Don't Touch My Stuff: Tech Couples Consider Off-Limits to Partners

The novel coronavirus, colloquially known as COVID-19, has completely redefined what “normal” means for the majority of the world. Our social interactions have been transferred to video calls and our workdays now revolve around telecommuting. However, the new normal for many means spending extended amounts of time quarantined with those they live with.

Cohabitating presents new challenges even for the most emotionally intelligent. These challenges become only more pronounced when there’s a global pressure to not leave the house. Boundaries have to be set, especially in regards to all of our tech devices that hold so much personal and professional information users may not want to be viewed on a whim.

With this in mind, QS Supplies wanted to explore which devices over 1,000 Europeans and Americans consider off-limits to their partners. All of the respondents are currently in a relationship and living with their partners.

Phone Over Everything

It’s no secret that our smartphones contain a decent amount of private information, whether it’s personal messages or important logins. This could potentially explain why over 2 in 5 respondents list their smartphone as the No. 1 item off-limits to their partner. In fact, respondents were nearly 55% more likely to restrict their partner’s access to their phones than their debit or credit cards.




Although the study found the longer a relationship lasts the more likely someone is to allow a partner access to their personal items, smartphones remained among the top items respondents restricted at all points during the relationship. In fact, smartphones were the item most likely to be off-limits from the get-go. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many respondents reported limiting their partner’s access to their smartphones after they had damaged it or outright lost it.



While completely blocking a significant other from using your smartphone may seem harsh to some, one can only sympathize considering over 2 in 3 respondents reported having their partner damage their belongings. Of course, accidents happen, but smartphones are typically a big-ticket item people try to replace as infrequently as possible.

Tech We Shouldn’t Touch

Smartphones aren’t the only personal tech device those in relationships keep to themselves. Computers came in second only to smartphones, with nearly 42% of respondents considering them one of the top items off-limits to their partner. Similarly to phones, computers were among the top three items restricted from being used by a partner right from the beginning of a relationship.



Significant others who had broken or lost a partner’s computer were also prohibited from using it again. Now more than ever, though, people’s personal computers are crucial for getting them through the day. Reducing the risk for further damage is imperative considering those who work full-time and do so remotely generally rely entirely on their computer for their job.


Interestingly enough, AirPods were also among the top tech items off-limits to significant others. Over 1 in 10 consider their AirPods as off-limits to their partner. Much like smartphones, these sleek tech accessories are priced at a pretty penny. Replacing a broken or lost pair would likely be an unpleasant expense that could’ve been avoided.

Only slightly behind AirPods, gaming consoles made the list of items couples forbid their partners from using. Men were 40% more likely than women to restrict access to their video game consoles.

Tech Restrictions’ Effect on Relationships

Setting boundaries in a healthy way is important to any relationship. However, when we’re too restrictive on a partner, what are the effects? Respondents deeming items off-limits to their partner were 26% less likely to say they trust their partner very much. Unfortunately, it can be difficult trusting your partner with other aspects of the relationship when you can’t trust them to handle your personal belongings with care.

These same people are also more likely to report feeling dissatisfied with their relationship. It can be difficult feeling satisfied with a partnership if there’s little to no trust being shared. This dissatisfaction, if left unaddressed, has the potential to boil over and negatively affect our perception of the relationship’s success. Over 1 in 4 respondents went as far as saying they’ve come close to ending their relationship over off-limits items.

It’s certainly frustrating when a partner doesn’t respect our boundaries as they should or when they don’t treat our personal items with the utmost care. However, communicating your expectations clearly could help alleviate some tension. If you’re uncomfortable with your partner looking through your smartphone without your permission, be sure to politely convey this with clarity. If you would prefer your partner to limit their time on your personal computer, let them know the arrangement that works best for you.

Set clear, yet realistic expectations for how you would prefer your partner to treat your tech accessories to avoid continually replacing new products. As previously mentioned, accidents happen. Should your partner damage or lose one of your personal tech items, have a discussion as to how the two of you will go about replacing it and allay future occurrences.

Read next: These are the most (and least) internet friendly cities around the world (infographic)

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