Experts Tell Us What Using Read Receipts & Location Sharing Actually Does To Your Relationship

woman texting a message on the phone on a urban environment

The ability to track the location of your loved ones or let the people know who text you exactly when you've read their messages is either really neat, or really creepy — the jury is still out. Bustle wanted to know if using location sharing and read receipts is healthy, so we reached out to an expert to help draw the line between a great safety and priority feature and a potentially problematic habit.

Outside of a romantic relationship, these features can be incredibly helpful. If you've ever used the "Find My Friends" application on a night out in a busy city, you know just how much time it saves and how simple it makes it to keep your crew together. Or, if you've ever kept watch over a friend going on a first date with the feature, ensuring she gets home safe, you know just what a lifesaver it can be. Professionally, if you use read receipts, you know how useful it can be to let the people you work with know when you receive the information they send you; it adds another layer of unspoken communication that can help keep everyone on the same page. But when couples use these features to keep track of each other and keep a close eye on their communication, it's less clear what kind of function it's serving both mentally and logistically.


According psychologist, Dr. Paulette Sherman, the more tracking technology we implement into our personal lives, the more questions arise regarding the ways in which it affects the health of our personal relationships. "Do these new technologies create more consistent attachment and trust, or do they create paranoia, controlling behavior and more for fights between couples?" Sherman questions. The effects, she says, "may depend on the couple, the usage and the motivation. For some couples, read receipts and location tracking is motivated by loving care and the desire to make sure their partner is safe when they are coming home. They prioritize their partner and also want to be alerted of their messages in order to build existing trust." In this case, these features are really helpful and serve as both safety and communication supplements. According to Sherman, if the couple is on the same page about these features being helpful, it's totally OK to use them, and they should enjoy them.

"In other cases, these approaches are motivated by fear and distrust. In the latter cases, it can lead to poor boundaries and more fights," Sherman tells Bustle. For example, Sherman says, one partner may become agitated if the other partner doesn't answer texts right away. In this situation, the features aren't helping the couple, they're creating space for complications and are being misused. "You may ask, ‘How much subtext is good, or is it better to just communicate in real time?' I think if it causes fights on a daily basis or one person likes it and the other hates it or feels resentful or controlled than it needs to be discussed as something that may cause more tension than it’s worth," Sherman adds, stressing the importance of having discussing how these features help or hinder the relationship, before they become problematic.

"In general, each partner has a life outside the relationship and the ability to choose how and when to respond. These devices at their worst could make the other partner their significant other's alter ego so they begin to participate in micro things that normally wouldn’t be their concern — like where they go, how long they take to reply," Sherman says of the extra layer of complication these features can add to a relationship when the objective for use is murky.

On another way, Sherman admits that she has "seen the location feature become important sometimes when there has been an affair and a couple wants to rebuild trust," essentially concluding that while these features can be used in moderation, relying on them can create more issues than they're worth.

Ultimately, Sherman says partners should have a conversation about the ways in which they want to use the features, and if they both feel trusting and confident in their intentions, it's totally cool to use them. But if there's already trust issues churning that haven't been addressed, these features can be explosive. So make sure you're being honest with each other about why and how you want to use the features, and if there's an ulterior motive, discuss that instead of adding these features to the mix.


Dr. Paulette Sherman, Psychologist and Author of 'Facebook Dating: from 1st Date to Soulmate.’