Recently, my friends were talking about the old trend of sharing your relationship status on social media. Painting a humorous image of a virtual wedding, someone joked that the climax of a Facebook marriage ceremony would occur when the minister tells the couple, “You may now exchange your passwords.”
In all seriousness, though, when is it wise to share your password with your boyfriend? Should you keep everything under lock-and-key until you’re married, like the joke suggests?
Security experts will tell you should never share passwords while dating because of the risk of misuse or identity theft if you break up. That’s certainly the safest approach.
Yet most people, I hope, are not dating criminals. I also hope you’re not dating one of the 21% of people who spy on their exes using previously shared passwords, or the 12% who “said they either had or wanted to share an ex’s private info publicly as an act of revenge.”
I’m not a member of the internet security community, but I don’t think it’s always a bad idea to share your passwords. While my husband and I didn’t merge our bank accounts until we were married, we did exchange a few passwords while we were dating for the sake of convenience.
However, there are some situations where it’s not a good idea to share account information. You may want to consider these factors before you share a password with your boyfriend. To be clear, these guidelines apply exclusively to dating relationships.
Type of Account
It’s important to differentiate between the types of information we access with passwords. Accounts that contain sensitive information, allow purchases, or enable users to edit and create public content should be guarded more carefully.
Giving your boyfriend the password to a photo editing app is completely different than sharing your Amazon login, for example. Personally, I was most cautious about sharing information about my bank account and my email address, because email unlocks access to recover and change all kinds of passwords.
Even if you trust each other deeply, protecting your financial, legal, and personal information while dating is a wise move. The two of you are yet “one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24) so you have no right nor any need to know all of your boyfriend’s personal details, and he doesn’t, either.
Ease of Access
The passwords we are most naturally hesitant to divulge are those that provide complete access to our phones and laptops. We know we shouldn’t save our passwords on our computer, but we all do it anyway.
Yet if the primary security risk for sharing passwords manifests after a breakup, your phone’s password might actually be the safest to share. Unlike an online account, your phone is a physical device. So, unless your ex-boyfriend steals your phone, you don’t need to worry.
Of course, your boyfriend could access sensitive information in your phone while you’re dating and use it later for malicious purposes. But since most of us are so addicted to our devices that we never let them out of our sight, this risk seems small, too.
Motivations for Sharing Passwords
There are many good motivations for sharing passwords, like the convenience of snapping a candid photo or the fun of creating a Spotify playlist together.
But there are also bad motivations, such as using an account to monitor your boyfriend’s conversations with other girls.
Rarely will you find good intentions behind sharing social media or messaging app passwords. You might initially exchange them on the pretext of fostering trust, but this exchange usually fosters unhealthy obsession and possessiveness.
Open, honest communication does not mean that you need to know everything about each other all the time, but that you would be willing to share information when it is appropriate. If you have a healthy relationship with your boyfriend, why would you ever need to access his social media, other than to spy on him?
A clue to discerning motivation is the context in which a password is given. There’s a difference between offering a password freely and being pressured to give it. If your boyfriend complains that if you loved him, you’d be willing to share your password — that’s not love, that’s manipulation.
Motivations for Not Sharing Passwords
We’ve seen how it can be smart to withhold some passwords from your boyfriend.
Yet we can make healthy decisions for the wrong reasons. You may hesitate to give your boyfriend access to your phone not because you’re trying to be wise, but because you’re afraid of what he’ll find there.
Tony Reinke explains how our use of technology offers others a vulnerable view into the most sinful parts of ourselves:
“Too often what my phone exposes in me is not the holy desires of what I know I should want, not even what I think I want, and especially not what I want you to think I want. My phone screen divulges in razor-sharp pixels what my heart really wants…
“…Honestly, this may explain the passcodes. To get into a phone is to peek into the interior of another’s soul, and we may be too ashamed for others to see what we clicked and opened and chased around online. What could be more unsettling?”— Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
Like Reinke points out, there’s something deeply “unsettling” about someone seeing you for who you really are. Whether you’re looking at pornography, watching steamy romance shows, or flirting with another guy via messenger, there’s an innate need to hide your guilty pleasures from your boyfriend.
What drives the desire for secrecy around our screens? Why do we feel compelled to close the tabs as quickly as possible when someone glances over?
If we’re honest, we act this way because we know what we are doing is wrong. No matter what we tell ourselves, we can’t escape the reality of sin and its consequences.
It’s not hard to mask a shameful secret from your boyfriend, but it’s impossible to hide it from God. He doesn’t need a password to know what you’re storing in your heart.
And yet, giving Jesus complete access to your heart is the wisest decision you can make. Only He can wipe away His memory of the wrong things you’ve done. Only He can free you from the haunting history of your internet browser.
And only He has promised to love you forever, knowing fully who you are.
Deciding whether you should share passwords with your boyfriend seems like a simple decision.
But while security and safety are important points to consider, the topic of passwords presses much deeper into the vulnerable parts of our hearts, digging into our fears, controlling tendencies, and darkest secrets. We can’t give one answer that works for everyone and every password.
Why do you choose to share or not share passwords with your boyfriend?