Sometimes computer repair jobs turn into something else. Sometimes Ms. Ducktoes is sitting quietly, concentrating on a computer and the client starts to talk, and before Ms. Ducktoes can say, “I think your hard drive is going bad,” she finds herself in the middle of a sensitive personal disclosure.
Other times people request services that Ms. Ducktoes doesn’t do. Like installing spyware.
Yesterday, Friday, a man called Ms. Ducktoes. I’ll call him Henry. Henry said he was worried about spyware on his computer. But when I arrived at his door, it turned out what Henry really wanted was a program that would secretly track everything done on his computer, all e-mail, all websites visited, all Instant Messenger chats. So he’d have a backup, he said.
I stared. “You want a keylogger for a backup?”
Henry, probably hearing the incredulity in my voice, turned pale. “What’s a keylogger?” he said.
“A keylogger is a type of spyware that records every keystroke typed on the keyboard and sometimes take screenshots of websites visited and e-mails viewed.”
He said, “Yes, that’s it, a keylogger.”
When I sat down in front of his computer, the screen displayed only one user: Naomi. “Who’s Naomi?” I asked.
“My wife. It’s her computer.”
“Does Naomi know you’re making a backup of everything she does on-line?”
His voice came out shaky. “Yes,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, “but. it can’t be secret. It has to give Naomi a warning the keylogger is recording her every keystroke.” I sat up straigher. “Otherwise it’s spyware.”
Henry raised his voice. “But I need to see what -.” He screwed up his face like he might cry.
“You need to see what she’s doing?”
He nodded and started to cry into his hands. “I think she’s seeing someone. Having an affair. She instant messages until late at night. She takes long lunches and is really distant. But she denies it so I need proof.”
I patted his shoulder. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Henry, but surely that’s not the best way.”
“I’m in so much pain,” he said.
“Yes, I’m sure you are. That’s a terrible thing to go through.”
He looked up, surprised.
“I’ve been down a road or two,” I said. “Or three. But can I tell you something I’ve learned from lots of counseling?”
“Spying isn’t going to relieve your pain or solve your problems. Spying just makes you a victim, too needy, too wrapped-up in Naomi’s activities, and too desperate. You need to do something positive, something for you. Something to raise yourself out of the emotional muck. Something to give you your dignity back.”
Henry nodded solemnly. “Like what?” he said.
“Well, you could exercise, and get buff, or take a class in something you like, or take a trip. Maybe get counseling.”
“I don’t feel like doing anything,” Henry said.
“No, probably not. But doing something fun or positive would relieve your obsession about your wife a bit. Would make you more attractive.”
“To yourself. To heck with Naomi.”
He looked farway. “Maybe I’ll go skiing for the weekend. By myself.”
“Good idea,” I said. “Now give me some computer work to do.”
“Because I have to charge you my minimum charge anyway.”
So I took Henry’s own computer back to the shop and removed 259 spyware and viruses from it and really sped up its boot time. Then I called his cell. He didn’t answer but he did eventually call back from a hot tub in the mountains. His voice sounded quite serene. He said that his wife kept calling but he wasn’t returning her calls yet.
I know how tempting it can be to spy on your spouse’s or partner’s computer if they seem to be straying from you and the marriage. But its not an action that will help. If a marriage isn’t working for you don’t need spyware to act. Act from your own needs and desires. Do something to enhance your interest and joy in life and the world. Something positive and life-affirming. Your new outlook will be attractive to others.
You don’t need to buy spyware to save your marriage. An alternative might be the wonderful newsletter from the “Keep your Marriage” website. I’ve found it quite helpful and interesting. Their book was good too. It really helped me in making it through a bad time in my marriage and life.