Sex & Relationships

So, Your Partner Wants To Keep Your Relationship A Secret. What Does That Mean?

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If your partner keeps your relationship as private as their "Close Friends" list, it can be hard to find a balance in how open you are about your relationship. Whether they've always been on the shyer side or just prefer to keep things low-key, your SO may not be one for PDA or giant group gatherings. However, if you've been seeing someone for a while and still haven't met any of their friends and family, you may start to wonder if your partner is keeping your relationship a secret.

After a few months of dating (or a few years, like Marianne and Connell on Hulu's Normal People), you may start to wonder why you haven't been invited out with your partner's friends or to their weekly family dinner. But even if your sister or best friend may have met their partner's friends two weeks into dating, Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, says there's no set timeline for going "public" with a relationship.

"It’s not time as much as the depth of the relationship," Dr. Klapow tells Bustle. "It should be feeling management versus time management."

According to Dr. Klapow, there's no magic number or set rulebook on when you're "supposed" to meet the people in your partner's life. Like all "next steps" in a relationship, you get to make your own timeline, based on whatever you're feeling. Of course, if you're upset or annoyed that you haven't met your partner's friends, Dr. Klapow says it's time to check in.


"If you are ready [to be public] and they are not, it’s important to ask about it," Dr. Klapow tells Bustle. "It may be a great chance to understand more how they feel about you and address some miscommunications."

According to Dr. Klapow, there could be many reasons why your boo is keeping your relationship on the down-low. Maybe they've been through some messy breakups and are extra cautious about who they let in on their love life. Perhaps they have super nosy friends and like to ease in when it comes to introducing new people. They might be worried that their roommates will make a tactless joke or embarrassed about their family's political or cultural beliefs.

On the other hand, they may also be feeling a little nervous about your relationship or not really sure what they want moving forward. Regardless, there's no way to know why your partner hasn't introduced you to people until you flat-out ask them about it.

"The real test here is how well do the two of you communicate about these issues," Dr. Klapow says. "Tell your partner that you care about them, you want to meet their family and friends, and you believe it’s time."

While it can feel intimidating to confront your boo, it's important to openly address your feelings. When you try to "play it cool" or act like something doesn't bother you, you'll likely end up feeling resentful and more confused. "Dancing around the topic and not addressing it straight on sends mixed messages," Dr. Klpaow says. "The more you push this to the side, the bigger the issue it is going to become."

If you're unsure how to start the convo, Dr. Klapow suggests asking your partner what their concerns or holdups are. Whether they're nervous that you won't like their friends or feeling unsure about where your relationship is headed, being transparent about your needs is the only way to guarantee that you and your boo are on the same page.

"You may not like the answer, but you will know where you stand," Dr. Klapow says.


Dr. Joshua Klapow Ph.D., and clinical psychologist