What Does It Mean to Be Pocketed?
A budding relationship with someone offers a whirlwind of exciting emotions. Butterflies tickle your stomach as you get ready to see them. You feel on top of the world when they grab your hand. As your relationship progresses and your feelings strengthen, you probably want to introduce your special someone to your social media followers, friends and, eventually, family.
It can be a sharp sting to learn they may not be willing to do the same and that they'd rather keep your relationship a secret from the rest of their life.
Enter pocketing, and yes, it refers to being hidden and tucked away in someone's pocket.
Pocketing occurs when someone doesn't share your relationship with friends or family, even when things are picking up steam, said Tennesha Wood, a matchmaker, dating coach and founder of Black-focused dating service the Broom List, based in Minnesota. To the outside world, you aren't a couple.
Unfortunately, there are hurtful reasons for someone to pocket you. Your boo may be trying to hide another relationship, have no intention of committing to you in the long term or feel embarrassed about your relationship. Pocketing is a method in which they can keep the relationship at a safe distance.
"A partner who is deviously pocketing you may shut you out, be secretive about their plans or guard their phone," Wood said.
Pocketing in action can look like your partner is swerving you each time you ask to meet their friends, or they say they prefer to keep things one on one, or maybe you run into their co-worker at a bar and they quickly end the interaction before introducing the two of you.
The power of social media
Pocketing is not a new dating phenomenon. People have been secretive about relationships for a number of reasons for many years.
Social media, however, has made pocketing more obvious. In this era, it's ubiquitous to have some sort of social media presence: About 70 percent of people in the United States use some platform. A lack of mention about you on their accounts—essentially their public image—might mean you're being pocketed, especially if the person you're dating is normally active online.
How do you know if you're being pocketed?
Some signs your boo might be pocketing you include never meeting their friends or family, never interacting with you on social media and never posting about you on social media. You're not a part of their day-to-day life outside of your time together, and you've yet to visit their home. For instance, maybe you guys hang out multiple nights a week, but it's always just Netflix and chilling at your house. While everyone moves at their own pace, eventually, you need to reach milestones in any growing relationship.
It can be tricky to know if you're being pocketed for a bad reason.
Knowing your partner wants to take things slow when it comes to meeting their parents is different than someone who avoids the topic or invents excuses when they visit.
"Pocketing doesn't necessarily come from a negative place," Wood said. "Your partner may pocket you out of fear of exposing the relationship to outside influences too soon. They may simply not be ready to take the relationship to the next level by committing to it publicly."
The difference between not being ready and pocketing, however, comes down to communication and transparency. Knowing your partner wants to take things slow when it comes to meeting their parents is different than someone who avoids the topic or invents excuses when they visit.
It's also possible someone keeps you and the rest of their life separate because they're ashamed of their own social network, based on misconceptions around socioeconomic status or cultural differences. Being hurt in the past might cause them to be hesitant.
What's the harm of being pocketed?
We can all agree that being deliberately shoved in a pocket and kept a secret from your partner's life is downright hurtful.
"Being pocketed can impact your self-esteem and leave you feeling that you're not good enough to be a 'public' partner," Wood said. "You may start to feel like your partner is just keeping you separate from other people in their lives."
From there, it might be difficult to feel enthusiastic about deepening your bond, and the situation will likely cause anxiety and strain the relationship. Anxiety can manifest in your relationship in troublesome ways, such as you seeking constant validation from your partner, being overly clingy and perhaps wanting to control your partner out of insecurity, Wood said.
What should you do if you're being pocketed?
If you think you're being pocketed, the most important thing to do is communicate—clearly!
"It's best to talk to your partner directly and try to understand the underlying reasons," Wood said.
Push for transparency, including asking how they feel about you and defining the relationship. Ask how they have dealt with introducing friends and family in the past, what role friends and family play in their life and what part—if any—social media plays in their life.
Don't just accuse your partner, either. Try to make the dialogue as open and productive as possible. What actions would make you feel secure about your relationship? What timeline can the two of you compromise on? More importantly, do their actions eventually line up with their words?
At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide if you want to stay in the relationship or end it. "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," nor a pocket.