London - When Jamie Oliver’s adorable wife Jools revealed she snooped on his emails to check if he was having an affair, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
Appropriately so, as Jamie has always said he comes from a family of swans — they mate just once and for life.
In the celebrity world of infidelity, there has never been even a whiff of scandal about Jamie Oliver nor an unkind word said about the mother of his four children. So why the suspicion, Jools?
According to Samantha Brick, who confessed in the Mail this week that she checks her husband’s emails and voicemails every morning and evening, such surveillance is merely a sensible step to prevent other women from preying on your man.
But anyone who thought these arguments sounded sensible should think carefully before reaching for their partner’s laptop — snooping destroyed my relationship, and it could ruin yours, too.
I wasn’t snooping — I’ve never gone through a man’s pockets or checked his mobile and emails. To me, it is an act of betrayal. No, I was the one who found myself under surveillance, and it was hell.
I had been dating Stephen, a 51-year-old divorced man with two young daughters, for a few months when I started to feel uneasy. I’d met him through friends, he was tall and blond, a successful businessman and confident about himself and his life.
At first, I took his perfect recollections of my movements — he was always asking how my doctor’s appointment went or what I’d thought of the film I’d seen at the weekend — as a sign that he was caring, and actually listened to what I said, a refreshing change after some of my previous boyfriends.
One day I emailed my friend Jane, confiding my fears about taking on an emotionally fragile man with young children. I never discussed these worries with him, yet he raised the issue the very same day and tried to assuage my fears.
It was just a coincidence, I thought. How sensitive he was, how he understood my every fear. Perhaps he was my soul mate.
He DIDN’T seem the jealous type. In fact, he upbraided me for snooping on him early on in our relationship — though I’d done nothing of the sort.
I was picking up his jacket from the floor where he’d left it the night before when a plane boarding ticket fluttered to the floor.
It was for the flight he’d been on days before with his two daughters, coming back from the holiday he was taking to bond with his children after the break-up of his marriage. The ticket was in the name of his former wife.
And yet when I confronted him with it, he turned on me. How dare I snoop? How dare I go through his pockets like some petty thief?
I hadn’t gone through his pockets, of course, and yet I was cleverly painted as the villain, not the victim, in this scenario.
What could he do, he demanded, explaining that she turned up unexpectedly and the children were hysterical at his suggestion she should go back home.
So I forgave him — though suspicions lingered that something was going on between them — and we moved on.
And it soon transpired that he was the snooper, not me.
Not giving it a second thought, I used to leave my mobile around the house and my computer on, but I started to notice that texts I hadn’t seen were already opened and emails I hadn’t opened were marked “read”.
And the ridiculous thing was that I had nothing to hide, yet he was going through every innocuous detail of my life.
When I got home and switched on the answer machine to listen to my voice messages from friends and family, they were already in the stored basket.
Post was opened and my itemised phone bills left on my desk. In the middle of watching TV, he would ask: “So who were you calling in Wales last week?”
It was BBC Wales wanting an interview on some interminably dull political crisis.
He was scouring every detail of my life, looking for the betrayal he was himself committing.
He demanded to know why he hadn’t seen me in the black Myla bra and suspender set I’d bought. Was I saving it for someone else? Indeed, I was. It was a present for one of my girlfriend’s birthdays.
He could only have known that by going through my emails, as I’d bought it online. In the end, I set up a new email account and always logged out after I’d used it so he couldn’t read my messages. I kept my mobile with me at all times.
Thank heavens we didn’t live together, but he spent a few nights a week with me.
Late one night when we were dozing in bed, I felt his arm stretch out to hold me and turned to snuggle into his embrace — only to realise he was searching for my mobile under the pillow. I feigned sleep and felt him take the phone and head for the bathroom.
That was a turning point. I could no longer be with a man who didn’t trust me. We’d been together for 18 months by that stage, but enough was enough.
And I’m sure his own dishonesty, sneaking around behind my back for family events and to see his ex when she was hysterical — which was often — fuelled his suspicions.
I’ll never know if he was cheating on me with her, but he was clearly too cowardly to cut all ties with her. It was usually his two adorable young girls who innocently let the truth slip — “Daddy took us to the zoo with Mummy” — when he was supposed to be a struggling single father coping on his own.
He was constantly lying to me, so assumed I must be lying, too. To work, relationships must be built on a profound belief in the other person. Without this, our relationship was built on shaky foundations. Stephen violated my privacy.
Some people, such as Samantha Brick, may live in relationships where all is shared, and nothing is sacred, but others, like me, need personal space. Not to misbehave, but just to be myself.
The irony, of course, is that it is so easy to cheat nowadays that a snooper could search high and low for evidence of a betrayal and find nothing, even if their beloved was conducting a torrid affair.
A pay-as-you-go phone, hidden from your partner, a separate email address with a password even the snooper couldn’t guess, letters addressed to a friend’s home, sexy lingerie bought in cash and worn in secret.
Far be it for me to offer relationship advice to anyone, but sometimes you just have to trust the person you’re with, hear what your instincts tell you in those quiet moments when your head hits the pillow beside him, and believe in the person you love.
Jools, you’re married to Jamie Oliver, not Gordon Ramsay. - Daily Mail