Do You Let Her Check Your Phone?

My wife and I share about our days with each other, sometimes to the most minute of details. (This has been less interesting since we’ve been spending 24 hours together in Corona-land). Nothing is hidden, nothing obscured or even left unsaid. Sometimes it’s exhausting with a house full of kids and making room to include their desire to talk, too. We may call for TV time just so we can sneak away for uninterrupted conversation.

The only other time this open communication becomes a hindrance is during Christmas shopping season. We’ll go our separate ways to shop for each other. But inevitably, something interesting happens that’s worth telling the other about. So early on in our marriage, one of us came up with the idea of referencing the store as the “Pink Sweater” store, knowing that neither of us would get the other a pink sweater. (I think one time I sorta did, just in spite of it all). A story might sound like this: “So, I was at the Pink Sweater store. And I had to call on the manager because the sweater I found was too…. uh, fuzzy. And the one I heard about was half-off. So they had to go to the back and grab four different pink sweaters and let me choose between those.” But really this was all about a toaster.

Also, I hope I never actually bought her a toaster for Christmas.

Our open conversation style has always been a natural aspect of our relationship. We started out as friends, then best friends, so conversation was completely natural. I’ve never thought about trying to hide things. Why would I? To have a companion and confidant through life is the highest of blessings I could think of. Someone that knows me better than I know myself. (Really though. She told me what my enneagram number was cause I was never decisive enough to take a quality survey.) I crave for her to know everything about me. I need her to know it all. It makes everything in life better and easier, especially the decision-making.

Recently, another high-profile mega-church pastor was released from his position for “undisclosed reasons.” Of course, those reasons will always find the light, which I found in an article interviewing the part-time girlfriend he kept hidden. Their occasional rendezvous was all over when his wife “saw the text messages.” The entire ruse was based on secrecy. He was able to do what he did because there were texts, calls, meetings, events, and plans that he kept from his wife. There were presumably days where he came home at night, and at the typical opportunity to talk about their respective days, he had to purposely leave out giant, gaping holes of information. He had to intentionally cover over things that, if found out, would blow his cover.

Sitting on the outside of this glass house, I shake my head and tell myself I can not imagine doing this to my wife. How is the “thrill” of meeting someone else worth the stress of hiding it from my wife? How is it worth the obvious pain it would cause her? But still, this is a common storyline that has happened countless times. Whether the root cause is the stress in the marriage, or distance, or disagreements – something eventually caused the open line of communication to fail.

I was dumbfounded when one of our kids got a C grade on an open-book test. They had not only the week of learning and homework, but all their notes, a study guide, powerpoint slides, and it was open-book! How is that not a 100%? The same works for relationships. When you’re an open book, you have all the information and answers there for you. If you’re an open book, at least your spouse doesn’t have the excuse that she didn’t know.

You may at some point need to say something like “I feel annoyed when you tell me multiple times to do the same thing.” How saying something like that comes across to her will vary drastically based on current moods, past problems, and tone, but at least she knows and can use that information next time. Or what if you need to say, “I’m going to have a lunch meeting with a woman from the bank.” It could be a completely innocent, business-only gathering, but a in a relationship that’s strained and lacking communication, hiding that “innocent” piece of information could be the beginning of a path you vowed you wouldn’t walk down.

In the book “His Needs Her Needs”, one of the emotional needs that a person has is “Honesty and Openness.” I thought it wise he includes both words. You can be honest and not open. You can be open and not honest. The two work in tandem for a healthy relationship. Whether she chooses to utilize it or not, my wife knows the password or how to access all of my electronic devices. To tell her factual statements, but not allow access to my phone, would be honest but not open. To let her see my phone, but have everything hidden, deleted, or password protected, would be open but not honest.

If you were to hear your phone go off in the other room, and you don’t have the capacity to be able to say “Honey, could you check that for me?” because you’re afraid of what it might be, then you truly have a root issue that needs addressed immediately. How comforting would it be to her to hear “I want you to know that you can check or ask to check my phone or laptop at any time. I don’t have anything to hide, and I want to keep it that way.” Maybe at first it even sounds suspicious because it’s unorthodox, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. And if you’re really serious, especially if you’ve had trouble with inappropriate internet activity, set up a content management software and let her set the password.

Trust is not something that can be lost and gained back easily. The best, easiest, and guilt-free method is to be completely trustworthy from the beginning. You’ll be protecting your marriage and preventing yourself from making stupid choices. The weight of lies is too heavy a burden to carry. The opposite is dramatically different: to be open AND honest is like floating on a cloud.

Trust me.

Things I Miss and Don’t Miss When the Power Goes Out

The power is out. It’s pretty bad. I knew something happened while standing in my backyard. I heard a sound and looked up to see the power lines undulating between the poles. I figured a limb fell at my neighbor’s house. No. A tree fell two blocks away. Completely taking down the power lines, snapping a pole in half, and crashing all elements into the pavement. So yeah, the power is out, and probably will be for a while. We live on a dead end, so literally, there’s no way out of here. We’re stuck.

We took a walk to see the damage and met some neighbors for the first time after living here for a year. But the mosquitos are hungry outside, and it’s humid. I don’t like trying to read by candlelight. There’s no internet, obviously, so all I could think to do is open a Word doc and type. It’s making me think that if this lasted for a long time, what would I miss the most?

  • Convenience

I know in my head, that the electricity’s out. I know that it takes electricity to power a light bulb and illuminate the room. But my hands are not aware of this circumstance, and continue to turn the light switch on every time I cross a doorway.

I could totally manage living in the 1800’s. My wife, on the other hand, has said “I would never make it on the Oregon Trail. We’d come to the first river to cross and that’s where I would live. Actually, I would just never leave where I was.”

So, it’s not that I can’t or wouldn’t. But man, I love that things are there when you want it. All of these things that Settlers would think are magic. Lights, on! Microwave, cook! TV, Weather forecast! OK Google, what happened to the actor from “The Sand Lot?”

  • Air Conditioning

I can’t sleep when it’s hot. I’ve been camping in summer, stayed in hotels with poor AC, in other people’s houses with unreasonable temperature preferences (like 73). My sixth sense is instinctively knowing that someone adjusted the thermostat up one degree. It’ll be 1am and I’m peeling sheets off me like wet Saran wrap. I can’t sleep hot. My wife can’t be cold. Not even just during sleep time, like ever. The Fall season initiates her hibernating feature, and if you disturb the shutting down process, it gets ugly. She can’t be cold.

We’ve managed to find the sweet spot in the Venn diagram of household temperature. And I recognize the fact that I take for granted how luxurious it is to set that degree, or even tweak that degree to what suits me in the moment. Tonight may be a long night.

  • Refrigerator

I realized, if I think hard enough, I have a photographic memory of the inside of my refrigerator. Like a ninja, I can open the correct door, and at just the right angle snag the string cheese out of the drawer and shut it before any cool air is lost. You’d have to replay the security camera on slow motion to be able to tell that something even happened. (This is totally what ninjas do in their spare time at home).

It’s not that I’m going hungry at this moment, or even for the rest of the night, but it’s a fear of not having food in the future. This was always a fear of mine when our college choral group would travel and stay in people’s houses. I just knew I was going to go hungry. Once a family graciously ordered pizzas, with everything, and I just can’t handle onions and green peppers on a pizza. But I did my best to survive. Then there was the trailer in nowhere Illinois. The one where he said, “don’t use that shower, that’s where the cat litter is.” The one with the living room lined with various empty beer cans as decoration. The same one where it smelled like dog all night, only to find out the next morning that I slept in the dog’s bed. But the owner may not have known that because he sleeps outside in a tent. I did not eat much that night.

I love food. And I love knowing that there will be food.

  • White noise

If you pay attention, everything that plugs in makes a noise of some kind. Your laptop has a fan, the radio buzzes, light bulbs hum, the AC, Dishwasher, Washer/Dryer, fridge, TV, radio. But when the power’s out, the sound of silence is deafening. Right now I’m driving my wife crazy with every keystroke; a sound that wouldn’t even be noticeable with the TV on. Every time she exhales, I wonder if it’s an annoyed sigh at something I’m doing. I hear every airplane in radius. Crickets and frogs are singing. It sounds like the neighbors are talking on our front porch. There’s a fly in the room. It’s maddening. We’re surely going to kill each other by the end of the night.

Years ago I removed the battery from a clock Grandma gave us because the tick-tock would keep me up at night, singing “Yankee doodle went to town…” along with the second-hand beat. I could enjoy a peaceful night in the desolate parts of the Western plains, but without something to muffle the sounds inside, I’ll go crazy.

This fly must die.

What I don’t miss.

  • The Internet

Surprisingly, I don’t miss the web-o-sphere. I would otherwise probably be on it this whole time. But for whatever reason, I don’t miss it when I can’t have it.

Seriously, this fly has got to go…..

OK. Got him. Carry on.

Scrolling Facebook, scanning what’s trending on Twitter, looking at headlines and assuming what the article says just so I’m caught up on the news. It’s all just a way to pass the time or stimulate my laziness. It’s not stimulating my boredom because there’s plenty to do. I’m just too lazy to do it, and the Internet encourages my poor behavior.

  • TV

We don’t really watch TV anyway. We’ve never had cable. Currently, we have a digital antenna and a Netflix subscription. And sometimes I wonder if Netflix is worth it (but we’re in the middle of 30 Rock Season 3). The kids don’t watch it that much. There’s not really anything we can watch as a family anyway. After the kids go to bed, we have it on more as background noise while we scroll the Internet.

  • Obligations

It’s only temporary, but when the power’s out, there are a dozen things that you cannot do. Doing the laundry is completely out of your control. There will be no dishwasher, vacuum, work email, or anything that requires more than a candle or flashlight. All of it is beyond my control. And rather than it being a stress weighing on my mind, it’s quite the opposite. I’m at peace, feeling like I have a brand new (limited) slate of options. In the end, I’d probably rather read, type, think, or relax anyway.

Thanks: fallen tree. Your sacrifice has given me time to reflect. You gave me time to blog after four months of being “too busy.”

I’m thankful for electricity. And in some ways, I’m thankful for when it goes out.