‘heavy’ attachments accompanying them. My husband has never been very computer-savvy, but the sporadic instance of the past has now morphed into an ongoing daily process of helping him sort, print and collate his e-mails.

Before you ask the obvious question, yes, I’ve suggested that it might be time for him to set up his own account. Trouble is he is so accustomed to doing without it that he immediately reacts with an emphatic “No, don’t need it… don’t want it!” At the same time, of course, he has taken to sitting down at my desktop computer to access “our” e-mail and check on his new incoming mail, usually while I am occupied elsewhere.

As you can imagine, this has begun to create an unhealthy tension between us. Every time I hint that he would be better with his own account, it becomes obvious that he feels slighted and thinks I am out to serve my own agenda: my wish for privacy.

That too, I’ll admit. Not that I have anything to hide. We have a close and open relationship and I have certainly never given him a reason to mistrust me. Moreover, I’ve bent over backwards to help him in every possible way. His infantile attitude is beginning to wear me thin. Besides the confusion created by a daily deluge of e-mails, frankly I would rather not have him “eavesdropping” on my personal e-mail exchanges – just as I would never dream of picking up a phone extension to listen in on his calls.

Again to his credit, he never opens my new e-mails when accessing his own, but he can easily view them any time he gets the inclination once they are no longer “new.” Curiosity is human nature, especially when something sits right in front of your nose and it takes no effort to peek.

Rachel, am I being unreasonable? Yeah, marriage partners are supposed to be thisclose, but are we not entitled to some privacy nonetheless? I need some air. Please help me solve this conflict between us.

 

            Tired of being Nice  

Dear Tired,

An inordinate amount of otherwise bright and seemingly mature males have a lot of growing up to do. Sounds like your husband has lived a sheltered life and has had everything handed to him, with little effort expended on his part.

As soon as he entered the work force (hurrah!), you – as the partner with the know-how – should have created an account for him, username, password and all, and given him a crash course in how to handle his e-mails.

No need to fret for all is not lost, provided you stop with the suggestions and get right down to business. Opening a new e-mail account is no big deal. Use your imagination to come up with a catchy username as relates to his field and invent a password. Then forward every one of his e-mails from your personal account to his new one, making sure he can access his account directly from your desktop.

I would take things further and get him his own handheld device for his birthday (older version tablets or iPads can be had at bargain prices). Don’t let him fool you, he will love it (all boys do), and best of all he will in no time stop hogging your desktop. Oh, and be sure to tell him he is free to change his password to his liking and preference. If and when he does, you can change yours. Tit for tat, no need to excuse yourself.

Some words of caution: If you have not already installed a kosher filter on your computer, now is the time to do so. However honorable one’s intent for usage, the Internet is a tricky place to be wandering in, especially for a newcomer like a Kollel yungerman who is almost as easily exploitable as, well, little boys.

You might also want to make your husband aware of intrusive e-mails, especially the deceptive kind from foreigners who want to be “saved from Iraq” or who claim to have come into millions in a sudden inheritance but need his help in transferring their suddenly acquired riches out of their country of origin.

As was emphasized in a recent Chronicles column, one should never divulge any private and confidential information via e-mail (such as social security or bank account numbers), let alone to unknown sources.

Another popular scam of late: hackers impersonate genuine account holders, sending out personal pleas to hacked account’s contacts, to the effect of: “Help! Stranded! Traveling abroad and was robbed of all my possessions! Please send money to help me get home!” An address is “conveniently” provided for the innocent dupe.

Never send money before verifying authenticity of e-mail, even if it seems to have been sent by someone as close as your sister or brother.

And no, you are not being unreasonable, though perhaps a bit over-nurturing. Give your hubby some space to grow in and you will soon find yourself with the breathing room you crave – oxygen so vital for the health of every relationship.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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