Telephonic Trespass – To Lock or not to Unlock?

Lying in Bed


As more and more couples spend evenings sitting together, ostensibly watching the telly but rather, gazing into their respective handheld devices, sometimes with a smirk and others with an outright guffaw, the question is increasingly asked if one spouse is entitled to withhold access to his or her device from the other. (*NB, I’m not bachelor/spinster-phobic, feel free to replace ‘spouse’ with ‘partner’).

Phone Lock 3

It’s a question that probably has philosophical similarities with the older question of whether or not there should be any secrets between spouses. In our traditionally patriarchal society, the question was ‘should a man tell his wife everything?’. Growing up, I actually overheard a family friend say to parents at a gathering once, ‘it is a foolish man that tells his wife everything’. So, is it a foolish man that grants his wide unfettered access to his phone? Is it an overzealous wife that demands it?


I suppose the obvious answer is, well, you’re in a committed relationship, so unless you’re hiding your communications with a lover, why should your phone be off limits to your spouse? And it’s a valid question. According to the National Institute of Beer Parlour Statistics (NIBPS – beer with me), 78% of the people who discovered their partners were having affairs made the discovery on their partner’s phone or tablet. Undeleted messages, time-stamped pictures destroying alibis, call logs showing 15 calls in one day to Hakeem Barber (even though the man is bald).

Couple fighting over phone

It’s possible though for the affair being covered up not to be one in which the spouse with the locked phone is participating. NIBPS statistics suggest that 65% of the men who lock their phones do so to prevent their friends from being embarrassed. A friend may have sent a naughty picture or video and the husband doesn’t want his wife seeing his friend in that light. Sometimes, it’s also to protect the sanctity of the Vegas chatrooms – what’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas and all. The NIBPS Fidelity Report of 2015 actually draws a parallel between the Vegas chatrooms and the Cigar Clubs of the aristocracy – no spouses allowed. It’s like a confessional, where all the other men are joint and several confessors.


Women aren’t left out, even though the NIBPS statistics show that only 18% are fearful of their husbands wanting to look through their phones.  They also lock their phones for similar reasons.

Phone Lock 1

In all this however, there are those who declare that their spouses are expressly prohibited from touching, answering, swiping or otherwise attempting in any other manner howsoever expressed to unlock, access or otherwise retrieve information from their devices. These spouses (men, usually) are the envy of those who have not had the testicular fortitude to make such pronunciations in their own homes. In the homes of the envious men, it is known beyond doubt, reasonable or otherwise, that the highest appellate court in the household resides in the bosom of the wife, so there will be no prohibition.


How do the banners do it? Well, the NIBPS research has uncovered 2 categories of men who achieve prohibition successfully. The first employ means of harsh words and violence, both threatened and, quite sadly, demonstrated. Thankfully, the NIBPS puts their number at only 5% of the banners, as the means of enforcing the ban are simply not sustainable. Those with long-term success, the 97% (if you’re a Buharist) achieve it commercially, by buying it. New car? Check. New phone? Check. Trip with the girls and decent shopping money? Check. Check. Cheque.


And it makes sense, really. “The less one is able to meet one’s obligations, the more they will be held to account for their time.” Robert Mugabe, 1759.


So where does this leave us? If your spouse isn’t one of the 38% that don’t care and locked phones are the elephant in the room of your relationship, perhaps you should consider ditching your dirty laundry and your smutty friends. Or simply be rich.

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