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The Find My app might come in clutch when tracking down a lost phone (or your unhinged bestie who conveniently disappears three sips into any night out), but as helpful as it is, it can also high-key hurt your romantic relationships.
While sharing locations with your partner can be great for safety purposes—like if you’re going on vacation together or one of you has a late-night walk home—it can also hurt the trust between you when not used in a healthy way (as in, when you're obsessed with checking it like it's your job). Of course, there are layers to this: Your attachment style and relationship history can make it harder to have constant access to an S.O.'s whereabouts without experiencing some combination of anxiety, paranoia, or even jealousy. (More on that later.) And while there are plenty of folks out there who are perfectly capable of using Find My properly, it’s not that simple for everyone. One minute you’re checking whether your partner got home safe, and the next, you’ve convinced yourself that they’re cheating with the Wegmans cashier and not just, I don’t know, buying groceries.
Even if you’re not as
inexplicably paranoid anxious as others (me, hi), location sharing might still ignite insecurities because you’ve created unnecessary room for assumption. "There's a lot of scope for misunderstanding," says relationship expert Jessica Alderson, co-founder of the dating app So Synced.
And while there may not be a one-size-fits-all answer for what will work best for every relationship, we tapped real experts for advice on how to decide what could work for yours—and how to develop healthier habits in the process.
How Can Location Sharing Hurt Your Relationship?
It's complicated. If your partner has cheated in the past or been dishonest about what they’re doing for reasons that feel shady (i.e: not because they secretly snuck out to buy you a treat or plan a surprise), it makes sense that you’d feel more inclined to check in on them often. But that could be like putting a Band-Aid on much deeper trust issues that were already there and have yet to heal.
“If you can’t trust that someone's doing what they say they are, then you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with them,” says relationship therapist Kati Morton, LMFT. Realizing you can’t stop checking in on them might signal to you that you haven't moved on from whatever happened in the past. A trained couples therapist can help you do that in a safe, judgment-free zone.
But even if your current partner has never given you a reason to doubt them, location sharing can still cause conflict and anxiety if you've had negative experiences in previous relationships. Did an ex cheat or lie to you? Are you still healing from a relationship—romantic or otherwise–that made it hard to trust people? All of this plays a role.
“Constantly having access to a partner's location can lead to overthinking or jealousy if one partner becomes fixated on the other's activities,” says Alderson. “For the same reason that it isn't healthy to obsess over a partner's social media posts, it's not healthy to obsess over their location either.” When you have limited information, like in this scenario, that can easily lead to incorrect assumptions, she adds.
Now, just because you have your partner’s location, doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically start stalking their daily commute. If that’s not part of your nature, and your partner has never planted any seeds of doubt in you, you might be able to permanently share locations in a healthy way. But if you haven’t yet worked through the trust issues your ex so graciously left you in the box with your stuff, or you find yourself constantly double checking your partner's whereabouts “just in case,” you might be better off just not introducing location sharing into your relationship at all, says Morton.
What Role Does Your Attachment Style Play?
A big one! In short, there are four attachment styles—secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized—and they stem from how people learned to form relationships in their youth. Anxious and avoidant are considered “insecure” attachment styles, and disorganized is a combo of both anxious and avoidant. Sex educator Lucie Fielding, author of Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments, previously told Cosmopolitan that the four attachment styles “represent some of the ways that people innately resolve conflicts or respond to perceived threats or distress.”
Even if you have a squeaky clean dating history and your current partner has never so much as glanced in another person’s direction, you might still find yourself obsessively using Find My to make assumptions about their activities. If that's the case, you could have an anxious attachment style.
According to Alderson, individuals with this attachment style are "highly attuned to relationship dynamics and seek reassurance from their partners on a regular basis,” she explains. “Anxiously attached individuals tend to experience heightened levels of anxiety and emotional ups and downs in a relationship. While someone with this attachment style might think that location sharing is a great way to receive that constant reassurance and ease their anxiety, it often has a reverse effect.
“They may find themselves obsessing over the whereabouts of their partner or dwelling on thoughts that they're cheating,” Alderson says. “It’s important for people who have an anxious attachment style to be aware of this risk and know that it can lead to undesired consequences if it isn’t managed properly.”
On the flip side, those with an avoidant attachment style tend to keep partners at a distance and might feel trapped by the very thought that their partner even has their location. This isn’t productive either, Alderson says. “They might view it as a way of being controlled or monitored.”
The pressure of your watchful eye might trigger their tendency towards flight. They might also start to overthink their every move, not out of guilt for what they’re doing, but fear of how each step will be perceived by their partner. That can, understandably, affect their mental health, which can in turn impact their relationship.
If your partner refuses to share their location and that sounds off alarm bells in your brain, have a conversation about why, because their decision to not accept that Find My request isn’t necessarily a red flag. It might just be a boundary they’re setting for themselves, which means it’s probably a good time to come to a healthy compromise.
Can Location Sharing Impact the Romance in Your Relationship?
Short answer: Yes! Attraction depends on several factors, including mystery and spontaneity—especially early on in the relationship. It’s what keeps those butterflies and the desire for more connection alive. Once you add Find My into the relationship, it can eliminate a piece of that because you already know every detail of their day before they even got to tell you about it. There’s nothing wrong with comfort in a relationship, but comfort without excitement can contribute to a mundane dynamic, making it feel less hot and romantic, says Alderson. “If a couple knows each other’s whereabouts at all times, there's less room for surprise and the relationship can start to feel overly familiar.”
Not only can it eliminate that healthy dose of intrigue that’s so critical when building chemistry with someone, but it can also make you question their intentions, even when they're totally pure. Maybe they stopped by a new restaurant you said you wanted to go to to make a reservation or plan a surprise. Not only is it totally squashed now that you've seen them there, but now you’re questioning why the heck they went without you, why they went at all, who they went with, and more. It’s a spiral that could have easily been avoided had you just not checked in the first place.
So...Does That Mean You Shouldn't Share Locations at All?
Not necessarily! It just means you might need to learn what healthy location sharing can look like for you. Ask yourself whether you can handle it based on your history and attachment style, then open up the conversation to your partner. How do they feel? Are they comfortable with you having their location? Are they comfortable having access to yours?
“For some people, permanently sharing their location with their partner can cross a line and they can feel like it's an invasion of their privacy. It's understandable to want to have boundaries,” says Alderson, adding that behaviors in a relationship are not necessarily “definitely healthy or unhealthy,” but rather, it’s about “personal preference and the dynamics at play between two people.”
You can also consider a happy medium and temporarily share locations for safety purposes, when you need to find them in a crowded place, or any other situation in which it just makes sense. It’ll look different for everyone because no two relationships—or people, or situations—are the same. Maybe you'll find you’re better off just not sharing locations at all. Finding that sweet spot requires open communication between you and your partner—and sometimes, maybe even an unbiased couples therapist—so you can set yourselves up for healthy, loving, anxiety-free relationship success.
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