Getting Comfortable With The Basics

Couples Sharing Email Addresses

There are couples who share an email address between them, or even have a single email address for the whole family. In most cases, it seems people do this for one of two reasons:

  1. People tend to see an email account like the family telephone landline, or like a shared bank account.
  2. One person in the couple is “not technology savvy” and it’s just easier for one person to manage the email.

A few thoughts on this:

  • First, an email address is a UNIQUE identity in the modern world, not a shared bucket. Email is not like a telephone line or a shared bank account. You might receive a few calls a day on your family phone, but as individuals start to receive many emails per day. The volume of email we all have to manage would seem to make sharing an account non-viable from a simple housekeeping perspective. Trying to decide when your partner has finished a particular message before you delete or archive old messages can be a chore.
  • Secondly, when people write an email, they have a reasonable expectation of reaching an individual on the other end. I’m going to write an email very differently to a couple sharing an address than I would to an individual. If I don’t know in advance that it’s a shared account, that’s not fair to the writer, who naturally assumes that one email equals one person.
  • Thirdly, to share an email account makes it seem like two people talk with the same mouth. When I’m reading a message, I don’t have any clue who’s actually talking unless it’s personally signed at the end (and emails are often not). Again, this is frustrating for the recipient.

We all have or will have dozens if not hundreds of accounts on systems all over the web today. From Coldstream Village, Facebook, online banking, Social Security, stores, reading clubs, churches, community organizations, many if not most of these systems tie accounts to unique email addresses. If two people share an email account, then many systems cannot manage their individual identities. Let’s take the example of a community organizations that tracks things like contact information, family jobs, individual board positions, photographs, etc. It may also be the case that that system sends email to individuals that have certain responsibilities in the organization.The community organization can reasonably expect that people who are privileged to see that mail are not sharing those private messages with others. It’s reasonable to expect that each person in that organization has their own email address.

How to Create Individual Email Accounts

It’s trivially easy for each member of a family to have their own email account, and the basic expectations of privacy that go along with it.

The easiest way is simply to create free accounts at webmail providers like,, or similar (I recommend you use Gmail ). Then all you have to do is log the browser into one account or the other.

If you prefer to use email on your ISP’s domain (such as or, almost all ISPs let you create lots of email accounts for no additional charge. Just log in to their site and find their Mail Help center. However, you’ll have a much better experience on GMail than you will on your ISP’s mail system. There's really is no good reason to use an email address attached to your ISP. What happens when you switch to another ISP? You don’t want your email to have to change along with it!

You should have Individual Windows User accounts on a shared computer. That way each family member has their own desktop, their own documents, their own bookmarks, their own email, etc. If you’re not doing that already, take the time to give every family member their own login, then set up your mail accounts from within those respective computer logins.

Digital Literacy 
Managing an email account is the cornerstone of basic digital literacy in the modern world. Not to be harsh, but that partner who is “not technologically savvy” needs to at least rise to the level of being able to send and receive email. An adult not being able to do email in 2013 is excluding themselves from the modern world in a way that just doesn’t / can’t work any more. If you want to go all the way off the grid, OK, but if you’re going to live in modern society, you need to be able to do your email, period.

Should couples SHARE an e-mail address?

  • What about confirmations of ordered gifts at Xmas…?
  • We have separate emails of course. I don't want to have to sort through his emails from his golfing and fishing buddies to get to the ones I'm interested in and I'm sure he doesn't want to sort through my emails from my parents and friends.
  • We have separate emails, but we have the password for each others emails in case there is something we need to get.
  • I personally don't think that the rules should change because you are in cyber space. If your partner got a letter from their old friend or cousin or whoever, and it was addressed specifically to THEM, would you open it? If you did, I think it would be rude and an invasion of their privacy and also an invasion of the sender's privacy. Perhaps the sender had a personal matter to discuss and didn't want anyone else to know about it?
  • Just because two people are a couple, that does not mean they stop being individuals with personal friends that trust and confide in them. Or used to!
  • Once again, there’s basic privacy / politeness. I’m curious – if you share an email account, do you also open one another’s paper mail?
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