Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I am a 22-year-old woman who has been dating a guy for about a year now. (We met over Tinder, classic, I know.) Our first date was kind of awkward but I decided to give him another chance, and now things are going great. He’s sweet, kind, and treats me well. I would say we’re both pretty serious about the relationship, and thinking long-term about our future together.

However, he’s weird about one thing—he won’t introduce me to anyone. I noticed that he never invites me to hang out with his friends with him and his parents don’t even know about me. When I asked him why he said it was because his family would just ask too many questions and pressure us to get married. His family is from overseas and in their culture, they do take dating a lot more seriously, but I don’t like that our relationship is a secret. It makes me feel like I’m not a super important part of his life. When his mom came to visit him for two weeks after we’d been dating for a few months, he didn’t even consider introducing us or planning something for us together. To be fair, he did the same thing with his ex, who he was also in a serious relationship with. Is it unreasonable for me to be bothered by this cultural difference? Or do you think he’s lying and I’m just not that important to him?

Ms. SA

Dear Ms. SA,

There’s really no way for me to tell you whether he’s lying or not. Some people do like to keep their romantic and personal lives separate—at least until they feel things are very serious (I’m talking about marriage status). At the very least, he explained to you that this is the reason he doesn't want you to meet his family.

Another relevant factor is how much he talks about his friends and family during the relationship. One indicator of how important you are to someone is how much of their personal life they share with you. If you’re at least clued into who his friends are and what’s going on in his family life, that’s a positive sign. If he wanted to keep you a secret, he most likely wouldn’t share those things with you.  

My best advice for what to do is two-fold.

The first step I suggest taking is having an open conversation with him; communication is key in a healthy relationship. If you’re bothered by his elusive behaviors with you, then you have every right to bring up your concerns. Let him know how you feel (ex: “when you don’t invite me to meet your friends, I feel unimportant to you and/or like you’re hiding our relationship.”) Be direct about how his actions affect your feelings and how they make you concerned. Don’t have this conversation in an accusatory manner, though (“you don’t want people to know about me!”). That will only put him in a defensive mode.  

Hopefully, a talk is all you need to clear things up. Maybe he’s scared to introduce you because he’s worried his friends might not think you’re as awesome as he thinks you are. Maybe he’s worried about how he’ll act around you and those closest to him. Or perhaps his culture does significantly affect his openness about his relationships. Having an honest conversation should help you understand his intentions better. If it makes you feel more at ease, ask him when he thinks he’ll be comfortable introducing you to his friends. Having a plan will make you feel less like you're at the mercy of his control. If he shuts down or doesn’t want to talk about a future where you could potentially meet the people closest to him, that’s not a good sign.

The next part I want you to consider is how all of this makes you feel. Really, the choice is up to you on whether you’re willing to be in a relationship where you’re not part of your boyfriend’s personal life. He may have logical answers to your concerns, but if you don’t want to wait years to be part of his entire life, then it won’t work out. This choice is entirely your own. Be honest with yourself about how much this all bothers you. It will only build up over time.

I want you to know your feelings surrounding all of this are well-founded. Investing a year’s time and emotions into a relationship with someone is no small matter. It makes sense you want to meet his friends and family. Hopefully, a conversation can help clear the air. After that, what you do next is up to you.

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