What is pocketing and when should you worry?


Julia had been dating Sarah for a few months. Things seemed to be going well, as Julia and Sarah shared similar interests and had fun together. But every time Sarah brought up the idea of meeting her friends, Julia skirted the question. Julia even talked about how she liked spending time “just the two of us” and talked about how being around others would make what they had less special. Sarah wondered why Julia was so hesitant to introduce her to her friends. She would think, “Why doesn’t she want me to meet people? Is there something about me that she wants to hide? Is this relationship less serious than I thought?” Sarah couldn’t tell if she was overreacting or if there really was a problem. She kept thinking, “Am I making a big deal out of nothing?”

Ultimately, Sarah was being pocketed by Julia. To be pocketed means your partner is hiding you away, almost like putting you in their pocket. Pocketing occurs when someone avoids introducing you to important people in their life, like friends or family. It’s somewhat normal to not be introduced to important family members right away, such as parents or caregivers, but being pocketed is more than that normal hesitancy. It includes not wanting to bring partners around friends or coworkers. It may also include meeting in secret, secluded places.

People may “pocket” partners for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’re not ready for the seriousness of introducing a potential partner to friends or family. They may have had a bad experience introducing significant others to friends and family before, so they’re hesitant to do so now. Maybe they want to keep the relationship casual by not taking the next step towards making it more serious. Regardless of the reason, pocketing is extremely painful for the person who is pocketed. You may be left questioning if your partner values you or if they feel embarrassed of you. Ultimately it can bring up feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, sadness, or anger because it feels really awful to be hidden away.

You may be questioning, “Am I being pocketed, or is this normal for casual dating?” Here are four signs of pocketing that go beyond normalcy. Keep in mind that one or two of these signs alone may not mean you’re being pocketed, but you might be a victim of pocketing if a majority of them fit your relationship.

They avoid talking about friends and family

People who pocket others tend to avoid discussing close friends or family. They aim to keep their partner separate from the rest of their life. That means they are less likely to share intimate details about people they are close to in an effort to keep you at arm’s length.

If you ask about close friends or coworkers and your partner skirts the question, that’s a red flag you could be in the process of being pocketed.

They say they prefer to see you 1-on-1

They never make plans that involve other people. This includes coworker parties, double dates, or meeting up with friends for a casual drink. Every time an opportunity for seeing others arise, they make excuses or tell you they simply prefer to spend time with you one-on-one. They may even insist on meeting in quiet or private places. This can seem romantic at first but might get old quickly and make you feel like you’re being hidden away from the rest of their life.

They don’t want to change their relationship status

Being pocketed not only includes being hidden away in real life but also on social media or online. This could manifest in a few different ways.

If you’re being pocketed, you are likely nowhere to be found on your partner’s social media pages. Even if you’ve taken photos together or gone on outings, they won’t post them. They might even go so far as to ask you not to post pictures on social media, which would be a glaring sign you’re being pocketed.

Even if you do make the occasional appearance on social media, they won’t want to make the relationship “official.” They likely won’t want to change their relationship status to anything other than single. This can feel like a betrayal, especially if you’ve been dating for a long time or were fooled into thinking things were more serious than they are.

They change the subject when you ask to meet friends or family

People who pocket others not only avoid the topic of friends and family, but they also skirt the question. They might deflect or change the subject when you ask, diminish the importance of family or friends, or act uncomfortable with the topic. They may even gaslight you into believing that you shouldn’t be asking about it, causing you to second-guess yourself or feel guilty for asking.

It’s normal to be apprehensive about introducing a potential partner to close family, especially parents, so don’t fret if that alone is the case. It becomes pocketing when the person also has no intention of introducing you to others in their life like colleagues, friends, or neighbors.

Okay, I’m being pocketed. When should I worry?

You should feel concerned about pocketing once it becomes uncomfortable for you. If you’re fine with keeping your relationship secretive and casual, who cares! But if you have a nagging feeling that things in the relationship don’t feel right, it’s likely a sign that you want more.

If you want a relationship that isn’t hidden in the shadows, it’s likely time to talk to your partner or end things. Ultimately, no person deserves to worry about being hidden away by someone they care about. It can bring up feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, uncertainty, and even anger, and it’s not fair to the pocketed person. If you’re being pocketed and want more, listen to your intuition and find someone who values you enough to bring your relationship into the light.


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