You know how in these articles I say things like, ‘on the one hand this’, ‘perhaps consider this’, and ‘it’s more complicated than that’. Well not today dear BISH fan, today I’m going to tell you what to do, or more accurately what not to do. Don’t share your phone password with your partner.
Before I get into the rant, here’s the exception. The only time it’s okay is if you are asking your partner to go into your phone, for one time only, for a specific thing. And the word ask is the crucial part here. Say you’ve left your phone at theirs, or for some reason you don’t have a hand free (like, you’re holding a milkshake or two – no reason).
I can’t think of a good reason for you to be asking them for their password to their phone so I’m going to forbid you from doing that. And please don’t even think about putting your fingerprints in each others phone. I forbid that too. I forbid that with caps, underscore, and asterisks.
I’m not asking you to trust me and take my word for it, I’m going to explain why….
“Don’t you trust me?”
A lot of people seem to think that we should be able to trust each other enough for our partner to look through our phone. However you could also turn that around and say ‘well if you really trusted me then you wouldn’t feel the need to look through my phone.’ Trust is a two way street, you can’t get it without giving it and you can’t give it without getting it. I think that if you are looking at each other’s phones then it’s a sign that you don’t actually trust each other very much at all.
However, in response to this post, someone on twitter pointed out that in their relationship they know each other’s passwords, but they trust each other not to look in each other’s phones.
“What do you have to hide?”
There are lots of things that we might want to keep private, or at least other things we might not want our partner to see. A series of selfies we’re not happy with but failed to delete. Pictures of exes. Pictures of friends that we agreed we would keep private and not show anyone. Maybe a porn collection.
If we are interested in it, we should be able to have our own solo sex lives. Our thoughts, fantasies, and images on our phone, should be our own, and I don’t think it’s okay for a partner to insist that they have access to that. I mean, Mark Zuckerberg is apparently trying to create a mind reading app, so then we’re all f****d.
I think that a lot of people want to share their passwords because they want to show that they aren’t having an affair, or cheating. If a partner has access to your phone then it would make it very difficult for you to flirt with someone else that you fancy. I don’t think this is the best way to ensure that our relationship rules are being kept to.
“This way, they can’t cheat”
If you agree to monogamy then this should be a choice. Which means that you choose not to flirt with, snog, go on dates with, or have sex with other people (or whatever monogamy means for you). By choosing to not flirt with other people we are choosing to stick to our relationship rules – I think that’s better than being forced to stick to our relationship rules because we have no choice in the matter.
Relationships should be about making choices and having the freedom to make those choices. In my opinion a good relationship should be about maximising each other’s choices whilst also making it easier for you to choose to stick to the rules you have made about your relationship. If the only reason that you’re not having an affair is because it’s impossible, rather than you choosing not to, I’m not sure that’s a sign that your relationship is in a great place. Sorry about that.
You can’t consent to it
At the beginning of this article I said that you can ask for someone to look at your phone for you for a specific thing at a specific time. You can consent to that, because it’s clear what you are asking them to do and in that time frame. I don’t think it’s possible for you to share your phone password (or fingerprint :shudders emoji:) with someone consensually. It might appear consensual because you might be freely agreeing to it, but it’s not because consent should be on-going.
If we agree to something on one day, we don’t know what might happen at a later date that might make us change our mind. Perhaps we change our mind about how private we want to be, or what we want our partner to actually see. Maybe there are some things that someone else has asked us to keep private that we don’t want our partner to see. Circumstances change and we change, which means that although we consented to something in June, we might not be consenting to that in September.
The only way to share phone logins consensually is to ask each other before you pick up their phone whether it’s okay to look in their phone. Is that agreement to have access to each other’s phone still in place? Even then consent would be hard, because it would be a very difficult conversation to say ‘no actually I don’t want you to look now’ because it would affect trust right? So I think it’s better just to not to share your phone password with your partner in the first place #focuskeyphrase
You are not the other
As I’ve said before, there’s a U in couple. When you’re in a big time relationship with big time feelings it can be easy to forget that. You should also remember that most of our cultural messages (films, pop songs, telly) tell us we should become more and more close to someone and basically become the other person. Chill, share some of your life, but don’t share all of it. You are not the other person, and the other person is not you. You are individuals with overlapping lives. If you become your relationship entirely then there will be nothing left of you.
There’s more about this in my post about how much to share in relationships for you to do some serious thinking about.
Also we all need more than one relationship in our lives (even if we do monogamy). Sometimes your partner might piss you off, or hurt you, or you might need some advice about your relationship. We should be able to say things about our partner, in confidence, to a trusted person, without them knowing.
It’s important that you have access to other people who can help you with that, especially if that relationship turns out to be an abusive relationship. If you give your partner your password then you are shutting down a source of support for if the relationship hits hard times. This is why you should be very very careful of being in a relationship with someone who insists that you share your phone login.
Sharing a phone is not communication
Communication is not just letting people look at things in your phone, it’s about having conversations with other people about what you need, and want, and what your boundaries are. It’s an active and deliberate thing and is a crucially important part of relationships. If you share your phone password with your partner, then they just get to monitor you, not communicate with you. Which is kinda creepy.
One of the arguments for sharing phone logins is that increases intimacy. I think that’s bollocks quite frankly and, as I think I’ve explained, I think a) more intimacy isn’t always ‘better’ and b) there are better ways to do intimacy. You know, like communicating with each other and treating each other consensually. ANYWAY.
If you are wanting to have a more shared times via phones there are other ways of doing this without sharing your login details. You could have a shared folder on google drive or dropbox or similar where you could keep your photos, nice memories, songs, videos, links to things you like. Think of it like a nice museum or gallery space which you curate and make nice. You could also have a shared social media account if you wanted to. I know couples who have shared tumblr accounts for example. But be aware that they can change the password at their end and post things that you don’t want them to.
Just don’t do anything where you don’t have any control over what you share and what you don’t.
Okay, that’s it from me. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Find out more about Justin here