I have a cousin who believes it’s his inalienable right to pilfer any unprotected cell phone and using the closest social media app wreak havoc in the owner’s life. He once announced his sister’s pregnancy on her Facebook feed. She spent the remainder of the week assuring friends that middle-aged women aren’t nearly so fertile.
Our phones are an extension of ourselves. Within this Pandora’s box of plastic and wire reside many of our deepest secrets, darkest fears, and brightest dreams. It was once almost universal that to lose a wallet was worse than death. It’s debatable the loss of our cell phone has taken its place.
Owing to the devotion we have for our phones and the supernatural worship we pay to them, there may be no better measure of a person’s character than how he or she uses it. And this same principle can be applied to the relationship that person is in. With mystical accuracy, I can predict the strength of a marriage and likelihood one of them will cheat by observing the way a couple uses their phones.
The Queen had a married friend whose cell phone dexterity was matched only by that of a fourteen-year-old girl. It was surgically attached to her palm. Every idle moment found her bent over furiously and secretively typing away. She never let the phone out of her sight and her password, which she forbid her spouse knowing, would have made Anonymous proud. The buzz of a new message would send her scrambling for the nearest corner to respond. Her husband never questioned this behavior or why she needed such covertness in talking to her ‘friends’. He was as ignorant of his wife’s online life as he was the affair she was having.
Any discussion about relationships and how to make them better invariably leads to the topic of relationship transparency. Few deny that a relationship stands or falls on truth and sincerity. When couples lie relationships die. But for many, relationship transparency comes with limitations. I’ll gladly tell you my social security number. No problem knowing about my past sex life. Just don’t ask for my phone password.
Many years ago, long before the Queen and when the pinnacle of smart phone technology was the text message, I was dating a woman we’ll call Jan. One evening, shortly after midnight, my phone clanged with a text message. It was another woman I had recently met. Jan inquired, “Who is texting you so late?” A fair and valid question and one I knew the outcome of if I answered with the truth, so I stumbled, fumbled and responded, ‘No one, just a friend’. Jan didn’t buy it and asked again, more emphatically. Panicking, I got defensive which only accentuated my dishonesty. Seeing that my charade wasn’t having the desired reaction, I declared with arrogant scorn, that would be more accurately described as cowardly deflection, ‘You need to trust me!’
Unless you’re battling kangaroo zombies, there may be no greater insult than telling your spouse or partner, ‘You need to trust me!’ There are two reasons for this. First, it’s demeaning and infantile. Second, it takes focus away from the real issue. It’s a subtle parlor trick. Realizing I was moments away from being caught, answering honestly was a non-starter. I didn’t want the argument or the embarrassment. So when my attempts to blow her off with that vague, ‘just a friend’ didn’t work, I pulled out bigger guns. I knew if I could get her to question herself and realize how unreasonable her suspicions were, she would stop questioning me. So on top of insulting Jan’s intelligence thoroughly, by demanding she ignore that still small voice tipping her off, I turned the tables and put the burden back on her, ‘YOU need to trust me!’. While a brilliant, albeit spineless tactic, it painted her into a corner. If she trusted me then it would be an admission of her unreasonable psychosis. If she didn’t, she would be a fool to stay around. The rift may have closed but the crack remained. We broke up shortly thereafter.
The Queen and I don’t have passwords on our phones; we never have. We don’t see the need, we’re both too boring and I’m not that special. We also have carte blanche access to the other’s phone, whenever and wherever, no questions asked. We understand that how we use our phones say a lot about who we are as individuals and a couple. This level of openness and transparency offers a comfort that simply wouldn’t happen if we locked our phones and treated the password like nuclear launch codes. This sincerity makes us more accountable and careful with how we live out our virtual lives.
As such, should either suddenly put passwords on our phones it would mark a wholesale shift in our character and signal a change in attitudes. But worse still, to add that password and keep it secret would be ominously prophetic. It would be a red flag that something is very wrong and feelings are likely changing.
If we are truly committed to having honorable, loving, and healthy relationships we can’t hang a No Trespassing sign on certain parts of our lives. Honesty isn’t relative to circumstance or electronic gadget. We’re either sincere or we’re not. There is no middle ground. If we want to prevent being lured down paths of pain and brokenness we must build guardrails around our relationships to hold us accountable and keep us from careening off a cliff into humiliation and regret. And quite possibly the most dangerous curve along our relationship journey is how we approach our private online lives. That starts with our smart phone.
If you’re in a relationship with a spouse or partner who considers her phone, and by association everything having to do with it, off limits you should be very, very worried. And candidly, if you’re so cocksure that you think you can sustain a committed, faithful, and honest relationship while keeping walls around certain parts of your life, you deserve whatever you get. Because the reality is this, we’re human, and without transparency and boundaries we will gravitate towards selfishness and deceit. It’s only through intentionality and accountability, neither of which make for great Hollywood movies, that we have a hope of making it through the hazardous bends along the road that have sent so many other relationships over the edge.