sharing passwords with significant others?
April 13, 2014 5:37 PM   Subscribe

My SO recently gave me his password. What does this mean?

Apparently he uses the same one for almost everything, and he said he wants me to know the passwords to his Facebook, email, and other accounts. He said that it was symbolic more than anything else, and also in case he dies. (?!) He also said he didn't expect me to give him my passwords, which... I did not. Mostly because I was just very surprised and hadn't thought about the subject before. I've heard of girls (and guys, I suppose, though less frequently it seems) demanding their SOs to give them their passwords, but we've definitely never been that type of couple. Very laid-back, no jealousy issues, and neither of us have ever requested this information of one another.

While on the one hand, I feel glad that he trusts me with such personal information, I can't determine what the endgame is here... does he really want me to share my information, even though he says he doesn't? There's no logical reason for me to have his password, and it makes me feel weird to think about ever actually using it. I have no desire to police his private communications.

Our relationship is going well, but I guess I'm just curious... is this a new form of trust in the digital age? (We're both in our mid-twenties.) Is this something a lot of people do? Should I just forget about it and move on? Is there another conversation we should be having? I guess I should be happy he's not trying to hide things from me, but I also don't understand his desire to do this purely of his own accord.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Simplest answer is that he just wanted to do a Thing, like giving you a copy of his house key. In my estimation it's hard to say more without knowing how long y'all have been together and whether he's prone to doing Things.
posted by ftm at 5:39 PM on April 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Has he been sad or depressed, seemed "off" or gone through any major changes recently? If he was serious about you having it in case he dies, I'd be worried about possible suicidality. Not, like, call 911 worried, but worried enough to gently ask a few questions.

Otherwise, maybe he just feels good opening up to you. He'd know better than we would.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:43 PM on April 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do either of you use paid digital services that could potentially be shared with another person, like a streaming media account, large capacity DropBox setup, Amazon Prime, etc? That sort of information is stuff I'm usually comfortable sharing with people I'm especially close to. I have specific passwords I use for services I might be open to sharing, so that I'm not completely opening my life up to them.

I would not give out my password to things I wouldn't want the other person to have access to, like social networking or email accounts.
posted by Sara C. at 5:44 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is a new thing that is standard in relationships (at least not in any of mine).

If this is something that bothers you, I would recommend having a serious conversation about expectations and privacy and how much your lives are going to be intertwined. If sharing passwords is a breach of privacy for you, which is a completely reasonable response, tell him. This is a conversation that needs to happen in any serious relationship along the lines of how much independence, privacy, time together, etc you both expect (you don't say how long you have been together in this question). I would wonder if this is his way of "deepening" the relationship.

"See? This is how close we are - you could totally spy on me and I'm ok with it because we're in a serious committed relationship."

Some people get dogs together, and maybe he shares his 401k password.

On Preview -

If said in the context of "i have a formula password - here is the one for Netflix/Hulu +/ etc (as Sara C. suggests) then totally normal and awesome. Because the best "i love you" is free HBO streaming.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:48 PM on April 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

He said that it was symbolic more than anything else, and also in case he dies.

Why not just take him at his word? Does there have to be an "end game," as you put it? Especially since you say that you guys have a laid-back, trusting relationship, I don't see how trying to read more into this can possibly help.

It may be that he does want you to share your information, but if so, he can tell you that.
posted by lunasol at 5:49 PM on April 13, 2014 [23 favorites]

1) So that next time when he can't get his *#%$ phone to load his email even though he has four bars at the doctor's office you can sign into his email and tell him his insurance card information on the phone.

2) After he is knocked out pursuing the burgler that stole your passports during your trip to Italy, you can log into his email and download digital scans of your passports that he emailed to himself ahead of time.

3) So that you can use his Netflix (but not his profile! Woe betide you if you watch Project Runway and say you 'like' it, thus screwing up his immaculate recommendations which only show him Top Gear)

4) So you can easily get the contact info for his family and friends from Facebook/Email, just in case something Really Bad happens.

5) So you can print the shipping label for the sprocket that he just sold on eBay and put it out for the carrier to maintain his "five star seller" status.

I can't count the number of times I've had to call my boyfriend to log into some account of mine and do something. In fact I would guess not a week goes by when I don't have to ask him for this assistance...and I have a myriad of smart phones and other digital devices cluttering up my life. Maybe it means he trusts that you have his back? That's what it would mean if it came from me.
posted by arnicae at 5:58 PM on April 13, 2014 [43 favorites]

You really should have a serious talk with him about good password practice.
posted by zscore at 6:00 PM on April 13, 2014 [25 favorites]

I've done this kind of thing before, although more of a "I'm not home, can you check this for me here's the password" kinda thing than anything else. In my case there was no ulterior motive or "end game" beyond convenience, and I didn't really care if they saw my inbox (I'd still be pissed if they went snooping through old emails though). I left everything open on my computer all the time anyway. The "symbolic" thing is a bit unusual but doesn't sound particularly bad to me, just a gesture he thought was romantic or something.

Whether he secretly wants you to return the gesture is not something we can tell you, but I'd be inclined to take him at his word that he doesn't.
posted by randomnity at 6:00 PM on April 13, 2014

He has mentally added you into the place of "next of kin." I would be really wary of trying to read into it anything beyond that, such as the idea that he's feeling morbid, or trying overly hard to show you he's faithful or something. There's not enough information for any of that. You have more information that we do, but this can be simple or complicated-- don't assume it's complicated.

I would advise you to be a good SO and tell him not to use one password for everything. Use one password for a password manager (AskMeFi search term). The fact that he's giving his one and only password to you is somewhat muddled by the fact that he gives it to every site who asks for a password-- he probably wants to be an open book to you, and shift some authority over his private stuff to you, but last week he was open to any that asked him to log in.

Other than that, I'd only ask that, in the unfortunate event of a future breakup, please don't exploit this guy's single password. You might tell yourself now that you'd never do that, but it's hard right now to put yourself in the mind of a future you that breaks up with him. Hopefully things are fine and you never become that person, but I thought I'd mention it in case.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:02 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

he uses the same password for almost everything? this is not good, if one account gets compromised, the bad guy gets access to everything. different passwords for different sites!
posted by bruce at 6:03 PM on April 13, 2014

I can't determine what the endgame is here... does he really want me to share my information, even though he says he doesn't?

My SO has one password that will unlock a bunch of other passwords in case something happens to me because I felt like someone should have it and I trust him the most to know what I'd want done with the various things-behind-passwords. I don't have his. This doesn't really concern me.

As long as you've determined he's no secretly really depressed, the only conversation you should be having with him is that he needs a better password plan. Otherwise no, I don't think this is a standard thing that the kids today are doing but it's not crazy out in left field either.
posted by jessamyn at 6:06 PM on April 13, 2014

You could over think this or you could just take it at face value and forget about it.
posted by myselfasme at 6:06 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think this is kind of sweet meanwhile I would feel incredibly uncomfortable giving someone access to my digital life. If I did, it would be for emergencies only.

Also, pro tip, decline the invitation to police his private communications simply by not doing so. This way even if you do have his password, if you ever find him bringing this up during an argument, you'll be able to shut it down without having a guilty conscience. Nothing will make you sleep better than having the power to do something but not exercising it. It builds character.
posted by phaedon at 6:07 PM on April 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

He is saying, "hey, I am demonstrating my trust!" Do not overthink it.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:14 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

It is totally a thing teenagers do - my son and his girlfriend share passwords, and when they break-up, there's the drama of reset passwords.

I have my big reset password (the one to the account that can then be used to reset the other passwords) with my husband as a back-up in case I'm sick. He annoys me by using the same password and I am bugging him to switch to last.password or some other service for more security - you might want to tell your boyfriend to do the same.

It really isn't much of a total trust thing so much as practical, like giving someone a housekey. You can still very easily have a separate digital existence, but you're saying "Hey, this part is shared space with you if needed."
posted by viggorlijah at 6:28 PM on April 13, 2014

Is this something a lot of people do?

Yes. Nowadays a lot of people are trading email passwords, Facebook passwords, phone lock codes, etc with their significant others. Kids are doing it. Adults are doing it...sometimes, I think, because they see kids doing it. It's common.

It's also not uncommon for one partner to feel one way about this and the other partner to feel differently. A past analog might be how sometimes a husband would have a "man cave" or a wife would have a "sewing room," and sometimes in a marriage you'd see one and not the other. The potential pitfall is when one partner (usually the one more inclined to share space/passwords/whatever) actually cares that the other partner wants more privacy. If your relationship doesn't have that conflict—if your SO is cool with giving you his passwords and not knowing yours—then you're golden.
posted by cribcage at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My SO offered to give me his password (to everything) a year ago, and I thought, "huh? why?" He did not expect me to give him my password "in return" or anything. He was just trying to tell me he trusts me and he has nothing to hide, even though I knew that and he didn't need to share his password to show me that. Now that we live together a year later, it has been helpful to know his password when I had to log in to something and he wasn't around (I always let him know if I have to go in). We definitely don't snoop on each other or ever log into each others accounts just to check up on each other. But since we are sharing our life together and trust each other with more important information than a password that can be changed in 30 seconds, at this point in our relationship it would be weird if one of us wanted to keep our passwords a secret.

So don't over think it. It doesn't "mean" anything, other than the fact that he's got nothing to hide and he trusts you.
posted by at 7:07 PM on April 13, 2014

My husband and I share all our passwords. There have been a couple of times when it came in handy. We did this for about 4 years before our legal marriage.
posted by hworth at 7:25 PM on April 13, 2014

I think it's sweet!

Don't share yours if you don't want to. I'm sure there are other ways you express your increasing interdependence.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:35 PM on April 13, 2014

I am not suicidal or depressed, but I do feel the need to know someone knows my passwords in case I die. I think it was triggered when a good friend died and her family took over her facebook profile, using it to contact people and let them know. For me, it's my best friend whom I entrusted. I find it comforting.
posted by alona at 7:50 PM on April 13, 2014

It just seems like a trust thing, to me. He trusts you. That's a good thing, if a rather modern demonstration of it. The key to his apartment is a good analogy.

The Red Thoughts consort and I share a laptop and, consequentially, access to each other's social media and email accounts. But we've been together for a very long time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:52 PM on April 13, 2014

Count me as a vote for, "This is a little weird." Maybe he's been burned in the past - a girlfriend who was hiding things, and he's hoping you'll share yours in return; or a girlfriend who didn't trust him and was always grilling him, so he's trying to be pre-emptively open.

I would want my boyfriend to tell me his password if, say, I was the one sitting at the laptop across the room and needed to log in to look something up. I would want him to be open - and I would be as well. But sharing it pre-emptively seems a little over the top.
posted by amaire at 9:13 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I usually only hear of these kinds of transparency setups when there has been either physical or financial infidelity in the relationship. He is telling you he is trustworthy, and he considers you to be also.
posted by scottymac at 9:41 PM on April 13, 2014

well, if it were me I would want to be asked before I was given the responsibility of knowing another person's master password. if your SO is worried about what will happen in the event of his unexpected passing, he could set up a death switch.
posted by macinchik at 10:48 PM on April 13, 2014

How recently did this happen? Because if your SO is of a certain bent, there's a chance it might be Heartbleed-related (even if it's just "oh huh, maybe I should think about what the deal with my password is")
posted by dekathelon at 11:04 PM on April 13, 2014

I don't think you can read anything into this other than the fact that your SO has absolutely terrible password security practices. You might want to tell him he has to clean up his act in that regard if you are in it with him for the long term since his stuff getting hacked will affect you as well.
posted by Justinian at 11:37 PM on April 13, 2014

It's symbolic of not keeping secrets from you. Have you ever been in a relationship, or known of one, in which there was infidelity? It usually involves a lot of hidden correspondence. He's letting you know (I would bet) that his life isn't set up to be keeping secrets.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:55 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd say it's indicative of trust and a laid back nature. I know my SO's email, facebook and computer log in passwords- mainly because they get me to check things when they're out sometimes, and we both use their computer on occasion. I would still never ever check their accounts without asking, ever.
They also happen to use variations on a theme which are easy to remember. I'm more paranoid about password safety and make mine unique and convoluted, so they never bothered knowing mine. I would let them access my accounts if need be, though. If you're not comfortable sharing yours, don't. Some people are just more laid back, doesn't mean you have to be to still be a trustworthy partner.
posted by mymbleth at 1:22 AM on April 14, 2014

I wouldn't tend do this myself*, and in fact added a log in password to my home computer after an overly jealous partner started snooping through my stuff, but my 25yo daughter and her husband share passwords freely.

* That said, my last partner and I were very trusting and we shared things like the 4 digit pass codes for phones & iPads with each other. I would have given her my master password if she'd asked or otherwise needed it for some reason because I had absolute faith that she wouldn't misuse it. She had a small selection of passwords that were used with everything, which I got to know over time.

Your man giving you his password could mean anything from a symbol of trust to preparations for suicide. There is no way for people on the internet to know. I would talk to him about it. I lost a very dear friend to suicide. She planned it carefully for months and even (I see in retrospect) said goodbye to me. I had absolutely no idea. Don't let that happen to you if you can avoid it.
posted by mewsic at 4:24 AM on April 14, 2014

I also don't understand his desire to do this purely of his own accord.

It comes from exactly the same place - internal obliviousness to digital security as a Thing In Itself - as using the same password across multiple services in 2014.

Some people just don't get that passwords are sacred.
posted by flabdablet at 4:27 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm old and had no idea this was a symbolic thing the kids these days are doing. But, I have seen many times on message boards where people spend a lot of time and develop friendships, instances where a poster is, say, hospitalized, and their SO logs in to their account to let other members know. Or, sadly, when a poster dies, though IME that tends to happen when that person has been sick for a while. So I wouldn't think any more than that he trusts you and wants someone else to be able to access his accounts just in case he can't for some reason. Or maybe that he wants to move your relationship more in the direction of a marriage/partnership/whatever where you have closer legal/financial ties. I would not assume he wants you to police his online activity, nor would I assume suicidal thoughts or drama, unless he's previously given you other reasons to think that.

I don't know. I'm single, and this question makes me realize it would be smart to give a list of my passwords to my mom or a friend. *shrug*
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:29 AM on April 14, 2014

[Folks, it's already been noted more than once that SO has bad password security; please drop that issue now, and just answer the question if you want to respond. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:36 AM on April 14, 2014

My husband and I do this. We swap passwords sometimes too.

If something ever happened to me I would want him to be able to log in here and mention it (but I bet he'd forget the password so if he didn't don't hold it against him. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:58 AM on April 14, 2014

My husband gave me his password. I have multiple passwords and have not given him mine. It's fine and he is not offended. This isn't always a reciprocity thing.
posted by corb at 7:17 AM on April 14, 2014

I've shared passwords with some partners and not others. I've shared passwords with some very trusted friends so that we can share accounts - like streaming video services. I don't think this is at all out of the ordinary or that there is anything to be read into his sharing of his password.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:19 PM on April 14, 2014

This to put this? This definitely seems like that weird combination of depression and longing for deep, deep closeness that usually only occurs in teenagers listening to The Cure while making out in cars with their steady and simultaneously kind of hating the rest of the world. Dramatic is really the word I'm searching for here.

I'm not trying to be mean. It's definitely a little odd. You are not wrong to worry that it means he might be fishing for your password- I would put a tally on the mental list of my warning signs of being controlling. I would also put a tally on my mental list of potential warning signs of 1.) depression 2.) lack of boundaries/neediness/clinginess 3.) drama and big movie gestures and unrealistic grandiosity.

If he's totally and completely laid-back and none of the above applies to him in any other way whatsoever, chalk it up as a weird blip and forget it.
posted by quincunx at 7:34 PM on April 14, 2014

also in case he dies. (?!)

Perhaps he heard about someone else passing away whose loved ones had trouble notifying others and taking care of financial matters that would have been made much easier if they only had the person's password.

Everyone dies eventually, but planning ahead for it requires acceptance of that fact.

Sometimes people in relationships divide up how to handle practical aspects of life based on what they are good at. Your SO should handle the estate planning, and you should handle electronic security issues.

It sounds like he doesn't have a good understanding of passwords, and maybe he just feels a bit better having someone he trusts have his password for unexamined reasons, sort of like leaving a spare key with a friend.
posted by yohko at 5:19 PM on April 15, 2014

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