Dating Tips

‘Pocketing’ Is a Dating Trend Where You Feel Like Your Partner’s Secret—Here’s What To Do About It

Photo: Getty Images / whitebalance.oatt
It’s an understatement to say that entering a new relationship is exciting. The sparks, the butterflies, the learning-everything-new-about-each-other phase… totally irresistible. And if you’re like me, you want to give your friends all the details ASAP. After all, can anyone give as great advice as your besties can?

As you and your partner grow closer and go on dates and adventures together, you may also want to post pictures with them on social media. Not only is this a way to share your joy with others, but captions can show how much you care about your partner and make them feel good.

If social media posts are basically your love language (it’s definitely one of mine, too), you might feel confused or upset if your partner doesn’t post about you as much or in a similarly heartfelt way. You may wonder if the lack of a hard-launch on Instagram means they don’t want to be with you.

There’s a popular dating trend that describes and explains their behavior: “pocketing.” But what exactly is “pocketing,” and how much is it a problem versus just a difference in social media habits?

“Pocketing is the new buzzword for not outing your relationship or person you’ve [been] seeing on social media,” says Katherine Glaser, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker with Thriveworks in Tampa who has 19 years of experience working with couples and adults with relationship issues.

In other words, pocketing is “keeping your partner in your pocket,” so to speak.

Your partner could be pocketing you if they haven’t posted about you, but are otherwise active social media users. “Almost everyone is on some kind of social media these days, where it’s common to post pictures of our lives, friends, family, pets, and even what we ate for lunch,” Glaser continues. “So if the person you are seeing is active on social media but not showing any signs you exist, you might be getting pocketed.”

But what if you haven’t been dating for a long time? Is there a point when your partner “should” have posted about you? Glaser says there’s no set-in-stone etiquette, but pocketing is more likely the case if they haven’t posted about you after you two have had “the talk” and established your relationship.

Pocketing isn’t just relegated to social media—it’s an IRL thing, too. “Pocketing renders a situation within a relationship in which a partner is keeping the other away from their friends and family,” says Callisto Adams, PhD, a certified dating and relationship expert. She adds your partner may also avoid the topic of family and friends when you bring it up, talk you out of meeting each other’s family and friends, and make plans that only involve the two of you.

The reasons behind pocketing are a bit concerning…

As you can probably guess, pocketing isn’t a great sign. But before you start to panic, know that some of the reasons behind the practice are more innocent than others. And in most cases, their pocketing behavior is most likely not about you.

“There are often personal reasons [for pocketing] rather than reasons that have to do with you specifically,” Dr. Adams says. “People often pocket their partner because they’ve had bad experiences before, [or] they're insecure about the ‘quality’ of their social circle,” she says as examples. Understandable, sure, but still doesn’t make the impact of their actions (or lack thereof) hurtful to you.

However, there are some potential red flags surrounding pocketing. Glaser says that it could signal issues with the person’s transparency—what are they not telling you? For example, they may not be honest about their intentions or expectations, says Dr. Adams. (Maybe they want to stay casual or date other people, and adding you to their grid would blow up their spot.) Or maybe your partner isn’t serious about you, period. “Simply said, some people do not want the person they are in a relationship with interacting with others in their life,” Glaser says. “Why? Possibly because they don’t respect or care about them enough to do so.”

How to address your partner pocketing you

Pocketing is an issue when two things happen: when you see it as a problem, and when your partner is unwilling to talk it out and compromise with you.

“If you have a pit in your stomach about it or feel that something may not be quite right, then voice it,” Glaser says. “If you want to post a pic of the two of you showing your happy life together and they stop you, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship.”

If you feel nervous about approaching this concern with your partner, that’s understandable! Just remember you’re not doing anything wrong or asking for too much. “If your partner continues this behavior and it concerns you, speak up. You have that right,” Glaser continues. “You are an active part of this relationship, just as they are. Let them know that you want to be visually represented in their life publicly as well as in private.”

Dr. Adams encourages you to use “I statements” calmly so your partner doesn’t feel attacked. For example: “I feel like you don’t like the idea of me meeting your friends and family. Would you like to talk about it?” or “I find it a bit concerning the fact that I haven’t met your friends/family yet. I’d like to talk about this if you’re ready to.” Be prepared to listen and work on the issue collaboratively.

When you bring this up, notice how your partner responds. Are they open and understanding? And do they follow up with genuine change? Or do they shut you down?

“[Pocketing] becomes a problem when it reaches the point where they refuse to talk anything about it despite your attempts to verbally communicate your concerns regarding the issue,” Dr. Adams says.

Wanting your partner to show you off on social media (or include you more fully in their life) is completely understandable and normal, and you’re allowed to ask for that.

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