Scene: You’re on a date with your new beau and their coworker happens to be at the same restaurant. They walk over to the table, start chatting about last week’s craziness, and when it comes time to introduce you, it just doesn’t happen. No name. No title. NOTHING. You sit there, patiently waiting for the person youÂ thoughtÂ youÂ were in a relationship with â€” or at least close to it â€” to acknowledge your existence. And yet, here you are, victim of yetÂ anotherÂ womp-womp dating trend.
You just got pocketed.
Whoa…back up. WTH is pocketing?
Pocketing is, in short, when the person you’re dating pulls out all the stops to make sure that your relationship (orÂ situationship, or whatever it is to them) seems nonexistent to the rest of the world. This means no dinner with the ‘rents or kicking it with their old vasity roommates. They’re likely not even going to acknowledge you publicly on social media (DMing you memes doesn’t count). Basically, your relationship is capital-P private.
Not quite sure if it’s happening to you? First, let go of denial and face the facts. If they avoid bringing you to family, work, or social events, deflect your requests when you ask, and/or always insist on staying in instead of going out, you’re deep inside their pocket. So sorry.
Okay, rude! Why would someone be pocketing me?
Before you freak out, know this: Pocketing isn’tÂ alwaysÂ a relationship death sentence.Â According to therapistÂ Amanda E. White, a person who’s pocketing you can actually have good intentions.
“While pocketing can be frustrating and hurt the trust in a relationship, there are plenty of reasons why someone is pocketing,” she says. “It could be out of fear, it could be because of past relationships that didn’t work out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not into you or that the relationship has no hope.” (AndÂ exhale.)
Relationship therapist andÂ WHÂ advisorÂ “Dr Chloe” CarmichaelÂ cosigns. Dr Chloe has had several clients who hesitate to introduce their partners to their friends and familyÂ becauseÂ they actually really like them. You know how scary it is when you get excited about someone…this could be their (unfortunate) response to those feels, too.
So while yes, someoneÂ couldÂ be pocketing for f*ckboy/-girl reasons (i.e. they’re in another relationship, or have no intention of ever turning your connection into something more serious), more often than not, “sometimes people really just want toÂ tread lightlyÂ while a relationship is in a new or delicate stage,” Dr Chloe explains.
Phew! But…how do I get them to stop pocketing me?
Talk it out. And I don’t mean send them an ominous “We need to talk” text message in the middle of the workday. Nobody wants to come home to that conversation. Instead, create a dialogue â€” one where your partner feels like they can be open and honest with you, too.
When you’re ready to confront this person about their pocketing behaviour, it shouldn’t feel like you’re pointing a finger at them. “Ask with curiosity, rather than accusation,” White says. Dr Chloe adds: “Make it clear from the start that you’re not judging them; you’re just curious about the situation.” Use phrases like, “This is something I noticed” or “The story I’m telling myself is X, am I reading things right?”
Your conversation might sound something like this:
“Last night when we ran into Matt and his wife, I noticed that you didn’t introduce me as your girlfriend, or anything really. So the story I’ve been telling myself is that our relationship isn’t as serious as I thought it was.”
This will create an opportunity for an open and honest conversation, rather than making them defensive, White says. (Btw, if they do get defensive, take that as a sign to consider parting ways: That’s a good indication that they’re not all that accountable â€” and that they’ll likely handle future “confrontation” this way, too.)
Now is your chance to share your expectations for when you’ll be introduced to family, friends, coworkers, etc. “Explain that it doesnâ€™t have to happen this instant,” Dr Chloe says, but do make clear that you would like to leave the conversation with an understanding of (a) why this isn’t happening now, and (b) if they can see it happening in the near future.
“Don’t give them an ultimatum,” Dr Chloe says. (No one responds well to those.) But itÂ isÂ okay to be firm and set a timeline, especially if the person is using words likeÂ eventually. Dr Chloe recommends following up with (in a casual, not sarcastic tone, natch): “So sometime in the next month I’ll meet them? Is that the kind of eventually we’re looking at? Or is it a different kind of eventually?” You want to leave the conversation feeling like you’re on the same page, even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first to get there.
Got it. So when is it time to walk away?
â€śItâ€™s hard to tell immediately, but thatâ€™s where you need to look at patterns,” White says. If your partner says that they’re not ready to introduce you to their family yet because the last person they intro’d was their ex-fiancĂ©e, that’s fine (and fair). “But what are the other ways that theyâ€™re still showing up for you and making an effort?” White says. If you can’t pinpoint them, then it may be time to let the relationship go.
Now, if you have the pocketing convo and find yourself approaching the timeline you discussedâ€”and “eventually” is starting to look more like never â€” that’s when it’s time for some #realtalk. You have to stand up for yourself and your wants, needs, andÂ boundaries. Try saying something like, “If we just want different things, that’s fine, I just may not want to continue participating in a siloed relationship,” Dr Chloe suggests.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re barging your way into their social circle,” she adds. At that point, it’s just better to cut your losses and move on. No one deserves to feel like an unwanted player in someone else’s life â€” you should be with a partner who is proud to include you in their public sphere and shows you off like the catch you are.
Besides, as anyÂ WHÂ girl knows, the only pocketing youÂ reallyÂ need in your life is on your jeans…and leggings.
This article was originally published on Sex & Relationship.