Is it possible for a seemingly good and stable relationship to head to the rocks with just a few taps on a mobile phone’s keypad? Apparently yes.
We cannot imagine our lives without mobile phones, yet they are the same gadgets that are stirring quite a number of conflicts in relationships today.
Two weeks ago a woman shared her story, with the Saturday Magazine, of how after snooping on her husband’s phone, she found what she called “near pornographic texts”.
Her marriage appeared fine until she started scouring her man’s phone for evidence. She found intimate exchanges between him and his supposed lover that shattered her rosy outlook of her marriage.
Some of the responses to the story from our readers suggested that the woman should not have gone sniffing around for trouble on her husband’s phone. That it was all her fault that her marriage was now suffering.
Some even told her “What you know doesn’t hurt you’ as they castigated her for snooping. But in reality, there are many more of her kind, who are willing to ignore the rules of netiquette in their pursuit for incriminating evidence.
A study by three universities in the UK last year found that one out of five spouses snoop on their partners’ emails and text messages. The survey also found that women were more likely than men to snoop.
The snooping takes the form of checking someone’s emails, text messages, posts on social media websites, and browser history; installing monitoring software on a partner’s phone, or even posing as someone else to contact a partner.
Up to no good
Many people begin snooping on their partners when they suspect that the partner is up to no good, and want evidence to confirm their fears. It could be that your partner is never comfortable answering calls in your presence, or that his or her call register and inbox are always empty when you check.
Perhaps he has a security code on his phone, or you just want to find out who your partner is constantly sending text messages or emailing during the wee hours of the night. Such signs can send the message that your man or woman has something to hide.
Sometimes there is nothing to worry about, but there may be times when you get the nagging feeling that there is something you need to know, something fishy going on, and that the evidence is on his phone or laptop. Or maybe you just want to reassure yourself that everything is fine and going through his phone will reaffirm that you are the only woman in his life.
However, there are those who find the damning evidence they were looking for and go on to confront their partners.
Mercy, a sales representative, has been caught up in the SMS web before. The first time her boyfriend found flirtatious messages, he confronted her about it, but her defense calmed him down for a while.
“In sales, you have to give your contact information to your clients and the down side is that some of my male clients continuously send flirtatious messages or even send sexts (suggestive or sexually explicit text messages). We fight about text messages all the time and even though I explain the situation to him, he does not get it. Just because someone sent you a raunchy SMS does not mean there is anything going on between you,” Mercy sighs with frustration.
Mercy now thinks that her boyfriend of three years installed monitoring software on her phone.
“He confronts me even about messages that I deleted immediately after reading. He tells me who sent the message, the exact time the message was sent and the content. How else can one tell you such details unless they have you on surveillance?” Mercy asks.
Mercy’s suspicions are not far-fetched. A new mobile phone spying software was introduced into the Kenyan market last year. The software that goes by the name Juju works like black magic and promises to help you catch your cheating spouse without being detected.
Once installed, it taps into the ‘suspect’s’ phone and forwards all text messages and calls directly to your phone. You can even listen in on all calls and find out who your partner is talking to and what they are talking about.
However, George Njoroge the Managing Director of Juju Limited realises that fire can only be fought with fire, and his company offers counter-surveillance software for those who have something to hide.
Dubbed SMS private bag, this software directs all your messages to a private folder, which only you have access to. The snooping girlfriend or husband will never get to read any suspicious messages as they are deleted from your inbox and re-directed to the private folder.
But 35-year-old electrician, Ben, finds the idea of installing spy ware on his wife’s phone rather ridiculous.
“What kind of marriage is that where you now turn into a detective against the very person you are supposed to truest most?” He muses.
Ben swears that for the 10 years he has been married, he has never had reason to monitor his wife’s calls or text messages. He insists that if you cannot trust your spouse and have to keep watching her and poring over her bag looking for incriminating evidence, then you have no business being married to her.
Ben says that he leaves his phone lying around and has no problem when his wife answers calls on his phone even though female clients call him sometimes after working hours.
He narrates how one of his clients once called and played a prank on his wife, asking her who she was in that house, as if to suggest that the caller was the other woman in Ben’s life. But at the end of the call, the female client clarified that she was just testing Ben’s wife to see her reaction.
“My wife later told me about that incident and we laughed about it,” Ben remembers.
Ben believes that if someone is straying, you do not have to snoop around to find this out because the truth will reveal itself with time.
“But even if you find something fishy, do not be quick to accuse your partner. First investigate and be sure of the facts and when you confront her with the information, her reaction will tell you subtly whether you are overreacting or whether you are on to something,” he adds.
Finding a string of texts between your wife and another man would likely make any man angry and bitter especially if the man on the other end is your wife’s ex-boyfriend.
Mwangi, a programme assistant with a local non-governmental organisation, had to deal with suspicious messages he found accidentally on his wife’s phone. Mwangi, 26, married last year and even before they had settled into marriage, his wife’s ex started sending her flirtatious messages.
“My wife and I share phones and I found the messages when I was using her phone to send a text,” he says.
Before he mustered the courage to bring the issue up, his wife raised the subject, herself, showed him the messages and they resolved the issue together.
But Mwangi did not let go so easily. He called the man to tell him off, but all he got were insults. However, the man stopped sending the offensive messages. Mwangi says that because his wife was open about the messages, the issue did not result in conflict and mistrust.
“There should be no secrets in marriage, you just have to discuss such things openly if you want to avoid issues of mistrust,” Mwangi advises.
Many of those who confessed to snooping agree that before they started fishing around in their partner’s phones, their relationships appeared somewhat healthy, but nosing around changed all that.
Relationship therapists warn that it is not the phones that are causing the problem, but rather people start snooping because there is something going wrong with the relationship.
Naomi James, a marriage therapist at Oasis Africa Counselling Institute, concurs that for a significant number of couples who seek marriage therapy, the conflict arose from mobile phone communication disputes.
One partner or the other peeks into the phone and finds what he or she thinks is a damning message or call and that sets the stage for frequent fights and mistrust. Yet phones are not the real culprits in the breakdown of relationships.
“If you have to sneak around your partner looking for tell tale signs and messages, then there is an issue of mistrust in your relationship already,” Naomi says.
The marriage therapist says that only being open with each other and rebuilding trust can save such a relationship.
But she cautions that there is a possibility that the other party’s fears may not be unfounded.
“If you are in constant communication with another person of the opposite sex, you need to be alert and conscious. A casual friendship can develop into something deeper with frequent communication and spending too much time together alone,” she warns.