Would you allow your partner access to your social media accounts and private messages?

Would you be happy for your other half to use your phone whenever — along with access to your social media accounts and private messages, asks Geraldine Walsh

It was never a case of show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

It simply happened over a series of broken phones and laziness when it was all too easy to pick up each other’s phone to check Twitter.

Nevertheless, it has resulted in myself and my other half knowing the passwords to all our social media and having our personal accounts on every device in the house.

I’ll be honest, I thought it was almost a given that couples eventually openly and happily allowed access to each other’s phone giving ample access to their personal Twitter or Facebook. But it appears I am wrong, so very wrong.

Despite being together for 17 years, married with kids, it seems a good portion of the online world think we’re crazy for sharing passwords and that we are certainly in the minority. With Twitter being the place to ask, I wondered if we were, in fact, with the majority or the minority on this issue. I threw out a Twitter poll with a very clear result, which is backed up by recent research suggesting we’re nuts to share.

On average, only one third are happy to share their passwords with a partner, even in a long-term, stable relationship. It seems the other two-thirds are crying out to warn us that sharing is a bad idea, regardless of the strength of the relationship.

Sally O’Reilly, a counselling psychologist and psychotherapist, says sharing tends to happen for convenience and almost unwittingly, which is exactly what happened with us, but we never questioned it as the possibility to cyberstalk each other crept in.

O’Reilly says: “Many partners have access to each other’s social media simply because they share devices and don’t bother ‘passwording’ their phones. Other couples have access because they’ve agreed to provide access as a show of ‘trust’ or one partner has asked for access as a show of control.”

Geraldine and David Renton, who are happy to share their passwords

For Geraldine and David Renton, sharing passwords was a given and stemmed out of having children.

Their eldest son, Ethan, was diagnosed with Hunter syndrome, which Geraldine so honestly writes about on her blog, ‘It’s Me and Ethan’. As such, having access to each other’s phones became a priority.

“My husband and I have been together for over 14 years and in that time, we have never sat down and discussed passwords,” says Geraldine.

“It’s just a given that we know each other’s. Seriously, have you ever had a blackout and the only device fully charged is your husband’s? We’ve had plenty and I think that’s when the sharing of passwords occurred.

It’s vital we have devices charged in our house as my eldest son uses TV to regulate himself so when there’s a blackout, access to devices are essential, no matter whose they are, mine or my husband’s.

For the Rentons, privacy and boundaries have remained established despite easy access to private messages, with trust being an important aspect of their unequivocal sharing.

“I may know my husband’s passwords and he mine,” says Geraldine, “but neither of us would dare go through each other’s phone, email, messages — there’s a trust there and an understanding. We both know the passwords if ever we needed to access these, although I can’t see us ever needing to access each other’s messages. Sharing passwords isn’t important to me. While I may know his passwords, I don’t use them.”

Emma Hayes, chief executive of Hear Me Roar Media, does not share passwords with her husband David and is not interested to know his passwords. In what seems to be the majority consensus when it comes to partners’ passwords, it is an issue of privacy; protecting your own and respecting your partner’s.

Emma and David Hayes, who respect and trust each other’s privacy

“To be honest it has never been a topic of discussion,” says Emma, “We just value each other’s privacy. I would never touch his phone and he wouldn’t touch mine. I personally would hate that. I like to text my friends or talk to clients and their privacy is important too. I don’t think that is fair to me, my friends, family, or my clients. They are, after all, contacting me and not him. That’s not to say that just because your partner has your passwords that they will access your phone or devices, but I don’t see why they need to know it.

“David and I are quite private overall, so we value our own personal privacy and our shared privacy.

We lead quite independent lives and we are extremely trusting of one another. We’ve been together since we were teenagers and we are completely committed to one another, but sharing passwords is not us.

In this world of social media and relationships, couples can use the sharing passwords game as a way to envelop trust in a relationship, a commitment as such, but it can often be misconstrued as an element of power.

O’Reilly says: “The only ‘benefit’ to having a password is to have access to or to monitor private messages. Why would we feel we have a right to or a need to our partner’s private communications to other people?

“The sharing of passwords is not a solution to a trust issue, it is a way of monitoring a mistrusted partner. And the thing is, if said partner had intent to deceive, then of course they’ll give access to passwords and will simply find another way to deceive. The passwords are not the issue, rather the relationship itself has eroded somehow.

Geraldine and Barry Walsh, who know each other’s passwords

“If you have a suspicious, controlling, or cheating partner, then these behaviours will manifest themselves in several ways — the password piece is just one of them.”

And then there are couples like ours, who slipped into sharing passwords, with little to no reason other than convenience.

The big question is, have I perused the private conversations of my partner?

I’m not going to lie, I have and so has he, and we both know it. It’s rare, however, and 95% of the time curiosity would not beckon. The fact is, neither of us has anything to hide. So why bother checking at all if trust is there? Because we can.

In a way, there’s an assumption that a little cyberstalking will occur if we share devices or leave our accounts on each other’s phone. While I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have indulged in a little snoop, there’s not many who would admit it. This can have consequences, as even that 5% of curiosity can severely damage a relationship. Sharing passwords comes with a warning, because no matter how much trust may be in a relationship, human doubt, suspicion, and misunderstanding have a way of creeping in if access to a private world is offered.

O’Reilly lays it on the line: “Sharing passwords is too often not about the formation of trust. It’s about trust that has already been eroded. Whatever issue emerges because of password sharing will merely have been triggered — it will be a catalyst if you will, for something that was already dysfunctional or unhealthy.”


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