Relationships are very complex and a guide about them can rarely be one size fits all. As it is common knowledge I am not an expert on the subject but I thought I would write about this neutral topic after 2% of the 56 readers of this blog complained that I have not written in a long time.
It is common in discussions about relationships to ask whether a partner should have unrestricted access to their partner’s mobile phone and by extension their Facebook account, emails and so on. Besides discussions it sometimes becomes a real subject of tension in some relationships.
Some partners develop an unwavering commitment to investigate, and sniff for the wrong in, their partners. A commitment that would put the CIA and the SEALs to shame given that it took them more than 20 years to ambush and assassinate Bin Laden.
Some people hold a belief that it is not possible that their partners are not cheating and so it is their responsibility to unearth and expose the covert relationships their partners have. Such paranoia cuts across all genders.
It then follows that the cellphone is the primary tool of cultivating and managing the covert relationships. Hence it becomes the main target of the CIA agent you are dating to find evidence of the cheating that you have been denying.
However, the strange part is that most partners mostly do nothing about the evidence they gather or they may have discovered in their partners phones. They hurt and cry, only to reconcile 2 days later.
In some relationships the two agents in a relationship behave as if they are keeping a scoreboard on who has found the other in the wrong more than the other one. If one is found in the wrong, they remind the other about their own previous wrong and so the cycle goes on, sometimes for many years until they marry and live happily ever after. If they are lucky they outgrow it, but some go on even after they are living happily ever after.
I agree that while the above paragraph exposes the hollowness of going through a partners phone, it is not a sufficient reason not to sniff on the phone.
The main reason why I think the CIA agents in relationships should retire is because I think the privacy of others should be protected. I know you are thinking your partner should not keep secrets from you, I mostly agree with that.
However, you partner’s phone does not only hold his/her secrets, it also hold secrets of their friends.
In most cases, people who are dating have friendships and family relations that pre-date their dating. Those friendships are family ties have varying strengths of trust.
Sandile has spent most of his life being a pillar of strength in the family and among friends. In the process some trust him with their secrets which he has never betrayed their trust all his life. As Sandile’s girlfriend, Thembi might believe she has every right to go through Sandile’s phone. But the problem is Sandile’s friends and relatives, do not trust Thembi the way they trust Sandile with their secrets.
In search of proof that Sandile cheats, Thembi may come across smses from Sandile’s friend about their imminent amputation following an initiation gone wrong or an sms from a family member informing Sandile about their HIV status. Clearly, this is deeply personal stuff to these people which Thembi has not business reading about in Sandile’s phone. It is an invasion of their privacy.
I know practitioners of this habit would hasten to find a counter arguments to defend their unacceptable behavior. I think the best way to look at it is to consider the last whatsapp, sms, bbm, email or inbox you sent to your friend that contained a secret you were willing to share with that friend because of how close you are and how you trust them. If that message were to be read by that person’s partner, would you be fine with it? Yes? No? Maybe? Exactly!
Indeed some of the people break up because of an sms but I suspect in most cases, people mostly forgive each other after those smses. Besides, the absence of evidence of cheating in a person’s phone or social network is not proof that they are not cheating. The net result is that all the CIA effort that was put in browsing a partner’s phone was in futility, instead the only real tangible thing it may have achieved is the invasion of the privacy of others.
So the next time Mamgobhozi whispers to you that Tom is gay or that Thembi is HIV positive or that Senzo had his member amputated or that Mthoko’s child is not really his, you should pause and wonder how Mamgobhozi got the scoop. Also wonder what other Mamgobhozi’s say about you out there.
A relationship is not a conspiracy that should be investigated. Just enjoy it while it lasts and stop hurting yourself or invading the privacy of others by going through the partners phone.
NB: The views expressed here are based on observation, not personal experience of the author. The characters named in this article are purely fictional, any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental and is unrelated to those persons.