1. Couples can have private conversations and passwords they don't share, just because they believe in privacy and individuality, even if they have nothing to hide.
2. Couples can also have open-book approaches and know all of each other's passwords, just because they trust each other not to use them just to peer into each other's accounts. Instead, they give each other access for situations like, "Hey, would you please sign on to my e-mail and find me X's address?"
3. Couples also can have private conversations and passwords they don't share because they're hiding things from each other — either to allow their own sneaking around or to prevent abuse by the other.
4. Couples also can share everything not because they trust each other, but because they don't, and use the passwords to monitor everything — or just be able to on a whim.
So, which do you have — trust (1 or 2) or no trust (3 or 4)? That matters.
Q: I dunno. I used to have a lot of trust issues. The fact that my then-boyfriend, and now-husband, trusted me with all of his passwords (and I trusted him with mine) made me feel better. Now, six years later I can never remember his or he mine. But it also made me realize he could be trusted.
A: Thanks. I do think this has to be in the reinforcement category and not a key element to building that trust.
In other words, work on your trust issues on your own, and ice the cake with a partner who doesn't shy away from password-sharing. Expecting the passwords to do the work of establishing trustworthiness not only defeats the purpose, but also plays into the hands of someone who insists on control.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.