Cate Blanchett shares an email account with her husband of 16 years, playwright Andrew Upton. “We work together and it’s a way of synchronizing our lives. I can see what he’s up to – it’s not that I don’t trust him,” she told the newspaper, adding that she checks his messages because Upton "hates email." Her comment promptly ignited chatter on Twitter, with commenters calling their relationship habit "creepy" and "horrifying."
Given all the ways in which couples integrate their lives — joint bank accounts and cell phone plans, and shared mortgage payments — it’s not surprising that some couples are merging their emails into one catchall account, too. Many of them claim that it’s a way to streamline their busy lives, by keeping family commitments, bill payment alerts, school calendar reminders, and, yes, personal messages, in one central location. Organized? Yes. Healthy? Hmm.
“Many couples share an email account to commit to transparency — that’s a good goal — but it can also lead to confusion and, ironically, mistrust,” Laurie Puhn, New York City-based couples mediator and author of "Fight Less, Love More," tells Yahoo Shine.
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For one thing, it’s not exactly practical. If one party also maintains a private email account, a joint email address is one more thing to check — not exactly a time-saver. It can also be downright confusing: If one person reads a message and marks it as “read,” the other may wrongfully assume that he or she has replied. Otherwise, if he’s just not an “email person,” monitoring his correspondence won’t help him to become one. (Maybe he should just use the phone instead?)
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“You could also find out things you may not want to know — the least of which could be cheating or financial deception,” says Puhn. For example, if your husband gave a friend relationship advice that you don’t agree with, you may internalize it, without considering its context. And for couples who maintain separate bank accounts, seeing an electronic receipt for a dinner splurge or latte dependency could end up resurfacing old issues you've already agreed to disagree on.
And finally, “SuzyandMike@xyz.com” may simply annoy the outside world, the digital equivalent of PDA. That innocent email address could even affect friendships. If a girlfriend sends an email detailing her marital problems, it's probably meant for your eyes only. If she feels self-conscious enough, she may stop confiding completely. “While you and your partner may not have secrets," says Puhn, "expecting your friends to adhere to your relationship rules isn’t fair."
Her warnings, however, don't necessarily apply to older, less tech-savvy couples who use email as a central location for things like subscriptions and bill payment. “Those couples probably don’t check email with the urgency and frequency of younger couples," Puhn explains, "so it may not be problematic."
For younger couples, being plugged into each other’s world 24/7 could breed a sense of knowing the other person better than they know themselves. “That’s a dangerous mindset, because even long-term relationships need to maintain a bit of mystery,” she says. “It’s never good to assume you know every single detail about your spouse.”
It may even be indicative of a larger problem. “There’s often a controlling element to shared emails, the need to know everything that occurs in your partner’s life,” according to Puhn. “But there’s value to having more than one close bond in your life. In a good relationship, you should be able to maintain your private self.”
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