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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » sharing email (and other) passwords with a partner

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Author Topic: sharing email (and other) passwords with a partner
Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293

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IN the year and a half since I started volunteering here at Scarleteen, I've seen many people say that their partner has their email password, or that they wish they had their partner's facebook password, or that they looked through their partner's texts to find out what was going on with their partner.

This seems like a breach of privacy to me, and I'd like some help in understanding it.

Many years ago, when my current long-term partner and I were just starting to date, I went to visit him. Since I didn't have a laptop at the time, he let me use his computer. His email program was open, and I was curious. Looking through the messages, I found nothing interesting, but I felt really uncomfortable while I was doing it.

I felt so uncomfortable that I told my partner what I had done. He asked me never to do that again. I didn't.

I have some ideas of why partners share passwords with each other and look at each other's email, texts, or other social media (either with or without each other's permission), but I'd like to know what yu folks have to say before I jump to conclusions.

Any thoughts?

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Robin

Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Haleigh H
Volunteer-in-training
Member # 103145

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Robin this is a great topic, I'm so excited by it. I think for me sharing passwords and checking on what your partner has been up to is about trust and boundaries (probably a lot of other things too).

This is a complicated one. Here is the way I think about it. First, I think there is a "what is healthy in a relationship" question but then you have to take into account that based on our life experiences we all have different boundaries, different levels of trust, and different requirements for someone to earn our trust. So in a relationship I think it is really something you have to navigate together.

Me personally, I like to balance having my privacy respected (respecting my partner's privacy) and being open, especially in regard to communication. My partner and I could definitely figure out how to access each other's emails and social media, we have access to each others phones but I think if either of us is feeling tempted to snoop around or feeling like we have a reason to snoop around we have a discussion about it instead. In a sense we tell on ourselves about how we're feeling before we do something that may violate the others privacy/boundaries.

We both experienced something very similar to you. Early on in our relationship he went through my facebook messages (I left it logged on) and I went through his phone. We both felt uncomfortable about what we did and have preferred to have a conversation about what ever is driving us to want to look through the other's things.

I feel like we've figured out our preferred level of privacy and our boundaries but I also feel like its something that you're always working on in a relationship - whether that be a friendship or partner.

That's just what works for me and my partner. I'm so interested to hear what others have to say.

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Haleigh

Posts: 176 | From: Kansas City, Missouri | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 25425

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Interesting topic, Robin! This is definitely something that I have also been puzzled by, the willingness to what I would perceive as completely giving up one's privacy.

I am a big, big believer in open communication. I believe that, if there is something big going on, you should be able to say it out loud to your partner. Even if it might be difficult or awkward, you shoud always feel that ultimately, you would be safe in voicing your thoughts, and they would be received with respect.

But I also belive that everyone involved has a right to work out their thoughts before they share them, and share at their own pacce. I also believe that it is healthy to have a life that is separate from your relationship - not necessarily something that you are "keeping secret", just something that is all your own.

And I do think that e-mail correspondences and social networking contacts are part of that separate life. I feel that, if I were to ever feel tempted to snoop into a partner's life and see what they're doing when they're not with me, I would wonder why I felt the need to do that, and whether I had any reason to mistrust my partner or question whether they are honoring our agreements in their private life.

Personally, I have never given out passwords or asked for them. My most recent ex (who remains a close friend) lives an hour away, so when we visit we spend a few days in a row together and also borrow each other's computers so we don't have to carry our's around. I have my own webbrowser on his computer, to which I have saved all of my passwords, which means that he could easily get into all of my e-mail accounts if he wanted to. However, he has never done so, and I know he never would. Similarly, when I am on his computer, I theoretically have access to his journal, which he keeps there, but I have never felt tempted to read it. I would be very upset if I found out that he had breached my trust in that way, and I know he would be hurt if the situation were reversed, too.

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Johanna
Scarleteen Volunteer

"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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moonlight bouncing off water
Peer Ambassador
Member # 44338

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This is a great topic. I agree that passwords to e-mail, social media etc are part of one's life separate from their partner. Those in partnerships (or triads etc) are still individual people.

Accessing somebody else's e-mail would make me feel uncomfortable (well, I have accessed my parent's work e-mail but I was working for them and that was part of the job, it is very different from a personal e-mail account. I have never given anyone my passwords to these accounts and I would never ask anyone for theirs.

In my last relationship, my boyfriend gave me his passwords to various accounts. But this was a bit of a unique situation: he was going into the hospital for an indefinite period of time and would not have internet access. He gave me the passwords as a safety net I believe, just in case he needed me to check something for him before he was out of the hospital. Even though I could have accessed his accounts, I didn't even unfold the paper he gave me and subsequently destroyed it when he and I broke up.

Accessing people accounts feels like a gross breach of trust to me, and I don't really know why people do it although I am interested in finding out why people do and if it feels like a breach of trust to them or not.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

Posts: 864 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Haleigh H
Volunteer-in-training
Member # 103145

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I'm right there with you. I would be so interested to hear from someone who does share passwords with their partner (or even friends) and accesses their accounts.

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Haleigh

Posts: 176 | From: Kansas City, Missouri | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BrightStar171
Peer Ambassador
Member # 64549

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Interesting topic indeed!

Since I seem to be one of the few folks around who does share passwords, I thought I'd at least add my two cents.

I'm married (with shared finances rather than separate), which maybe adds a more complicated dimension to all of this, because part of the reason that my husband and I prefer to have access to each others' various accounts is because we sometimes need to get basic information from one another. So, for instance, he usually does our taxes, and I'd rather he just knew my email password, so that he can just log in and look up whatever information he needs rather than having to call me at work and ask. Or, one time he was out with some friends and I needed to ask him something fairly urgently but his phone had died, so I went into his email and found the evite for the event he was at so that I could see who else was there, and called one of them.

We absolutely have boundaries that we trust each other fully to keep- our work accounts are private to begin with, but we both work in fields that require certain degrees of client confidentiality, so we would never look at a work email that happened to end up in the other person's personal email. And, you know, I wouldn't read private messages to him from his friends, though really more because I would feel like I was invading the friend's privacy. I mean, we really do pretty much tell each other everything. If we're planning surprises for each other, we're both good about saying "hey, don't look at anything in my inbox for a couple days" and sticking to that.

I guess the best way I can put it is, I tell him much more personal stuff than I would EVER put in an email or on social networking. He has access to all of my bank accounts, he's the one who would make health care decisions for me if I became incapacitated, and so forth. So being able to see my email or my facebook doesn't seem like a big deal.

It's not like we go through and read each other's emails every day, you know? That's really not the point, and I wouldn't want to do that. It just seems to me that the level of trust in having each other's passwords kind of pales in comparison to trusting him to know when to take me off life support if I were hit by a bus tomorrow.

Posts: 100 | From: Virginia, USA | Registered: May 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
katierose
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Member # 107395

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I like this topic, too!

I shared passwords with my ex, but not exactly willfully. I told him I didn't want to tell him my passwords and that I didn't want to know his. He ignored what I wanted and shared his passwords with me (all except one), and then I felt pressured to share my facebook password with him. Before I shared it, I changed the password to my facebook account to involve his name. That way, when we broke up, I would definitely remember to change my password to something different. Also, I'm pretty bad about having a different password for all of my different accounts, and I didn't feel comfortable giving him access to so many accounts.

I wasn't hiding anything from him on facebook. To be honest, after he gave me his password, I did look through his facebook. One of the reasons I caved to his pressure was that he wanted to be able to see the pictures of me that he couldn't see when he logged in as himself due to my friends' privacy settings. That seemed legitimate in the beginning of our relationship.

I think sharing passwords caused some problems in the relationship. [The relationship had several other problems, too.] When I started to realize there were things about him/our relationship that I didn't like, I didn't feel like I could talk to my friends about it anywhere on facebook, and I didn't want them to reference anything on facebook chat or in the facebook inbox. I kind of just didn't talk to anyone about the problems I was having with him, and that was definitely not good for me. Maybe I would have gotten out of that abusive relationship earlier if I had told my friends and family the whole truth (not just the sugar-coated, "I hope you like my boyfriend" version). Sharing a facebook password certainly wasn't the cause of my hiding so much from my friends, but it was part of how I was sharing too much with my (now ex) boyfriend and trusting too much that what he suggested was best for me.

I'm in a new relationship now. I plan to hold my ground if anything like this comes up, but I don't expect my new boyfriend to suggest it.

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katierose
Neophyte
Member # 107395

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I like this topic, too!

I shared passwords with my ex, but not exactly willfully. I told him I didn't want to tell him my passwords and that I didn't want to know his. He ignored what I wanted and shared his passwords with me (all except one), and then I felt pressured to share my facebook password with him. Before I shared it, I changed the password to my facebook account to involve his name. That way, when we broke up, I would definitely remember to change my password to something different. Also, I'm pretty bad about having a different password for all of my different accounts, and I didn't feel comfortable giving him access to so many accounts.

I wasn't hiding anything from him on facebook. To be honest, after he gave me his password, I did look through his facebook. One of the reasons I caved to his pressure was that he wanted to be able to see the pictures of me that he couldn't see when he logged in as himself due to my friends' privacy settings. That seemed legitimate in the beginning of our relationship.

I think sharing passwords caused some problems in the relationship. [The relationship had several other problems, too.] When I started to realize there were things about him/our relationship that I didn't like, I didn't feel like I could talk to my friends about it anywhere on facebook, and I didn't want them to reference anything on facebook chat or in the facebook inbox. I kind of just didn't talk to anyone about the problems I was having with him, and that was definitely not good for me. Maybe I would have gotten out of that abusive relationship earlier if I had told my friends and family the whole truth (not just the sugar-coated, "I hope you like my boyfriend" version). Sharing a facebook password certainly wasn't the cause of my hiding so much from my friends, but it was part of how I was sharing too much with my (now ex) boyfriend and trusting too much that what he suggested was best for me.

I'm in a new relationship now. I plan to hold my ground if anything like this comes up, but I don't expect my new boyfriend to suggest it.

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oneboikyle
Neophyte
Member # 107250

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This is a really interesting topic, actually! I'm going to go against what a lot of other people seem to be saying here, and just say that I am absolutely fine sharing pretty much all my passwords etc with people I am in serious relationships with/very close friends.

I do feel the need to differentiate between casual relationships and more permanent ones though, and it does depend on how trustworthy I think a person would be if we broke up. But, for example, a very close friend of mine knows my facebook password, PIN for my bank card (I know, not a smart move there but that just goes to show how much I trust her) email passwords and all other sorts of things probably. In fact, when I was revising for exams a couple of years ago, I asked her to log onto my facebook and change the password for me, so I wouldn't be tempted to waste my time on there instead. It worked a treat.

I think, in the end, it does come down to different kinds of trust. I trust her (and other people I share passwords with) not to abuse the privilege, and they trust me enough to not feel the need to "snoop". Plus, there is the case that I don't feel I have anything to hide, and I would be worried if I felt I did.

Of course, just because I'm comfortable with it, it does not mean I am naive enough to think everyone is. I would never assume I have the right to know someone else's passwords, even if they knew mine, because at the end of the day some people are less comfortable with things than me. The one thing that did worry me, once, was when an ex actually offered up a password for an email account randomly, and then made a point of telling me a few weeks later that they changed it. That did raise a few questions. Does changing your mind in this respect make things seem more suspect, or was that just insecurities coming up?

Posts: 31 | From: UK | Registered: Apr 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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