What Is Pocketing and Has It Ever Happened to You?

a jean pocket
Image by liz west / CC BY

It seems like every day a new term comes out to describe another aspect of dating in the modern age.

There’s a lot to describe because dating other people is complicated. It’s kind of a jungle out there.

The newest term I just learned is “pocketing.”

What’s Pocketing?

What’s pocketing? Well, it’s when a partner won’t introduce you to any of their family, friends, or anybody who’s important to them. This can include not listing your relationship on social media or even linking profiles as friends (on the off chance that you’ll post and other people might ask who you are).

This goes beyond just taking things slow or putting off a drama-filled evening of meeting the parents, especially when a relationship is new. Pocketing can even occur in relationships that have been going on an awfully long time — and in which one would expect that eventually you’d be introduced at least to a partner’s friends.

When you’re pocketed, it’s like your relationship doesn’t publicly exist. It’s instead conducted entirely in private, at least when it comes to your partner’s social circles.

Why Do People Pocket Partners?

Why do people pocket their partners? Well, there can be a variety of reasons for it.

In certain circumstances, they could be afraid that you wouldn’t get along with their family and friends. Or perhaps they think (correctly or incorrectly) that they wouldn’t approve of your relationship.

There also could be more sinister reasons at play. They could be cheating on a partner with you.

I’ve also seen many circumstances where people were closeted about their sexual orientation and therefore never introduced their same sex partners to anyone else in their life.

And after I started engaging in polyamorous relationships and made many other polyamorous friends, I noted that some of them completely hid the fact that they were polyamorous from their family and monogamous friends. This often resulted in partners who were never introduced to most of the other people in their lives.

I’ve Definitely Been Pocketed

I myself have definitely been pocketed, especially by women who weren’t ready for their other loved ones to know that they were bisexual or queer. Sometimes it didn’t matter; other times it was a painful state of affairs.

Whether or not it was a huge problem depended on what else was going on in my life. I dealt with it okay especially if I had other relationships going on simultaneously myself where there was social recognition of the bond. But if not, if my only romantic relationship were one in which I felt like I was treated like “a dirty secret,” then being pocketed was an excruciating state of affairs.

Have You Been Pocketed?

Have you been pocketed? What were your experiences with it?

Do you think there’s an appreciable difference between taking things slow and being treated like a “dirty secret?”

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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2 Comments

  1. Yes, I have been. Once in a mono-mono relationship, I was utterly hidden from every aspect of the other’s life, for months. I expressed my discomfort with it, and we had started talking about “normalizing” our relationship to the point of meeting each others’ people (even though they had already met my kids), and then they abruptly dumped me. I figured it was because the idea of “us” scared them, they weren’t ready for a regular relationship, and that was that.

    My current partner tried, but it turned out our circles were so tight and overlapping that all the people they compartmentalized me from already knew me – their other partner knew me, their previous partner knew me, their partner’s kids knew my kids, their friends quickly became my friends… there’s one little pocket of people I haven’t met yet, and they’ve invited me to join in next time they get together.

    I understand that my partner sometimes wants their people, without having me in the middle of every single social interaction, and that’s fine, but I’ve never understood from my own perspective the reluctance to include a “primary” partner, or to hide them away. It -does- feel like a diminished, less-than-proud thing, and I sometimes wonder what I need to do to earn that trust and inclusion.

  2. Don’t forget reverse pocketing: when people are ashamed of their families and you’re not the one being ‘hidden’.

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