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SALT LAKE CITY — As technology encroaches further into Americans’ personal lives, couples face new and sometimes contentious choices. For example, should they share passwords to their email accounts and/or social media profiles with each other?
One Utahn named Jeff said yes. “Because she’s my spouse. No secrets!” he explained.
Shilo Hendley said, “Because I think it’s a sign of trust and I want to be able to trust my husband. So if I’m not willing, then I wouldn’t be willing to marry him, I guess.”
Arthur Smith said, “At this point, we pretty much share everything. If she wanted my password, I don’t see any problem giving it to her. I’m not hiding anything. If she wants to check my email or anything, that’s up to her.”
Pew Research recently asked 2,200 people in committed relationships if they share their passwords to online accounts with their partners. Two out of three people answered yes. Twenty-seven percent also shared their email passwords.
Fifty-nine percent said they've given their passwords to their significant others of five years or less. At 10 years or more into a relationship, nearly three out of four said they're sharing passwords.
For many, holding on to their passwords to email accounts or social media profiles could be that last bastion of personal privacy. But others, including marriage counselor and clinical psychologist Dr. Liz Hale, said there should be no secrets when you're in a committed relationship.
“Isn’t it just a little bit like planning a will? Don’t we want to be open with all things, like where the money is? Where the debt is? It’s living your life as one,” she said.
Hale is a fan of complete transparency in a committed relationship. She said knowing each other's passwords could foster an open and healthy relationship.
“Any time we’re not sharing the full scope, full truth, full password, we could be headed for a little bit of trouble. Why play with fire?” she said.
Hale dismissed the notion that sharing passwords gives couples a way to keep tabs on each other by snooping. Instead, she argued the way we share is a way of bonding or showing trust that can give couples peace of mind.
“It’s like permissible privacy, in a way,” she said. “When you know it’s there, it gives you that sense of relief. And yet, if you had some suspicions, suspicions would come from our own fears. It’s really all about fear.”
KSL asked people in downtown Salt Lake City whether they would share their email and social media passwords with their significant others. Most of them said yes.
The closest to no was Ondra Thomas, who said, “I actually have but changed it because my husband won’t give me his.”
Hale said it's not an immediate red flag if a partner refuses to share a password. It puts a limit on the trust between a couple, she said, but it doesn't mean they can't be happy.