Episode 125: "What if my partner is forcing me to share my social media passwords?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about sharing passwords with partners.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Jessica: Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What if my partner is forcing me to share my social media passwords?” We’re joined once again by Safe+Sound Somerset volunteer, Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland. Hi Ella, thanks for being here today!
Ella: Hi everyone! My first thought is that if your partner does not respect your privacy, I would think about how they would respect your other boundaries.
J: Wow, that’s a statement right there. Uh, I will say that this is a question we hear from teens all the time. Some partners will ask for or demand access to their partner’s social media accounts because they’re dating. Some will say they are protecting their partner, right? They might also talk about how they’ve had bad experiences in the past with their partners cheating, or flirting on social media – so this person will say they need your passwords to feel more secure in the relationship.
E: Yes, definitely. But there is a difference between open communication regarding your relationship and your personal privacy. You should never feel as if you need to prove your trust or commitment to your partner by giving up personal privacy. Your partner should never force you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing. If they do, they are not respecting you or your decisions.
J: Right. I agree. In a healthy relationship, both people are allowed to make their own decisions. And bonus points if your partner is listening to you and encouraging you to make your own decisions! Right? When your partner pressures you to cross a boundary like privacy, and you’re not comfortable, that matters. It can affect your trust of them, and your comfort and safety in the relationship.
E: Yeah. This sounds like it could be manipulation, when someone tries to exploit, control, or otherwise influence others to their advantage. I’m thinking about some phrases that partners might use to guilt trip, like: “What do you have to hide?” or, “If you don’t share your password, you don’t love me,” or even, “We are in a relationship – we’re supposed to share everything with each other.” You don’t have to have a reason for keeping your passwords private.
J: Yeah! Even if your partner says they want to be more involved in your life by doing this, or that they’re protect you, you still get to make your own decisions. Once you share passwords or a GPS location with your partner, they have access to your private information, and it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to get that back.
Even if you trust your info with them now, will you trust them with it in 6 months? How about 6 years from now? I know that might be hard to imagine but it's a reality. Once your private info is out there, it is out there. We also recommend being cautious if this person has pressured you into it, or you weren’t comfortable. That is a warning sign of abuse and a possibly unsafe relationship for you.
E: If your partner doesn’t trust you to be in the relationship WITHOUT sharing passwords, that’s definitely a big warning sign in the partnership that could lead to other issues. Password sharing can be controlling and keep you in a passive stance in your relationship.
J: Yeah. Even if your partner has been treated badly in the past, you still have a right to privacy in the relationship. That does not mean you are cheating. If they don’t understand that, this might not be a safe relationship for you. It is sad that they were cheated on, or mistreated by their other partner or partners, but this is a new relationship with new rules. You are both moving forward together, keeping the past in the past.
E: Yes. Although some people are fine with sharing their passwords or GPS locations with their dating partner, you’re also allowed to change your mind about your decisions. We still recommend that you consider all the scenarios before sharing passwords. If you decide to share them, you have every right to change passwords again and decide not to share them with your partner. In a healthy relationship, your partner would respect your decision and emotional boundaries.
J: Right. And they wouldn’t be bugging you, like saying, you know, “What do you have to hide now?” If your partner gets angry and accuses you of cheating, this is a red flag that this may be an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Also, we know of many times where a dating partner or ex has used someone’s private passwords, photos, information, or location against them – to threaten or blackmail them, embarrass them, or hurt them. We want people to be safe and happy in their relationships.
E: Definitely. Forcing a partner to share their password isn’t love or protection. It’s abuse.
J: Yes. Thank you so much Ella for being here again today!
E: Of course. Thank you for having me.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.