Years ago, when I was in long-term relationship in my early twenties, I remember being madly in love with the man I thought I'd marry, despite the trust issues that had tainted our relationship for years.
Maybe it was the random girls that would call my job and threaten me saying they'd be waiting for me after work because although Jason* was my man, he was their man and her man too. Maybe it was because at one point he demanded I erase all the contacts from my phone, including male friends I had known since middle school (but never had or would entertain the idea of dating) because he should be the only man in my phone besides my father. Or, it could have possibly been the sex tape I found of him and another girl he hooked up with allegedly while we were on a two-week break. OK….that was definitely it, and the final nail on the coffin of the terminally ill relationship I was attempting to hold onto with the man who took me to my senior prom.
I say all this to say that the reason that relationship was battered, bruised, and finally just fell the hell apart, was because of trust issues. It was because of two partners who in many ways weren't secure with themselves, and therefore couldn't be secure with one another.
It wasn't about cell phone security codes, Facebook passwords, or screenshots.
It was about trust that we had never taken time to build and a lack of trust that came as a result of the lack of respect for our individual boundaries and unique approaches to relationships. And it's why I'm not surprised that on a recent episode of the show "Married At First Sight," an exercise on trust had one couple sleeping at separate addresses.
If you're familiar with the show "Married At First Sight," you're already familiar with the arrangement I refer to as the "Hot Pocket of holy matrimony" that takes two strangers who have been paired up by a crew of relationship experts and follows them as they enter into marriage upon their first time meeting. The experts assign a series of exercises over several weeks to help the couples essentially microwave feelings and experiences that, in the real world, can take months and even years to develop. In a recent episode, the couples were asked to trade cell phones for an hour, giving their partner unlimited access to their Google searches, Facebook profiles, and Instagram stories.
Each couple's approach to the challenge was different, and the point was for them to explore their feelings on trust and privacy. One couple decided that the exercise was futile and that each partner had a right to privacy and didn't trade phones at all. Another couple sat down and did the exercise together, not really finding anything that either one considered seriously disrespectful to the relationship and spent more time laughing than being offended. But one partner, Jephte Pierre, ended up getting in his car and leaving his wife, Shawniece Jackson, alone in bed while she sobbed over his inability to open up.
In Shawniece's defense, she seemed more upset by her husband leaving for the night than his refusal to give up his phone. She shouts, "What's done in the dark will eventually come to the light!" After he simply expresses, "I'm not comfortable."
To me, that was telling.
Newly married Jephte Pierre & Shawniece JacksonCourtney Hizey Photography & Emily Maultsby
It's not that Shawniece didn't have the right to give homeboy the side-eye, but whether you've been married for seven years or seven days, marriage is very much a give and take of stepping outside of your comfort zone occasionally, to meet your partner in theirs. Marriage is also very much about walking away if your partner is doing the nae nae on your last nerve. Sometimes more damage can be done by trying to work out problems when your emotions are running high instead of taking some time to calm down and look at the situation from a distance.
But does it necessarily mean your partner has something to hide if they don't feel comfortable giving up their passcode?
Remember that dysfunctional ass relationship I mentioned earlier? 97% of our arguments were over the phone: hiding it, locking it, unanswered calls, unanswered text messages, questioning why it was on vibrate, why is it in a location where the wifi sucks, why is my face not your lock screen, and anything else you can imagine. You name it, if it involved a Samsung or Apple product, we were arguing. And the worst argument I can remember, involved a literal tug of war that ended with me locking myself in a hotel bathroom while he banged on the door demanding I unlock my phone and let him see it. I remember sitting on that bathroom floor, realizing that I could have had that man's whole mug on my lock screen, my background, and answer all of his calls on the first ring and we'd still have the problem.
And it wasn't because I had ever cheated or did anything that I considered disrespectful to the relationship. It was because he didn't trust me, and it probably was because he thought I was engaging in the same unfaithful behavior I eventually discovered he was guilty of.
"Married At First Sight"Jephte Pierre
Now that I'm married to a person (who is not my sex tape-making ex)who has similar ideas about trust that I do, you won't see us catching butterflies every time our phones are left unlocked at the opportunity for unlimited access into our cellular activities. When you're married and sleep, eat, and breathe next to the same person every day, you develop a newfound appreciation for personal space.
Besides, they say if you're already looking for something, you're bound to find it and that saying is true.
Insecurity in a relationship could have me going ape s**t on my husband about who Brenda on 61st Street is and why is she texting him about laying pipe when I know damn well he's a plumber (I actually had been making that stale joke for years with him). Insecurity and lack of trust is like looking at your relationship through a pair of green-tinted lenses where everything and everyone will appear as a threat to your relationship. That's why trading phones or periodically checking each other's phones doesn't do a damn thing to strengthen my marriage, but it may remind my husband that I really need to make Banana Pudding Poke Cake instead of pinning it a hundred times.
Is trading phones the worst thing in the world?
No. Just like as the show illustrated, every couple has to do what works best for their own situation. But what may have left the one couple sleeping in separate beds at the end of the night was the nature of the show itself (Jephte returns home the next morning and apologizes after a friend gives him some solid advice on communication and making the effort in a marriage). Trust takes time to build.
It takes time to really get a feel for someone's intention and character so that you can honestly know that him chatting it up with the waitress is just him being an extrovert and not an excuse for him to keep looking at her ass. Trust is also being honest with yourself enough to know that when your partner says something about how they operate, they probably mean it and when I said I wasn't getting rid of my male friends, it was unfair of my ex to think love and time would change my mind. Compromise is awesome when it truly works, but an unwillingness to abandon values doesn't mean a person doesn't love you, it means they respect themselves and if you can't respect that, maybe they aren't the one for you.
Lastly, let's not underestimate a person's right to privacy.
I don't know what exactly is going on behind that bathroom door every time my husband has Indian food, but I have a good enough idea to know it's not something that I need to nor want to witness. In our marriage, we take the same approach to cell phones. Does he really need to see that tweet about wanting Michael "Bae" Jordan to "Killmonger" my cakes? No. Does that mean that it will actually ever happen, and I have my bags packed to get into some adultery Wakanda-style? Also, no. As an individual, regardless of if you are in a committed relationship or not, you're allowed to have a side to your life that your partner does not have complete access to, and you can have that without being disrespectful to them.
Lastly, when it comes to trust and personal boundaries, healthy communication will reveal more about your partner than a pin code or e-mail password ever will. If you're looking for passcodes before you even have a conversation, that may be part of the problem.
*Names have been changed to maintain privacy.
Featured image courtesy of Courtney Hizey Photography & Emily Maultsby