Alright: So, you’ve been dating someone for at least a few months, and so far, things are going great! You’ve gone on a string of epic dates with lively conversation, gotten comfortable enough to have laid-back hangouts and binge-watching Netflix and text each other almost all the time. This might work! The only problem? For some reason, they have yet to introduce you to their friends or family.

Guess what: There’s a term for what you’re experiencing: “stashing.” What is stashing? Only one of the most annoying/hurtful 2022 dating trends after ghosting.

Meeting each other’s friends and family is a big step in any relationship — it shows trust, a certain level of commitment, and it signifies that you’re ready to play a more significant role in each other’s lives. So, if three, four, or five months pass and your partner still hasn’t introduced you to their inner circle, it’s only natural to start wondering why.

If all this feels familiar, read on for some insight into why stashing happens, and how to handle it.

Signs of stashing

They’ve met your family, but don’t show any interest in having you meet theirs.

If their parents live halfway across the country, that’s one thing. But if you both have family members who are local — and you’ve introduced them to yours, it might be a red flag that they aren’t making an effort to do the same.

Their parents came to town to visit, but they never tried to link up.
It’s totally understandable if someone isn’t ready to introduce you to their parents just a month or two into dating. But if your relationship feels serious, and you’ve been seeing each other for several months or more, this can definitely raise some questions. After all, if their parents live far away and only come to town once in a great while, wouldn’t they want to take that opportunity to have you meet?

You ran into one of their friends and you weren’t introduced.

Talk about awkward — if you have a run-in with one of their friends and they don’t make an introduction (so you’re just left standing there with a forced smile), that can say a lot. It’s one thing if it’s only a distant acquaintance and maybe they forgot their name for an introduction. But if they seem to actively be avoiding letting friends know that you exist, that’s just downright rude. BTW — take note if they introduce you by your first name, but don’t label your relationship. And if they say your name and there isn’t even a hint of recognition in their friend’s eye, that signals that they’ve never talked about you — another key potential indicator of stashing.

There are no signs of you on their social media.

Not everyone likes broadcasting their personal life on social media, so try not to take offense if they’re not flooding their feed with cute couple selfies and sappy captions about your date nights. Maybe they’re just not all that into social media, or they’re a generally private person. That said, if they’re someone who regularly posts pics from events and get-togethers but never share any content with you in it, that could be a red flag. For example, if they post a pic of your meal at dinner, or the scenery on your hike, but don’t mention or tag you — it’s time to ask yourself why they don’t want their social media followers to know about you.

It’s obvious they don’t talk about you.

Pay attention when they answer the phone with a friend or family member while you’re around. If they mention you by name — as in, “Hanging out with Allie right now, what’s up?” or “Sorry I have plans with Rob tonight,” then that’s a good sign that they’ve already told that person about you. But if they never refer to you or even suggest that they’re spending time with someone, that could indicate that they’re hiding you.

Why does stashing happen?

Before you go into full-on panic mode, listen up: There are many possible motives for stashing, many of which may have nothing to do with you. So, try not to jump to negative conclusions until you’ve actually asked your boo about their behavior. Instead, consider some of the following common reasons for stashing, and then make time to discuss how you’re feeling with your SO.

  • They have family drama.

For all you know, they may be estranged from their parents or siblings. Or, maybe they’re embarrassed by certain people. The point is, you may not know everything about their family dynamic, and underlying problems there might explain why they haven’t wanted you to meet everyone yet. Maybe they’re still mustering up the courage and vulnerability to let you in on some ongoing issues or drama.

  • They’re seeing other people.

Have you had the exclusivity talk? If not, there’s a decent chance that you’re not the only person they’re dating. If that’s the case, they’d probably feel pretty weird introducing multiple people to their friends and family — which would help to explain why they’re stashing you.

  • They’re not sure about you.

It’s pretty normal to wait until you can see a future with someone to have them meet your loved ones. If they introduce you to their mom or best friend and you break up weeks later, then they’re going to have to explain why you’re no longer in the picture. So, if they’re keeping distance between you and their inner circle, it may suggest hesitance on their part to fully commit. Because if they’re not totally sure about where this is going, it’ll be a much cleaner break for them if you’ve never met their friends and fam.

What to do about it

First of all: Chill out! Take a deep breath and remind yourself that until you’ve talked to them directly about the situation, you can’t make any assumptions.

When confronting a stasher, the last thing you want to do is attack.

That will only put them on the defensive, and may even lead them to pull away from you further. Instead, approach the conversation gently, with open-mindedness. Make an observation about their behavior, and then probe deeper by asking them a question. For example, you might say:

“I’ve noticed you haven’t made an effort for me to meet your friends and it’s started to make me feel like you’re hiding them from me. Is there any reason holding you back from introducing us?”

“When your parents were in town last week, I was really hoping to meet them, but you didn’t seem interested in that. I’m trying to be respectful of your feelings but it would help me to know why you didn’t want to introduce us.”

“I really love sharing pictures with you because I’m so proud to be with you, but I’ve noticed you don’t like to post about us. Just wondering, is there any reason behind that?”

By asking them directly, without making any accusations or assumptions, you’re opening up the opportunity for them to share their fears, insecurities, concerns, and other vulnerabilities. They’re far more likely to feel safe being honest with you about their feelings if you come at them from this angle of curiosity and compassion.

Of course, there’s always a chance that this conversation will backfire, and they’ll lash out. If they dodge your questions or invalidate your feelings, that’s a major red flag. Remember: at the end of the day, if they can’t even be upfront with you about their actions, there’s a good chance they might not be honest with you about other things down the road.

If they’re not “there” yet and they can tell you that directly, then you can make the decision about whether or not you’re willing to stick it out until they feel comfortable introducing you. Perhaps they just need more time building a foundation of trust with you before they’re confident in letting you into their circle. But the important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t deserve to be stashed away — you deserve to be with someone who’s just as eager to show you off as you are with them.