Problems Sharing Contacts between My Wife and Myself

My wife and I would like to share our Apple Contacts list. I’m sure this is something husbands and wives do.

If someone wanted to share their Gmail contact list with me, I could go Settings→ Mail → Accounts→ Add Account, then put in the GMail account and select what I want to share (Contacts). I see both my iCloud contacts and their GMail contacts.

There is a selection for an iCloud account under Settings→ Mail → Accounts→ Add Account too. However, if I select iCloud, then log in with my account on my wife’s phone, our information gets swapped. She pulls up my info as her card and her photo and name on Settings→ iCloud is wrong.

When she goes into Contacts, and selects her card to make it hers, changes the portrait to her picture, and goes into Settings→ iCloud to fix her contact and picture there, it changes it on my phone to her card and info.

I can share my calendar with her without logging my iCloud info on her phone. I can share lists with her without logging my iCloud info on her phone. We also share documents too.

However, I don’t see another way of sharing my address book with her without logging into my iCloud account on her phone.

Weird. My wife and I don’t share contacts this way - I basically exported mine, I imported them to her iCloud account years ago, and we’ve managed our own contacts ever since - but I have two secondary iCloud/MobileMe accounts on my phone and don’t have issues with my contact card at all.

The problem is if your wife updates a contact, you don’t get the update. I want it to work like other shared data like calendars, notes, and reminders where if one person does an update, the other party sees them.

We don’t need to share all contracts. If I could make a list of friends and relatives, we could share that, and coworkers and business contacts aren’t shared.

Right, but like I said, I have no issues with a second iCloud account. You and your wife should be able to create a third account and set up the shared contacts there; when either one of you updates the contact, it should sync.

But, no, Apple really hasn’t designed contacts to be shared among groups like they have with calendars and with Photos last year. My guess is that Apple just hasn’t felt it’s worth the effort for contacts.

Okay, I had something very close to this problem a few months back. Maybe I can help.

By way of background, for years she used my Apple ID on her phone for one main reason: so we could both access our iCloud Photo Library. After me complaining online for years, Apple finally enabled iCloud Shared Photo Library last year (?), removing the final hurdle to this problem. So I was able to set her up on her iPhone with her own Apple ID. It took some shuffling to make sure she had her Notes and other things right.

But like you, we share Contacts. And like you said, the way to do that is to add a secondary iCloud account under her Mail settings. But let me back up and make sure you have everything right:

  1. I assume you’re both running a fairly current version of iOS
  2. You each have your own Apple ID
  3. You are each using your OWN Apple ID as the primary login on your iPhones
  4. I don’t know if this matters, but my wife and I are in the same “Family” for the purposes of Family Sharing. Are you two set up that way?

If all this is in place, we should be able to accomplish what you want. I think iPhone behaves like Mac in the sense that:

  • Primary iCloud Account - can access everything iCloud offers, including Photos, Drive, Messages, Notes, Find My, …

  • Secondary iCloud Account(s) - can only add Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders

So the first question is, under whose Apple ID are the Contacts currently existing? That person will have them natively on their phone. The other person should get access to them by Settings→ Mail → Accounts→ Add Account→ iCloud→ Contacts.

The gotcha is setting up your My Card. She will have access to BOTH your Contacts list and her OWN. And you can only have ONE My Card in each list. She has to make sure that CREATES A NEW card under her OWN Contacts list and sets that one as her My Card, or she will keep clobbering yours.

When I go into my wife’s phone, I see this:

See that I (we) have thousands of contacts under my Apple ID that has been added to her phone. My “My Card” is configured there, so she shouldn’t touch that one.

Instead, if you use the arrow to collapse that list, you will see that her “iCloud” contacts list is also there under the Lists section in Contacts. It’s probably empty. You need to add a (probably NEW) CONTACT under THAT iCloud account for her, and then set that as her My Card.

Once I did that, the problem was resolved.

I had to figure this out painfully on my own; I didn’t find it documented anywhere. It sort of makes sense, but Apple is not really useful at helping couples to manage this. An easy way Apple could improve this situation is to warn us before we modify someone else’s “My Card”, or perhaps prevent us from selecting our card from someone else’s iCloud Contacts. #AppleUX

I’d love to know if this works for you!

Merry Christmas to All!


I was on the phone with Apple a few weeks ago with the shared contact issue. I will try out your solution so her card is her own.

Yup. Completely setup just like that.

The gotcha is setting up your My Card. She will have access to BOTH your Contacts list and her OWN. And you can only have ONE My Card in each list. She has to make sure that CREATES A NEW card under her OWN Contacts list and sets that one as her My Card, or she will keep clobbering yours

Yeah. This is probably the issue. I have to make sure her card is only on her contacts list.

I’ll have to give it a try. I probably have to delete my card from her list and her card from my list. I was getting sick of seeing my ugly face whenever my wife calls me.

We’ve been doing this for many years.

  1. iCloud account that is not primary for either of us has all of our contacts. (you use Google, that’s fine too)
  2. “Skeletal” cards for me and spouse are in the not-primary iCloud account. Only the minimal info - name, phone, personal email.
  3. My “real” card is in my primary iCloud account - and set to MY CARD.
  4. Her “real” card is in her primary iCloud account - and set to MY CARD.
  5. To do this on MacOS, show GROUPS in the contacts app and click on that group before you create the MY CARD cards. Double check. I am not sure how to do this on iOS.

Apple assumes that wherever your MY CARD is, that is your primary iCloud account no matter what you tell Apple.

  • I deleted my iCloud account from my wife’s phone and deleted my wife’s account from my phone.
  • I then made sure we don’t have each other’s cards in our iCloud contacts account.
  • Then I signed my iCloud account onto my wife’s phone and then signed on my wife’s account onto my phone.

This seems to have worked.

Really good instructions!

The other way around. Your primary iCloud account is whatever you have configured under the top of Settings, no matter what you call your My Card.

But while a given Contact list can only have one, they don’t warn you about clobbering the My Card picked by someone sharing that list. And that is definitely an Apple UX failure!

Well, yes and no. Depending on the mycard my wife and I chose, the macOS / iOS photo would change to the wrong person!