How to Have the Privacy Talk with Your Partner
Sai De Silva, also known online as “Scout the City,” has an extremely public life on Instagram. The fashion blogger posts photos of herself running through Paris in designer gowns and traversing New York City crosswalks in street wear — sometimes alone and sometimes hand in hand with her children. However, when her husband is pictured, his face is always covered or concealed.
“[De Silva] and her children are actively posing on Instagram, and that is her business model,” notes Morgan Mouchette, a family law and matrimonial partner at Blank Rome. But her partner? “Clearly, they’ve had a conversation about his privacy. When people ask her about it, she says, ‘This is what my husband prefers.’”
It’s not just a celebrity trend; it’s a choice that everyone has to make nowadays. And the conversation surrounding that choice is one that Mouchette suggests all couples and co-parents have early on — whether you’re in the public eye or not.
The reasons why parents choose to — or not to — share their and their children’s lives online vary from wanting to wait until kids can consent to exposure themselves (usually at age 13, according to most social-media organizations) to safety precautions (like protecting from facial recognition and other data that could lead to identity theft). Neither choice is right or wrong, but Mouchette says it’s a necessary discussion.
“People have different definitions of privacy and different expectations,” Mouchette says, “and making sure that you’re on the same page about what you expect from your partner in terms of how you’ll be treated and what you consider to be private is a conversation people usually don’t have until sometimes too late.”
Fortunately, there is a way to navigate your desires and concerns and find middle ground. “If you find that you and your partner are at different extremes, the answer might be that you both nudge a little bit or you meet in the middle on some topics,” LaSov advises. Mouchette adds that such a talk should be considered part of “a healthy communication dynamic.” Here are their tips on how to have the privacy conversation.
Talk before there is conflict
Mouchette says it’s best to get ahead of disharmony in a relationship by discussing and setting privacy ground rules early on. It’s crucial to check in about where each person stands on their privacy at three progression points in every relationship:
- When you’re getting serious (e.g., what you can post about one another).
- Approaching marriage (e.g., finances, intimate details, etc.).
- Before you have kids and after they’ve arrived (e.g., how much of them you can put online).
“Sometimes those upfront conversations won’t happen until someone feels like their privacy has been violated, because their partner spoke about some major argument they had with the friend, and then the friend brought it up to the partner,” Mouchette says. You can avoid all of this by communicating from the start.
Asking about your partner’s comfort level
Mouchette states that if you can hear your partner’s concern, the chances are greater that you will come to an agreement on what you can share, but not so much that it infringes on their concerns. “You have to listen to what each person wants to achieve,” Mouchette says. “One person may want to speak freely about their life, and the other person [may have] a fear about something.”
Understand the boundaries
“In a good relationship,” Mouchette says, “you’ll find people who can thread that needle and have that balance to make sure that their partner is comfortable but that they also are getting what they need out of their friendships.”
Determine levels of detail
Another approach is considering who has access to these photos and details. “The impact of showing your child on a public site or app on the internet is also contingent on how far is your reach,” Mouchette says. “Are you going to be public, or are you going to be a private profile?”
Be creative about compromises
Mouchette recommends going online together and looking at different accounts as jumping-off points for discussions. “There are little things you can do from a safety perspective when you’re talking about privacy and children,” she says, “to make things a little harder for people to immediately identify where your child might be.”
Remind each other that you’re a team
It’s important to touch base with each other over time, as one or both of you may begin to feel different as your life together evolves or as your children grow and you transition into having the conversation with them. If you are still struggling to come to an agreement as one unit, Mouchette suggests talking it through with a mediator or therapist.
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"How to Have the Privacy Talk with Your Partner," by Mia Brabham was published in Shondaland on March 23, 2022.