Thursday, July 4, 2013

Should You Give Your Partner Your Passwords?

Some time ago now, I was watching the Today Show one morning, because I am a glutton for punishment, and some blowhard came on and started lecturing us about how, in a good relationship, we should share our email, social media, cell phone and presumably online banking passwords with our partner because, “If you’re trustworthy, you have nothing to hide.”

Right, that’s what the NSA said. How about, if I’m so trustworthy, then you trust me.

A few minutes later, the same guy told America that we no longer need to wear socks with our closed-toed dress shoes, so that just goes to show you how well-thought-out his opinions are.

Socks are not optional, America. Don't even try it.
Image credit: Loran Davis

In an unprecedented move, I took to the Internets to see what other people thought before blurting out my half-educated opinions here on the blog. I thought this would be a good idea because I have, according to an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, “a negative attitude about relationships,” for reasons that remain mysterious.

My search turned up a Pew study that found that one in three teens share their online passwords with their boyfriends, girlfriends, or (in the case of the forever alone) besties. According to a New York Times article on the matter, teens take password-sharing as a sign of trust and intimacy.

Yeah, but those are teens, and teens are…not renowned for their ability to think things through. What do full-grown adults think of the matter?

An informal survey of ten of my Facebook friends and one of my Twitter followers revealed that the majority of full-grown adults think that sharing your online passwords with your partner compromises your own personal space and privacy, which you, as a distinct and separate individual, need and deserve. No one actually said that; that’s just the impression I got from reading all of their remarks.

Don’t get me wrong, some of those people did come out on the side of full password disclosure. One friend, Eileen Dover, said, “My wife knows my passwords because its always the same and I know hers because I set them up! We don’t have secrets and have never used them to spy on one another.”

Another friend, Constance Noring, wrote, “Snoop all you want. Just be prepared for what you find. On that note, my husband and I both know each others passwords. It’s not a trust thing but a respect thing as well.” I’m not sure I understand that, because I kind of feel like, if someone respects me, they’ll respect my right to privacy, but whatevs, it’s not my husband.

I will say that the general rule of thumb, as I understand it, about snooping on your partner is that you will be guaranteed to find something you don’t like, either because a) you realize, either consciously or not, that there are problems in the relationship, and you’re snooping because you’ve decided, either consciously or not, to find the evidence you need to confirm your suspicions; or b) you’re some kind of paranoid jealous wingnut who’s going to overanalyze and misinterpret whatever you find, even in the absence of any legitimate evidence of wrongdoing.

Several people said, as Facebook friend Leigh King put it, “You shouldn’t want to know your spouses passwords and they shouldn’t care if you know it.” So that would be a “no,” then, I think.

The Twitter follower, @youresuchamom, said, “If you’re doing something wrong it’s likely on another account anyhow. I let hubs have his privacy.” Well, I guess that’s logical.

Christina Majaski, whose real name I’m going to go ahead and use here because everybody already knows who she is, said, “I think not sharing passwords exhibits more trust than sharing them. I am definitely going to wonder if the person I’m with suddenly thinks he needs that information. Granted, because of tech issues and other things, couples may accidentally just know each other’s passwords, but if you think you are entitled to this information, ask me for it, expect it, or think I need to prove something to you by sharing it, then we don’t need to be together.”

Only one person, Polly Esther, said anything about the privacy of the people on the other end of your email: “While being open and honest with [husband] is my #1 priority, keeping my friends personal feelings and rants private for them is just as important to me as trusting they would never share mine with someone else. How could I protect their thoughts/feelings/private conversations if I share my passwords with my significant other.” That’s right! The people who email you expect privacy too! But no! Make it all about you!

It's probably obvious that I come down on the side of non-password-sharing. Have you ever heard someone say, "How can I miss you if you won't go away?" It's like that, only with trust instead.

What do you think? Should you share your passwords with your partner?