Couples' Password-Sharing Tips

Showing your partner how to log into your Netflix account’s probably OK, but your work email? Not so much! Here’s how to safeguard your personal privacy while establishing trust in a new relationship.

By Laura Schaefer

hen you find someone who just might be your perfect match, it’s natural to want to give that person the sun, the moon and the stars. But before you get too generous with your kingdom, ask yourself whether you really want to share all of your passwords. “What is most interesting about this question is that passwords have become yet another ‘key’ into one’s inner circle as a marker of trust,” remarks Margaret J.
Don’t share them if you’re not yet in a committed relationship.
King, Ph.D., director of The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis in Philadelphia, PA. “[It’s] equal to giving someone your house or apartment key — and subject, of course, to the same abuses of trust.” In other words, proceed with caution.

Whether it’s your Facebook password or your debit card PIN, the experts are nearly unanimous: don’t share these tidbits carelessly with your new love. Keep reading for a few reasons to treat your mother’s maiden name and the weight listed on your driver’s license with care:

1. Pick and choose what to share — not all passwords are created equally.
“While your online identity should be protected to avoid identity theft, you can run into relationship problems if you conceal too much from your significant other,” says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of the MoneyCrashers personal finance blog. “I don’t see a problem with revealing general computer passwords or those associated with social media accounts. Of course, should the relationship not work out, your ex could do some damage to your online reputation if he/she has access to your Facebook account, but this is a situation that can easily be remedied.”

There is a hierarchy of passwords, you see, and those guarding your social networks lie at the bottom rung of the ladder. Schrage adds, “Beware of sharing your email password. Allowing free access to all of your sent and received
SplashData’s annual list of worst Internet passwords, ordered by how common they are:

1. password
2. 123456
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. monkey
7. 1234567
8. letmein
9. trustno1
10. dragon

3 steps to take if you’ve already shared too many passwords

By David Barclay, a product manager with Trend Micro who specializes in password security issues
  1. If you’ve given your password to someone who is NOT legally bound to you via marriage or domestic partnership, then your only recourse — which you should execute immediately — is to change all of your passwords. All of them, not just the accounts you share.
  2. Make all [the passwords] different from each other and strong.
  3. Change your passwords every quarter, and never give them out again. This is easy to do with a password management solution like DirectPass, which can handle everything securely for you. It is only accessible to you, and it’s protected by 256-bit level encryption.
emails might put you in an uncomfortable situation. Also, remember that most live chat histories are stored on many messaging websites, like Yahoo, MSN, and Gmail.” Schrage suggests using even more caution when it comes to your financial accounts: “Unless you have a shared account, there’s no good reason to share your banking passwords with your significant other.”

2. Passwords are just like money, honey.
“When you’re dating someone new, you should consider your passwords to be the same thing as money,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (a.k.a. “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley). “Don’t share them if you’re not yet in a committed relationship, just as you wouldn’t give out your bank account information to someone you don’t yet know well,” urges Tessina. In the “password hierarchy,” those associated with your bank accounts and debit cards are at the top of the list…and should be guarded as such.

3. Beware of account lockout issues in the event of a fight.
Identity Theft 911 co-founder Adam Levin says, “If you’re savvy about using different passwords for different accounts, certain types of sharing can be benign — for instance, allowing your girlfriend the freedom to add titles to your Netflix queue. But in many other instances — such as with your email, instant-message, bank and other accounts — handing over a password is equalt to providing total access to your personal life and your personally identifiable information (PII). The consequences can range from fights over misinterpreted emails to, in extreme cases, identity theft. Another pitfall of password sharing is that you risk getting locked out of your account because someone with access to your password can change it without you knowing it.”

4. Share passwords sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, not as a way to establish trust.
“Unless it’s a joint account, why would you ever share passwords?” asks Adam Kruvand, 36, co-owner of Kru Strength + Fitness in Chicago, IL. “My fiancée and I met on, opened a business together two years later, and are getting married in August. We only share passwords to the joint business accounts.” For many couples, the best guiding principle for sharing passwords is the “need-to-know basis” policy. If you occasionally share each other’s laptops, of course you’ll need to share the password that unlocks each machine; likewise with shared bank accounts…but otherwise? Skip it — especially in the heady, early days of new love.

“I always suggest that password-sharing take place after the marriage has happened and there is a for-sure commitment made. Sharing before then is foolish and risky. Along the way, there could be other methods to show trust,” advises David Simonsen, M.S./LMFT at Creative Solutions Counseling in Seattle, WA.

5. Don’t let love make you foolish about your own security; everyone has the right to some privacy.
“Love can make us as delusional as illicit drugs do — and has similar effects on the brain, in fact. Would you want to hand over your ATM password if you were high on cocaine? I hope not,” says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. “Everyone is entitled to some private spaces in this life — in their minds, their hearts, their bank accounts and their electronic worlds.” So what should you to do if your new partner asks for access to a bank account? “Communicate clearly that safeguarding assets benefits both of you in the long run,” says Dr. Durvasula. “If this person keeps insisting, take a step back and think about what his or her motivation may be. A credit bureau is not going to care if you have a broken heart, but they will care if you have a string of over-charged accounts by someone who had access.”

6. A little mystery can be a good thing in relationships.
“This notion of ‘two becoming one’ in a relationship has been overblown to unhealthy proportions,” asserts Nick Sparks, 29, a dating coach in New York City. “It’s important — especially at the earlier stages of a relationship — to maintain healthy boundaries. Passwords are an excellent place to do so.” Besides, adds Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, “TMI (too much information) tends to ruin the mystery.”

Laura Schaefer is the author of Notes to Self and Planet Explorers New York City: A Travel Guide for Kids.
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