My boyfriend is upset I won’t give him my phone password. He keeps saying I’m hiding something and asking why I don’t trust him. I don’t have anything to hide—I just feel weird about it. Am I making a big deal about nothing?
You are definitely NOT making a big deal about nothing. You absolutely made the right call, and have no reason to feel bad about your decision. Your instinct to set boundaries in your relationship is actually really great and healthy!
A healthy relationship is based on trust and respect, and involves boundaries.
We talk more about healthy relationships here, and respect here. Setting boundaries lets you have your own, individual identity outside of your relationship. This means you have your own friendships, hobbies and interests. It also means you have time apart.
One super common boundary is not sharing passwords. This is because having your phone password allows your boyfriend to see who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. You deserve to be able to have private conversations without thinking or worrying about your boyfriend’s reaction. Having your phone password can also give your boyfriend access to your social media accounts. This means your boyfriend could see all your private messages and activity on these accounts. He could also post to your social media accounts or send messages without your permission.
When your boyfriend asked for your phone password, he wasn’t respecting your boundaries.
You made it clear that you didn’t want him to have unlimited access to your phone, but he ignored what you wanted and is making you feel bad about it. Even though he’s accusing you of not trusting him, HE is actually showing no trust in YOU.
This is not ok. It is unhealthy, and could potentially become abuse. Even though many people think of abuse as physical violence, it can actually be any pattern of behavior designed to gain power and control in a relationship. Insisting on having a partner’s passwords is actually a red flag for abuse.
It’s very concerning that your boyfriend is accusing you of hiding something and not trusting him.
Making you feel guilty, putting you down, and making you feel bad about and doubt yourself are all unhealthy relationship behaviors and could potentially lead to emotional abuse. It might not feel like a big deal at first, but it could potentially escalate into isolating you from your friends, making you question yourself and your decisions, and really affecting your self-esteem. Emotional abuse can sometimes (but not always) escalate into physical violence, as the abusive partner tries harder and harder to gain power and stay in control. However, keep in mind that emotional abuse is no less abuse than physical abuse.
Think about your relationship.
Are there other ways that your boyfriend doesn’t respect you? Does he make you feel bad? Do you ever get nervous about how he’ll react to things? Has he used his feelings to convince you to do things that you didn’t want to? Has he ever gotten so angry that you were scared of him?
If the answer to any of these is yes, think hard about whether you want to stay in this relationship. Talk to someone you trust (like a relative, teacher, school counselor, religious leader, or good friend) about what’s going on. Explore the power and control wheel to understand abuse better, and read about what healthy relationships look like. From what you wrote alone, it doesn’t sound like you’re in any danger, but there’s no reason to not be as safe as possible. If you decide to end the relationship, do it somewhere with other people around, and where you can leave easily (for example, NOT his house when his parents aren’t home). Consider making a safety plan.
If your boyfriend is otherwise kind, supportive, and respectful, AND you feel safe and comfortable, consider talking to him about the way his behavior has impacted you. Our society holds up a lot of unhealthy relationship behavior as “romantic,” so it’s easy to get confused about what healthy relationships look like. You may want to look at loveisrespect.org together, and explore what a healthy relationship looks like. If you’re nervous or afraid about bringing up this issue, that is a huge warning sign. Again, talk to a trusted adult.
Never forget that you deserve a relationship filled with love and respect.
If you have more questions about healthy relationships and are 10-22 years old in NYC, you can call (212) 423-3000 to make an appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. We provide confidential, nonjudgmental health care at no cost to you.
A version of this post was first published in September, 2017.