True love means waiting to share your Netflix password

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Relationships milestones are different for everyone. Each couple decides how long to wait for intimacy, if they soft-launch on social media, when and if to be exclusive — and eventually whether to move in together or get married.

There’s another consideration for new couples to navigate: When are you serious enough to share a Spotify account? How about streaming services or a Grubhub subscription? Do you need to be engaged before adding someone to your cellphone plan? Have a key to their apartment to get in on their Amazon Prime?

Money can be one of the most contentious topics in relationships, according to therapists. And digital ties can be dangerous if things turn toxic or abusive. Subscriptions and other accounts should be shared only after careful consideration of what it means, who benefits and what will happen if the relationship ends.

Wait before you go subscription-steady

You may be tempted to share your entertainment services early on. But the first months of relationship aren’t the time to hand over passwords, experts say. Our brains operate differently during the infatuation stage and could lead us to make decisions we regret later.

“When people get involved in a relationship that feels yummy and romantic and there’s good chemistry, we can get ahead of ourselves and we make commitments we’re not ready for,” says Bart Hatler, a relationship therapist in San Francisco.

During this stage, some people will give things — like access to their accounts — to be liked or loved, or even to feel safe and secure, Hatler says. The other person can take advantage of that.

To protect your heart, wallet and algorithms, wait until you’ve built trust and have learned to manage conflict well.

Not all accounts are the same

There are some accounts that make sense to share early on and others that shouldn’t be combined unless you’ve been together years.

Consider what’s at stake. Something like Netflix, Hulu or Spotify is lower risk — you can change a password or more easily get your own account later. But as soon as financial information is involved, you’re dealing with serious conversations about who pays for what, and a painful separation of accounts if things end. Delay going on the same Apple family plan or cellphone plan as long as possible.

“The more complicated it is to actually merge the accounts, the more serious the relationship should be, because it’s going to be complicated to unmerge sometimes,” says Jeff Guenther, a professional counselor and dating content creator.

The services themselves are also changing their rules. Netflix last year announced it was cracking down on password-sharing by tracking the location of log-ins. Other streaming platforms are following its lead. The limitations could force people to wait until they move in together to go halfsies on an account.

Use it to talk about bigger things, like money

When you do decide to share, you can use the moment to talk about finances and your approaches to money.

“You need to ask each other: What does this mean to both of you? Do you both feel like it’s a big milestone in the relationship, are you having a special dinner about it?” Guenther says. “Or are you sticking it to Big Tech and capitalism, which I can respect.”

Sharing, even of accounts that don’t cost that much, can create power imbalances, Guenther says. Think about who is paying and what that means. Is someone taking advantage of the other by letting them foot the bill for their music account? Or does the person paying feel that they are owed something in return?

Sharing subscriptions can also be a healthy opportunity to ease into open discussions about your finances.

“It’s a larger sort of symbolism for: How comfortable are we with the responsibilities and implications that might come from this decision?” says Megan Ford, a financial therapist and faculty member at the University of Georgia.

Taking this leap implies that you are ready to start talking about your financial situation with the other person, Ford says. You don’t need to reveal everything right away, but take small steps and see if you share the same philosophies and comfort levels around money.

“Any mechanism we have to open that door with our partners can ultimately be a positive step,” Ford says.

Love and password-sharing come with risks

There are privacy and security reasons to hit pause on sharing accounts. In many cases, handing over a password will give your significant other access to years of sensitive information. If they are nosy, paranoid or just bored, they could dig through your watch history and see past food orders, Uber rides or what you bought on Amazon. They might be able to see your reading or Kindle history.

When you do share a service, give the person their own profile on your account to keep things separate. Make sure the password you use for that service is unique and can’t be used to log in to any other part of your online life, like your bank account or email.

Finally, agree on ground rules before handing over the keys. If the risk of sharing your data seems too great, you can start a new account together or keep things separate.

Think about the breakup now

When considering sharing accounts, think about the work on the other end. How complicated would it be to untangle your accounts if you broke up? Would you mourn the loss of your carefully trained suggestion algorithm?

If you find yourself at this stage, it’s best to immediately cut the other person, or yourself, off and change any passwords. If you’re in a dangerous situation, there are a number of other things you can do to protect your accounts.

Four months into dating, Taylor Vecchioni gave her boyfriend her Netflix password. After the relationship ended, Vecchioni, a 30-year-old early-childhood educator in San Francisco, moved on and forgot about it.

Then she noticed someone watching true-crime shows and documentaries on her account from a distant location. Her ex was still using her account — and had even shared it with his friends so they could get free streaming, too. She changed the password.

“Healing goes by faster, and is more efficient and healthy, when you’re not constantly being reminded of them,” says Guenther, who recommends giving the other person a heads-up first.

Many people will hold on to accounts anyway, either for revenge, to save money or just because it’s convenient. If you do it, be subtle. Guenther mentioned a client who was still using her ex’s Hulu account but had changed her profile name to “Add new user” so he wouldn’t know.

She’s still using it to this day.

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