Some couples share everything from toothbrushes to their best friend’s secrets. But sharing your location? That’s a whole new level of intimacy.
These days, smartphones track your every move, including your location, making it easier than ever for third parties to know where we are (and, possibly, what we’re doing). And sometimes those third parties might be our partners, spouses, and significant others. But is giving them access to your whereabouts at all times actually healthy?
“The ability of smartphones to allow instant and constant precise sharing of our whereabouts has changed the rules of engagement in personal relationships,” says , a dating and relationship expert. “So the question becomes: How do we best use these tools with someone we’re dating or our partner and where do we draw the line?”
How location sharing works
Before you decide whether or not you want to share your location with your partner, you should know what exactly it is you’re sharing, says Nikolina Jeric, founder of the dating site . “For starters, the way these apps work is by allowing your phone to share your geolocation with the app,” she explains.
Used in everything from your standard suite of Google apps to Facebook and Instagram, geodata is usually enabled by default on most devices. “It’s what makes tagging your photos easier, for example, by prefetching the data from your phone to determine where you are,” Jeric says. The geodata can allow your contacts to track you, too, although that feature shouldn’t be enabled by default.
Google Maps, which you can use on an Android device and on an iPhone, has real-time location tracking, where you can share your location with any of your contacts and they can see where you’re at. But you have to turn the live location sharing on by navigating to “Location sharing” from within your Maps settings.
Apple has similar functionality built into Apple Maps and Messages. For iPhone users, you can share your location via text message by tapping the “i” icon and selecting “Send My Current Location.”
Both options allow you to share your location for a set amount of time, like for an hour or until the end of the day, as well as indefinitely.
If you’re sharing your exact location from the Maps app, you can decide to share your location and progress for the duration of a trip using the Share ETA function. This might come in handy if you want to let your partner know how long it’s going to take you to meet them for drinks after work, for instance. Or you might use the feature when you’re traveling solo so that your partner or a friend knows you’re safe. You can also use it for family sharing.
Why and when to use it with a partner
So is location sharing useful or just kind of creepy? It might be a little bit of both. Your decision to share your location with your partner depends on the scenario and perhaps a couple of other factors, too — namely, you and your partner’s personal preferences and the status of your relationship.
“In most cases, I would say it would be incredibly awkward to propose to someone that you just started dating that you would like to share your phone location,” says Jeric. “It’s one thing if you’re meeting somewhere crowded and you share your location for a few minutes so they can find you. Using it on a daily basis, though, would be way too invasive for the average couple that just started dating.”
If you’re in a long-term relationship or you’re married, your partner is probably the person you see most often and trust the most — your “in case of emergency” contact. In that case, you might feel comfortable letting them know where you’re at or being privy to their location, too.
“I can also see why an elderly couple might want to enable sharing phone location or use specific apps for this purpose,” Jeric says. “It can help one partner feel more secure that their significant other is safe and sound when they go out shopping.”
What to keep in mind
If you do decide to share your whereabouts, there are some potentially “yikes” scenarios you’ll want to keep in mind. First, if you break up, you probably want to disable location sharing if you haven’t already. At best, sharing location info with your ex can make it hard to let go. At worst, it’s a great way to enable creepy behavior if the breakup wasn’t exactly amicable.
“These tools can be misused in the context of a toxic relationship,” Bartnik warns, “where a controlling partner has the ability to always check the other’s location and control them from a distance.”
Also, make damn sure you’re comfortable with sharing your location in the first place — deciding you don’t want to share anymore further down the line might raise some red flags for a partner who’s not very trusting.
Aside from the practical reasons for sharing, Jeric says the idea is generally a bit invasive. “I think it’s way too much control either way,” she says. “The intention might be safety and security, but it could actually do more harm than good.”
In some cases, even if your partner didn’t have trust issues before, knowing they can see your whereabouts at all times can trigger some nasty behaviors, like compulsively checking in on you or asking you why you made that pit stop on the way home. “It could lead to arguments and second-guessing trivial things, such as how much time was spent in the parking lot or why they visited this particular place or that,” Jeric adds.
If nothing else, even the closest relationships should maintain some level of personal privacy. There are a lot of things you can (and should!) share with a partner. But sharing everything leaves little room for independence.