National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

The Dangers of Sharing Passwords

A New York Times article recently discussed the growing trend of teens sharing passwords with their significant others as a sign of intimacy. However, this tendency goes beyond teenage relationships, and more and more adults are finding themselves being tempted to give their passwords to their partners.

Technology has created a whole new realm for our relationships to live in — the digital world. We email our partners and share digital calendars with them, letting each other know every move we plan to make. We text them, sending pictures of where we are and who we are with. We have them as Facebook friends and post and comment on each others’ walls and pictures.

As if this ability to see our every thought and action weren’t enough, sharing passwords to email and social media accounts has now become a display of commitment for some couples.

People who choose to share passwords with their partner often argue that they have nothing to hide. They say that password sharing is the ultimate sign of affection and commitment. It gives the other person in the relationship complete access to everything that they do on the internet. It removes all barriers between the couple.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.

Sharing a password is like sharing a social security number. It gives our partner access to everything that we do online — even to our online identity.

For someone in an abusive relationship, sharing passwords can be a way to extend the abuser’s power and control over the victim. By obtaining a password, an abuser is able to use the digital realm to affect a victim’s offline daily life.

They can monitor actions, watch bank accounts to limit access to money, isolate the victim by controlling social media interactions and even use online activities as validation or excuses for abuse. This extension of control can be extremely dangerous.

Even in healthy relationships, sharing passwords is risky. When we choose to share a password with our partner, we give up a large amount of privacy. We open ourselves up to the opportunity that our partner might not like what we are saying or doing and give them the chance to moderate us and our actions.

We have to decide whether or not losing our privacy is worth the trust or security our partner gains.

Things get even more challenging if the relationship turns sour. The New York Times also recently discussed how this digital obsession is redefining what it means to break up.

If things begin to go bad, a partner with a password can search email and social media for hints of infidelity. They might become angered to see that their ex is talking to someone whom they dislike.

A partner might become angry during an argument or break up and threaten to spread personal details of their partner’s lives via email or social media. What happens if they follow through on that threat?

There’s also the potential that an angered partner could lock the other person out of his or her own account. If they have the password, they can easily change it. This creates a very real opportunity for identity theft or impersonation.

By giving your passwords to your partner, you are potentially empowering them to use the information against you. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you bring out the best in each other, but break ups often tend to have the opposite effect.

Ultimately, whether or not you share a password with your partner is your choice. You are the expert in your own relationship and you know what’s normal and safe and comfortable for you. What are your thoughts on password sharing? Can you think of more benefits? Can you think of more drawbacks?

13 replies
  1. no one says:

    my ex told all my online “friends” that I was crazy and that I hit myself to make it “seem like” he was abusing me … he also posted multiple risque photographs of me on a social networking site where everyone could “see what a slut I am” – even though they were private pictures meant only for him. bottom line is don’t share anything with a boyfriend that you wouldn’t share with the whole world.

    • HotlineAdmin_SS says:

      Dear No One,

      Thank you for sharing a part of your story with our on line community. It’s clear he violated your trust in a very intimate and scary way and you deserve so much better than that. I hope that your friends were supportive and could see through his manipulation. You deserve support, respect and kindness 24/7. Please know that if you ever need to talk you are always welcome to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at 1-800-799-7233.

      HotlineAdvocate_SS

  2. Jess says:

    I had an emotionally and verbally abusive boyfriend that demanded my passwords to prove I wasn’t cheating or talking poorly about him. I refused. I knew he would do anything to isolate me by destroying my personal relationships and possibly my career. I deleted him as a friend on Facebook and hid my friends. It was one of his breaking points before he finally became physical. I called to cops due to his physical violence and he was sent to prison for a long time. Every person in a relationship is entitled to privacy. If you find yourself becoming secretive, it’s a huge indicator that your relationship is not headed in the right direction. Thank you for having a national hot line for victims of domestic violence.

  3. richelle says:

    I am sharing my story in hopes that it helps others….I am 57 now…I HAVE SURVIVED!
    I met a guy…the perfect guy….isn’t that the way it starts? I must say, I was 18 at the time….but, had moved away from home, at the age of 16, first to live with my father and then to live with my sister while attending college…an Ivy League college, I might add. So…I might have been young, but I was NEVER stupid. I went to school during the day and worked nights. I met him through work. He was attractive, apparently “well-off”, took me out to nice places, treated me great (i.e. dinner, roses, the whole bit…). He was 27…a grown-up…. I was still dating other guys, mind you….after all….I was young and single. My sister often spent time at her boyfriend’s place, so she was rarely at home. The guy (I will call him Jim for the sake of this story), would often stay with me…..no big deal. Until….the fateful night when my sister decided that Jim wasn’t welcome anymore, and because I would not comply with her wishes, she threw all of my clothes and belongings onto the grass outside of our rented house. Jim was there to “rescue” me. We stayed in a motel for a few nights, while trying to figure out what to do. (Don’t forget that I was still dating and now had just fallen off of the face of the Earth in terms of other men). Jim and I decided to rent a furnished apartment and move in together. What choice did I have? I was alone and thrown out by family. Going back home was not an option….my mother was an alcoholic, my dad had re-married and I had just spent my senior year of high school with him. He was struggling with bankruptcy, his own marital issues, etc. Soooo…. We moved into a furnished apartment and lived together for about 3 months…at which time he thought it would be a good idea for us to marry. Why not? It had all worked out so far…We tried to get married on Christmas, but since there was no one available to do so, we ended up going to a Justice of the Peace on December 26th. Me in my cut-off shorts…and a T-shirt….no wedding dress here…it was the 1980’s….we were on the beach in Malibu….in front of Justice of the Peace…..Everything was wonderful and beautiful! I remember sending a telegram (remember those?) to my mother informing her of my marriage…did not see her after that for 7 years….

    Upon returning to our apartment that same day….I don’t know what even started it…some trivial thing…he went into a rage. I ended up hiding in the closet , in the corner, as far away from him as I could get….on my wedding day to avoid him hitting me. He even threatened me with a bow and arrow (which was in the closet and belonged to him, which I had only assumed he used as a hobby). He had not touched me before this date …our wedding day.
    Of course, the following day, he apologized…said it would never happen again…brought me flowers….begged forgiveness….and I believed I could “change him”. He confided in me that he had been married 2 times previously, and apparently abuse was a factor in both marriages. BUT I WAS DIFFERENT. I COULD FIX IT.

    I cannot begin to describe the next 7 YEARS that I was married to him. His clothes had to be hung with all hangars facing the same way or all hell would break loose. If they had been ironed incorrectly by the cleaners, over which I had no control, it was MY fault and not only would he rip the shirt off his back….popping all of the buttons, but then the beating would begin. When I would return from class, I would literally be pinned down and vaginally inspected to assure that I had not been with another man. Spread eagle on the bed, while he inspected. He would follow me to class…without my knowledge. Simple things, like dinner being overcooked or laundry not being done (correctly) would set him off, and I would be beaten up. Beatings included bruising, swollen lips, black eyes….and the never-ending use of sunglasses (by me). (Nicole Simpson looked GOOD compared to the many beatings I received). I remember one time, specifically, in which alcohol was involved. During those days, there was a lot of alcohol and cocaine usage (the ‘80’s)….on this particular day…it was Tequila. He and I were both drinking and for some reason it started. BUT…this time I fought back…only to find myself, the next day, with almost a broken jaw (almost requiring hospitalization for my mouth to be wired shut), 2 black eyes, broken lips and lying in bed…unable to move. A dozen roses and numerous apologies followed yet again.

    The physical abuse was bad enough….but the emotional abuse might almost have been worse. I was nothing….no good…not good enough….no one would ever want me….I needed him, since, according to him, no one else would have me. Although I KNEW better…somehow he convinced me that I had no where to go, no one to turn to, and I was a worthless human being.

    He had long since cut me off from family and friends. No phone calls, no visits, nothing. He told me that a 3rd person always creates problems in a marriage. My sister tried to call a few times…but he made me hang up. God bless her, she tried. Thank GOD, somehow I remained in touch with my dad….However, my dad, being an abuser himself….although he talked to Jim many times….was unable to create any lasting effect…and so it continued….
    One night, in a restaurant, with my dad and his wife, my dad confronted Jim….I had a black eye at the time….my dad took him outside…and threatened him…but it did not stop Jim….he promised my dad that things would be better….they never were.

    I tried to run, a few times, but even my VERY BEST FRIEND, would not allow me into her place due to fear of what he may do to her (she knew the history). I was not allowed to talk to my family or my friends. I could not even go to the grocery store without Jim. At one point, he put a “security gate” at the bottom of our stairwell…we lived on the second story of an apartment building…which required a key to get in or out. I was not given a key. I screamed “bloody murder” on numerous occasions and the police often came, but he had threatened me with further bodily harm should I report him. So…I kept quiet when they arrived. Thank God the laws are different today, and should there be any indication of abuse, the man will be arrested first and questions asked later. Unfortunately, I was not to benefit from the laws that are in force NOW….

    Finally, something happened to me….I was driving home from work one day with a knot in the pit of my stomach….THIS WAS THE DAY. I was GOING TO LEAVE HIM. I arrived home from work, knowing in my gut that this was the day….it did not take long, until the abuse began once I got home (…after all…I was late)….I ran down the stairwell….he had not locked the gate….I WAS OUT!!!!! He proceeded to run after me with a hammer. He put it through the windshield of my car….so….I had to walk….I WAS READY. I walked down the street….a residential street in Santa Monica, California…..There was construction going on across the street….construction guys wolf-whistling to me as I walked….and he followed…..saying things like, “Nice piece of Ass…huh?”

    I made it to the grocery store on the corner….YAY! Pay phones! BUT…I guess he knew what was coming…had been there and done that before….so he had already taken all of my credit cards, checks, etc. out of my wallet. I did have some change left in my wallet…so I called for help….

    I called battered women’s shelters…..only to be asked if I had a job, a checking account, etc. Once I stated that, indeed, I had a job…with a steady paycheck…BUT…that he had taken all of my credit cards, checks, etc……THEY TOLD ME THEY COULD NOT HELP ME! There I was….in a phone booth, thank GOD, in public, outside of a grocery store. He wasn’t coming after me. What could I do??? Even the shelters had turned me away…because I had a job???? A checking account???? Why????

    Finally, I telephoned my dad….who lived 2 hours away. He told me that he was, “On his way….” Thank God!…I telephoned a taxi, which took me out of the city to a local restaurant that I used to go to…..after hearing my story, there was no taxi fare….nor charge for the MANY drinks that I ordered in the restaurant. I sat at that bar for what seemed like HOURS. FINALLY….my dad and his wife arrived. They drove me back to their home, 2 hours away….AWAY FROM HIM….

    I had only the clothes on my back….from silk blouses, gold jewelry, tailored clothing, the fine life…THIS WAS IT. I don’t remember much from the 2 weeks I spent at my dad’s house…just endless phone calls from Jim…and my dad telling him that “I wasn’t there”. In the end…I HAD to return to work…..I met with my boss a couple of weeks later and told her everything. Security was on-guard…should Jim attempt to get to me….AND HE DID. I was able to call security twice, to be protected against him, and have him removed from the property. I don’t remember how long after that I was called into my boss’ office…..The police were there…serving ME with divorce papers! UNBELIEVABLE….but, I was so grateful. I had since moved into my own little rental residence…and was coming to grips with everything. I forgot to mention that Jim and I had rented a garage to store furniture that I had received from my parents. One night, my mother and a BIG guy who was her friend, went with me to the garage and cut the lock, removing the furniture, etc. in order to furnish my new place. THANK GOD FOR FAMILY. Unfortunately, for me, the BIG guy…supposedly a friend of my mother’s, not only moved the furniture into the new place, but then he tried to make a move onto me! I threw him out, and told my mom. She NEVER DID BELIEVE ME! But it was okay…I was safe in my new place, with my same job…and doing fine….That is…until I ran into Jim in a gas station. He wanted to “talk”. Stupidly, I agreed…but…I said…it had to be a public place. We went down the street to a restaurant, where he again proceeded to apologize, ask forgiveness, and then….believe it or not….suggest that we “get back together”. By this time, I was now re-acquiring my self-esteem….I was NOT undesirable, unintelligent, undeserving, etc. I WAS A GOOD PERSON. I DESERVED MORE. So, I was not intimidated….and refused to get back with him. Weeks, maybe months, passed…and I was again dating. Suddenly, I began receiving phone calls from Jim in which he threatened to have me “raped in an alley by a bunch of ‘n-word’”. He told me that he had been having me followed, and proceeded to tell me who I had dated, what kind of car they drove, etc. HE HAD FOUND ME! I was terrified…..BUT….remember that self-esteem? NOW, I had it back. NO WAY…NO HOW….he was NOT going to get to me.

    I ended up holding my ground, staying in my rental, and dating. All I know about him was that he faked a burglary….stating that all of my jewelry. Clothing, etc. had been taken in it…and he is probably off performing another scam and abusing women. I started all over…from clothes, shoes, food, apartment, car….EVERYTHING. And TODAY….it was the BEST THING I ever could have done! I pursued my education, made a living…and a name for myself in doing so….I am now retired, having lived a life of abuse/terror and survival…and I WON!

    Believe it or not, I had wanted children with this man…today I am grateful that we never had any. I am now blessed with two daughters from my second marriage….but the real deal is my third AND LAST husband…the man who raised two little girls into the beautiful women they are today. We remain married now, after 15 years, and I know that I AM WORTH IT. THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.

    Just MAKE THE CALL…YOU ARE WORTH IT! The laws protect YOU today, unlike me in my day….GET OUT! GET HELP! You have a life ahead of you that is worth living….and blessings that you can accept each day.

    • HotlineAdmin_RE says:

      Richelle,
      Thank you for sharing your story with our Share Your Voice blog community. You are a survivor! It was really powerful to read about the abuse your experienced and how you overcame it and were able to create a life for yourself that was safe. Hopefully it will inspire others to make a change or to reach out for help. Everyone deserves safe and healthy love.

      HotlineAdvocate_RE

  4. Shaddai says:

    I left a domestic violence marriae 4 years ago. My ex-husband was charged with two charges of felony stalking. I had to leave the state because he was given a plea bargain.He intimidated the witnesses at my job and they refused to testify. He immediately found my location by going to the unemployment office and obtaining my information by pretending to be me. I went through severe abuse in my marriage with him. I had to flee for my life and move out of state. I drove over 6000 miles through 19 states with just what I could fit in a car and my cat. I started a new life, and I have found it challenging to make friends that are local. I have many friends who are around the U.S. I left everything and never turned back. The program I went through requires I not be in touch with any family, which really doesn’t matter that much. I never had a very good relationship with family members anyway. I aged out of foster care as a teenager. I really have attempted to get involved in the community, volunteering, meet ups, etc. After 3 years living here, I still feel lonely at times. I have a job and attend school part-time. I stay active.

    • HotlineAdmin_MB says:

      Shaddai,

      It takes a lot of courage and strength to decide to leave and to keep moving until you find a way to be safe. I’m sorry that you had to leave all your friends behind. It is hard to start over in a new location and make new friends, but volunteering, going back to school, and working are healthy and productive ways to move forward. If you are in need of counseling or support group services you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. Thank you for sharing your voice with our blog readers.

      Hotlineadvocate_MB

  5. Shaddai says:

    Good Morning,

    It does take a lot of strength and courage. And I have work consistently and deeply to heal myself through counseling, coaching, etc. I even shared my story on a radio broadcast recently that was speaking of the many faces of domestic violence, in frame that protected myself. I just really would like some good friends locally. I spend a lot of time alone, though I enjoy some alone time, I want some good friends too here. I guess all in due time. Thanks. Shaddai

  6. Justin says:

    My wife demanded my password for facebook, accused me of cheating if I did not hand it over. I handed over the password rather than be accused of cheating. she now monitors it and accuses me of many things depending on who asks to be friended on my facebook.

    • HotlineAdmin_SS says:

      Justin,

      Thank you for sharing a part of your story with our Share Your Voice blog community. You have every right to keep your password private, even from your wife. Whether or not you share your password with her should be your personal choice and you deserve the right to make the decision without pressure from her. If you would like to talk with an advocate about what’s going on in your relationship you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, anytime, at 1-800-799-7233.

      HotlineAdvocate_SS

  7. Jennette says:

    Dear Jess,
    My boyfriend has done the same exact thing with the passwords, except I gave him all my passwords. I always feel like i have to hide things from my boyfriend so he won’t get mad. It’s terrible.

  8. Terry says:

    I’m living with this. My verbally and “mildly” abusive husband has been terrorizing me, off an on for nearly 24 years. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry about how I will make him mad… and, in the end, no matter what I do, he still finds something. Sometimes it’s not physical abuse… like this morning at 2am, when he woke me up demanding my Facebook password because he had a dream I was cheating on him. Who knows what it will be later today. My life is a farce and no one knows it but me.

    • HotlineAdmin_MT says:

      Terry,

      Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your story. It sounds like a really difficult and upsetting situation, and I’m so that you’re reaching out. This is more than anyone should have to go through, much less alone. You deserve to be treated with trust and respect by your partner, and the way he’s behaving is not acceptable. If you’d like, we’d be happy to talk with you about your situation and come up with some strategies to help you through this. You can reach us 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or by online chat 7am-2am CST at http://www.thehotline.org. We hope to talk with you soon!

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