One of the most frustrating moments in a relationship is when you feel like your relationship is a secret from your partner's friends. If you're not dating the girl with the dragon tattoo, Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, or 007, it may not make sense to you why your partner is keeping your relationship on the DL. Of course, there are warring opinions on whether you should post about your SO on social media. Inciting #relationshipgoals envy with each post could be a tactic to mask that a relationship isn't picture-perfect. But it's lack of attention IRL that you might want to watch out for.
If you never get an invitation to your partner's family functions, office parties, or nights at the movies, you might be feeling shelved. There are so many leaps you make when you first enter a relationship. There are the nerves that you squash to ask someone out (depending on the relationship, three times the nerves, from dating app to text message to the actual date), the actual dates, defining the relationship, and introducing your partner to your respective friend groups. But what if that part hasn't happened yet... and doesn't seem to be on the agenda anytime soon? According to dating experts, that could be a sign of trouble.
Susan Edelman, a psychiatrist and therapist, says that it's OK if your partner isn't ready to introduce you to their friends and family — in the beginning. "After a few months, if you're in a serious relationship, this is a red flag," Edelman says. Of course, the tell-tale signs could crop up sooner. Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, says that there's a specific type of person who is prone to hiding SOs from friends.
"'Stashers' are typically people who are commitment-phobic and emotionally unavailable," Silva tells Elite Daily. "You’re already working against yourself because you’re being concealed from their social support network. Remember, you’re trying to find someone that compliments you and that makes you a better version of yourself."
If you feel more like an acorn saved for the winter than half of a thriving partnership, it's probably time for a chat with your SO. Before you jump in, you should consider all the reasons your partner could be hiding your relationship.
For starters, Edelman says, "A partner who genuinely wants to fall in love will be excited to bring you into the rest of their life. Not introducing you can be a sign that your SO is ashamed of you or your relationship." If for whatever reason, they're embarrassed by your relationship, it could could make sense that they don't want you to come to the game or to wine night.
Another valid reason your SO could be quiet about your relationship is the fear of judgment. "Sometimes friends and family are judgmental because they are basing it on their track record of dating," Silva says. "If, before the relationship, your lifelong interest was vacationing through several countries with your partner and now you are OK with a boardwalk stroll on the Jersey Shore, your family and friends will be the first to remind you that somewhere along the line you are going to be very unhappy."
Demetrius Figueroa, a relationship and dating writer at A Mighty Love, says that lack of experience might be the reason they haven't told anyone about you yet. "If someone has little to no experience dating —or more specifically, introducing partners to their friends — it's perfectly reasonable that they'd be afraid to do so," Figueroa tells Elite Daily. Bringing home someone for the first time can be uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing for your partner if they've never had to do it before. Part of what makes these intimate introductions nerve-wracking is, as Silva mentions, judgment.
"Your friends have your best interests at heart, which may take the form of intense scrutiny of any partner you may bring around," Figueroa says. "Likewise, your family can be just as tough when meeting a new partner, if not more so." Bringing someone home — even if "home" means your partner's friends crammed in their favorite booth at the bar — is a big milestone. If it goes south, that could make them the object of ridicule and roasting. Still, Figueroa says, if your partner is committed to you, that fear shouldn't be a factor.
When you have the talk with your partner, ask them who knows about you and who doesn't. And then ask them to reflect. Is your partner worried about the level of commitment signified by sharing your relationship with the world? Are they worried about you getting along with their friends and family? So what if your partner's family doesn't like you or their friends are better off as their friends. "They may get along, they may not, but ultimately it's better to have your partner involved in your whole life, not just part of it," Figueroa says.
There's also the possibility, too, that it's more than just a fear of commitment or Taco Tuesday with the fam being ruined. "For all you know," Figueroa says, "They might be estranged from family." This is reason could be particularly important when it comes to queer relationships.
Maybe your partner hasn't come out yet or is only partially out. Bringing you home (without having that conversation with their family first) could cause conflict or put your partner in harm's way. A 2013 study from Pew Research Center shows that about 40 percent of LGBTQ adults have been rejected by a friend or family member. The very valid fear of disownment or violence might be the reason your partner is putting family or friends introductions on hold. "It's better to just ask why you haven't met their friends or family yet, rather than accusing them off hiding you out of malice," Figueroa says.
Once you figure out why your partner is acting shady, then you can proceed from there. "If they can talk to you about their concerns and understand that this situation isn't workable for you and must change, you may want to give it a little more time. If it doesn't change, it isn't going to work," Edelman says. If it's ever going to happen, something that should come out of this conversation is the answer of "when?" Talk to your partner about timelines and what will need to happen in order for them to feel comfortable.
With the exception of coming out, all of the above reasons can be addressed by talking it out and with a boost of confidence in the relationship. Through frank conversation — about complicating factors and your concerns for the future or your relationship — you can start to feel like the whole tree instead of an acorn stashed away.