How phone passwords are ruining relationships.

The cellphone has been blamed for ruining a number of relationships and marriages. However, some couples seek to foster trust by not being overly protective about access to their phones by their partners. It all starts and ends with the password.

While handing over control of your phone to allow your partner scroll through photos, text messages, M-Pesa account, emails, WhatsApp discussions, Instagram photos, Twitter posts and call history could be an indication of honesty, trust and openness, most people would rather keep the skeletons of their double lives, infidelity and secret financial transactions behind hard-to-crack passwords.

In extreme cases, some go to the extent of carrying their phones to the bathroom lest the missus or hubby happens to stumble on nude photos of a secret flame.

Some simply want to keep the prying eyes of their partners from their M-Pesa transactions, that might include payment to Take Away Wines & Spirits’ or a bed and breakfast in town. There is also that seemingly harmless matter of denying access to a spouse who is forever ‘siphoning’ airtime and Internet bundles.

Still, others don’t want their spouses to follow family WhatsApp conversations about poor ‘Uncle Thush’ who was bewitched to sell his ancestral land. To lock their phones, some couples have devised complicated passwords, such as convoluted patterns, which they often forget (when drunk).

But why would a couple in a committed relationship play a cat and mouse game with phone passwords, yet trust and openness are what relationships are ideally built on? 

Sylvia Chepng’etich got married in a glamorous wedding in Kericho. At 27, she knew it was time to trust someone enough to give them her phone password.

But despite surrendering hers, the hubby kept his password close to his chest. He never shared. This has strained the relationship less than a year after making the ‘till death do us part’ vows.

“I can’t say there’s any reason to suspect or not trust him,” says Sylvia. “He picks all calls in my presence and I often can hear what the other person at the other end is saying.

My problem is why he locks his phone with a password which changes almost every three days. Just when I think I have cracked his pattern code, he creates an even more complex one which locks me out,” she adds. 

Sylvia does not know what lies on the other side of her man’s phone. “We don’t have kids and I don’t think I’m ready, not until he can be as open as I am. We love each other but there is something that just does not add up,” she explains.

Sylvia’s hubby was not amused when we raised this matter with him. “I’ll talk it over with her, I had no idea she felt that way,” was what he had to say before hanging up. 

Then there is that not so small matter of a yellowing ‘ex-file’ still chatting a former lover who moved on. Michael Waswa works as a network administrator at a local university. Despite being engaged and almost getting married, he told The Nairobian that he will not be sharing his password anytime soon. Reason? To ‘protect’ his spouse.

“I could have married someone else earlier. But one day in 2012, I forgot to log off my Facebook account. My then girlfriend, while using my laptop, read some communication from a secret admirer. Let’s just say it was ugly,” said Waswa, adding that, “There are exes out there who always chat with you.

Imagine what would happen if my girlfriend, the one I love, comes across these messages. I don’t know how she would react and I am not planning to find out!” he said.

Malkia Akinyi, a media practitioner argues that she does not need a password for her phone since a marriage should be open. “I have no password for ‘down there’ which my husband has access to, so why should my phone have a password. If you suspect anything, just ask and confront me,” argued the mother of three.

Phone passwords have forced spouses with roving eyes to develop the art of coded language when speaking in the presence of suspicious partners.

It starts with saving mpango wa kando’s number in the phone book with such ‘harmless’ names like ‘Bishop’ or ‘Mtu wa Makaa’. Some opt for ‘service-provider’ titles like ‘Engineer 1’, ‘Driver 2’ or ‘Omuofia Lecturer’ (for those in college). In reality, ‘Bishop’ could be Esther Waruguru and when she calls, the conversation could go something like: “Bwana asifiwe mchungaji.... I thank God for Jesus in my life.” That, when deciphered, means ‘Jesus’ (the husband) is home.

For those who want to keep it simple, the mpango has a brief that there is no calling after 8pm. Simple.