How Does Your Marriage Stack Up?

Today’s younger Philly couples are not only waiting longer to say "I do"; they’re dealing with a whole different set of issues than their parents—from Facebook-stalking to who gets to pick the love seat. Can marriage survive it? An intimate look at an institution in flux

WHEN FORMER U.S. TREASURY and Homeland Security employee Jim Zogorski Sr. started Digital Forensics Consultants in Newtown a few years ago, he expected most of his work to center on litigation cases. Instead, at rates starting around $1,500, almost 40 percent of his clients are distrustful spouses.

“They all are looking to find financial records, hidden assets, evidence of Internet dating, like e-mails or photographic evidence of an affair, or porn on the computer,” Zogorski says. A wife will wait for her husband to go to work, then load the family PC into the Volvo and head to Zogorski’s offices. Sometimes, she’ll just bring the family camera. “Even if images have been deleted, I can find them on a camera card,” he explains. He also has a special program to pull up deleted Web-browsing history to uncover Internet dating or access hidden accounts.

Even couples who have complete trust tiptoe through discussions about sharing passwords. Do you look at your husband’s e-mail? Casually thumb through your wife’s text history? “People have been able to find out things about their spouses through Facebook and dig up information about each other. Stalking is socially acceptable now,” says 28-year-old Rachel, who lives with her husband in Center City.

You’d think Zogorski’s stints with the government would have exposed him to the ugliest underbellies, but even he admits “there’s some scary stuff out there” when it comes to spying on your spouse. Yep, there’s an app, even for that. Install one (brand names range from FlexiSPY to TigerText) on your spouse’s phone and—voilà—you can track movements, listen in on calls, and even remotely turn the phone into a mic to eavesdrop on conversations.

“With the technology change, there are a lot more conversations around what is or isn’t cheating,” explains Oxford Valley-based psychologist Ken Maguire. “For some people, if their partner is flirting with someone over the Internet, it’s not cheating. But some people see that as cheating. Is an affair something that requires the people meeting?”

Whether or not iPhones are busting up marriages, most couples are texting, sext-ing and Skyping from date one. Later, as spouses, they rely heavily on modern technology to sort day-to-day logistics. “In the first few years, it was page-long e-mails every half hour—which couldn’t have been good for work purposes,” John jokes. “At this point, we’re e-mailing throughout the day, but they’re one-liners. In the morning, she might say she enjoyed dinner last night, or we go back and forth about what we have to do before we get home and what we might pick up for dinner.”

But Conboy warns of a digital distancing—when couples who text, e-mail and IM frequently think they’re communicating plenty but most of their connecting is done through devices. “I’m torn. I like getting a text update, but I still like to hear his voice,” confesses Nadia, 33, from Jenkintown. “He has a relationship with his phone that is unbelievable. I’m thinking of making it a rule that there’s no phone at the dinner table.”