Here's Why Sharing Passwords With Your Partner Can Be So Risky

by Laken Howard
BDG Media, Inc.

The longer you date someone, the more intertwined your lives will become, which means the list of things the two of you share will gradually get longer and longer. It might sound silly, but in this digital day and age, sharing passwords in a relationship can feel super intimate — practically our whole lives are online, and giving someone that level of access to us can be scary. But apparently, swapping passwords might be the new norm in relationships: according to a new study from Kaspersky Lab, 70 percent of people in relationships share PINs, passwords, or exchange fingerprints to access each other's devices. But if our passwords are such a personal thing to share, why is it so common among couples?

"It's common for partners to share their passwords because they believe that this is a significant step to show trust," Alayna Pehrson, spousal identity theft expert and manager of Best Company's identity theft blog, tells Bustle. "...I also think partners share passwords simply for a level of convenience. For instance, one partner might be using another's computer or Netflix more often than not, so giving them the password allows them to freely use their partner's accounts without having to constantly ask for the password."

If you and your partner trust each other, it might seem like a no-brainer to swap login info, especially for something as harmless as a Netflix account. But there's a big difference between letting your partner mooch off your streaming services and feeling comfortable enough to give them access to something more personal — like your Instagram password or phone passcode — because it takes a lot of trust to have that level of transparency in a relationship.

"With our partners, we share our loves and likes, our turn-ons and turn-offs, our passions and our aspirations, our secrets, and yes, our passwords as well," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "There is a measure of transparency which may actually help the couple build trust and intimacy, and some of this also translates to the digital world."

The Risks Of Sharing Passwords In A Relationship

But just because it's super common and can help to build trust doesn't necessarily mean sharing passwords with your partner is always a good idea. It might seem like NBD while your relationship is still happy and healthy, but if a breakup were to occur in the future, there's a lot of risk that comes with your ex potentially having access to your phone or accounts.

"Sharing passwords and logins can be good as it establishes trust and convenience, but it can also be extremely risky," Pehrson says. "In my opinion, the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to sharing passwords. For instance, a partner could seem trustworthy at first (when you give them your passwords), but they could easily use those passwords to commit identity theft, make unwarranted purchases/build up a large amount of debt, catch a virus on devices, etc."

There's also a very real risk that your partner could use their access to your accounts to get revenge against you in the event of a breakup. According to the study from Kaspersky Lab, 21 percent of people admitted to spying on an ex-partner through an online account they had access to pre-breakup, like their social media or email accounts, and another 12 percent said they either had or wanted to share an ex's private info publicly as an act of revenge.

All of which means that it's so important to remember to change your passwords right after a breakup, just in case. "It is very important that you change all passwords that you've shared with your now ex-partner," Pehrson says. "Do not wait to change these either. Immediately change these passwords."

Is It Ever A Good Idea To Exchange Passwords With Your Partner?

Although there are definitely risks involved, if you're smart about it, sharing passwords with your partner doesn't have to end badly. The number one rule? Don't give just anyone your passwords: make sure to take time to really get to know your partner and establish trust before giving them access to your personal devices or accounts.

"Sharing can be caring if you truly know the person and establish ground rules," Pehrson says. "It definitely depends on the situation and the relationship at hand. I highly recommend you avoid giving out passwords to a person you've known/been dating for less than a year."

When you're with someone long-term, and especially if you live together, it can be tempting to share passwords simply for convenience's sake. But just because it might make things easier doesn't mean it's a decision you and your partner should make lightly — because it's not something that works for every long-term couple.

"It really all depends on the couple’s dynamic," Backe says. "Some people literally share everything and enjoy living that way, and some like having that part of their life which is separate from their partner. It is all about how the couple interacts, and what they find is healthy for them. At no point should the need for privacy be the cause of any kind of strife. If one side feels the need to sneak around and spy on the other, they may have much bigger issues than mere lack of boundaries."

How To Set Healthy Boundaries About Online Privacy

If you decide that your relationship is ready for the intimacy of swapping passwords, it's not something you should do spur-of-the-moment: it's important to first have a conversation about your online privacy boundaries, and what those will look like in the event that you exchange passwords.

"The key to setting healthy online privacy boundaries is good communication," Pehrson says. "Talk to each other about online use and what it means to your relationship. Discuss the level of boundary you both feel is comfortable and go with that. Trust one another to not overstep each other's boundaries. If one of you does overstep, then have another conversation about boundaries and judge whether or not the relationship is worthwhile."

As with anything in a relationship, the biggest key to successfully transitioning into the ~sharing-passwords lifestyle~ with your partner is to make sure you communicate with each other any time an issue pops up, or whenever you feel a boundary has been crossed. Ultimately, if you truly trust each other and have the foundation of a solid, long-lasting relationship, sharing passwords will just be the next step towards growing closer and more intimate with your partner.