Balancing privacy and openness in a relationship

I’ve had this question for a while, though I’m sure it has been asked plenty of times already. It recently came up again after I read an article on password sharing.

My ex-boyfriend chided me several times for not respecting his privacy, such as when I read his email without his permission (and saw his communications with other women), and once when I read the writing on a napkin left on the kitchen counter. Should email and text messages be kept private? Or are the ones who say so the ones who have something to hide?

A male friend of mine who is happily married told me that he and his wife are very open with each other. I’m not sure if they read each other’s email. They aren’t friends on Facebook, which gives me the impression that they don’t want to drag any of their drama into the public light, and that they trust each other to not be messing around with Facebook friends.

Some people claim that sharing passwords is an indication of trust because you’re trusting the person to use it responsibly. However, if something turns sour, it can end in mutual destruction.

Other people have argued that trust is not knowing your partner’s passwords and believing they have nothing to hide. Furthermore, they point out that a relationship cannot be healthy when each person does not have privacy or a life and friendships that are separate from the relationship.

What do you think is a good balance of openness and privacy for a couple?
What if you snooped and found out your SO has been cheating on you?

Originally written 1/31/2012


7 thoughts on “Balancing privacy and openness in a relationship

  1. If I was snooping and found my SO had been cheating on me, I would conclude that neither of us can be trusted in this relationship. Unless you are a chronic snooper, in which case you would be in the wrong. But if someone gives me a reason or a vibe to go snooping in the first place, there’s obviously something off because I respect privacy and boundaries.

    For me, sharing passwords seems invasive. I have the majority of my conversations online, so there’s basically a record of my social life on here. It would bother me if anyone went through that, some things I only share with specific people.

    The two most important things are not only trust, but respect. Also the knowledge that letting one person consume you so much that you need to monitor their conversations with others, isn’t healthy and does come off stalkerish. If one is having suspiscions, there are better ways to go about finding out the truth.

  2. I don’t think I’d like or want to share passwords. I feel like even in a relationship there are some things that are individual, and passwords are one of them. Sharing what’s in one’s email or blog or Facebook or whatever is one thing but having someone do it without you is weird and invasive, I think.

    But then, I’ve never been in a relationship with someone who I suspected of cheating or was deathly afraid of cheating on me. And I’m not the sort who would cheat myself. I wouldn’t want to be in that sort of relationship, and if I got to that point where I was constantly worrying about cheating and not trusting them, it might be time to end it.

  3. I’ve been married for 36 years; I’m pretty sure neither of us have secrets from each other. We know passwords, we don’t have “private” places that the other one isn’t supposed to invade and we seldom go out without each other. Some of you might think that sounds suffocating or something, but it’s just natural for us.
    I’ve never tried to stop Hubby from reading anything I write–in fact, I wish he would be more interested. At one point, he did express jealousy of some of the people I talked about from Xanga because I talked about them so much, but I think he got over that.

  4. i have to agree with what the 3 up there have said so far. it has to be individualized per relationship and worked out between the two of you (or three or…) i see it more as respect. one should have a level of privacy in a relationship if one wishes that. i dont and wont share passwords, but they are kept near the computer and can be found easily. you can have mutual friends and personal friends and things can be done and said with any, as long as each is ok with it. if you are that paranoid that you need to know or must know what your SO is doing ALL THE TIME, then i feel that is unhealthy. yes you do share a lot in a relationship from living space, to money, to bodily fluids, etc. it should not be seen as unreasonable to have some level of “mine/me” with out you time. so to me, there is…yours, mine and ours. i dont and wont snoop and i would hope she respects that about me and respects me enough to not do the same. btw….i was in a relationship that did not respect that fact and she went snooping in my phone. she ruined a perfectly good surprise gift for her by snooping and it also ruined a friendship. over all, to me it is more about respect.

    good post.

  5. This shouldn’t be a problem in a relationship. It shouldn’t be a big deal to either want to see the other’s email or worries if he/she can’t.

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