Feel Like You're Being Strung Along? You Might Be Being 'Back Pocketed'

Have you ever been dating someone new and they’re stringing you along with messages here and there but never really making finite plans, and even ignoring you for a few days at a time?

Well, we’re sorry to tell you this, but you might be getting ‘back pocketed’.

Something that TikTok relationships expert Ask Kimberley talked about in a recent video. “If it’s been more than three days and he still hasn’t texted you back: ladies, I have some news for you,” she shared.

She goes on to say that she can guarantee with ‘100% accuracy’ that “this guy has not once thought of you, hasn’t once considered how you might be feeling on the other end, and, if you ever do hear from him again, it will only be in the context of wanting to keep you hanging. He wants you in his back pocket.”

Sounds harsh – but there could be some truth in it. 

Why do people ‘back pocket’?

When you’re making all the effort in a relationship or situation-ship, it shows that the other person doesn’t think you’re worth the time or respect to treat you with decent kindness. And waiting around for them probably won’t change their mind, regardless of how much you like them.  

It can also be a tactic to make sure you keep feeding them with emotional support, says Jessica Alderson, relationships expert and co-founder of So Synced

“It can be a way of making sure they have someone to validate them or provide emotional support,” she explains. “The back pocketer might reach out when they need a quick ego boost or to talk about their problems.”

When things are following this pattern, it’s a power play. The ball’s always in the ‘pocketer’s’ court, says Alderson: “It allows them to maintain some level of control over the relationship while avoiding making any promises or commitments that could lead to a deeper connection.” 

So, wasting your time, basically! Alderson agrees. She says that it’s a sign that they don’t see you as a potential partner as a high priority in their lives. They’re unwilling (and maybe not ready) to invest the time and effort that it takes to make more of the situation.

Sometimes the intentions aren’t always malicious, though – some people just are THAT busy. But at the same time, it’s still damaging and hurtful when you’re both on different pages and your person isn’t communicating that with you.

What are the signs?

The below list is the main signs to look out for, says Alderson.

  • This is one of the most obvious ones, but leaving you on read is the most major sign. “A lack of consistent communication is one of the most obvious signs of back pocketing,” she says. 

  • One word: flakiness! “Back pocketers are often unreliable when it comes to making plans,” says Alderson. If you’re on the fifth or sixth rescheduled date plan then you could be dealing with a back pocketer.

  • Lack of emotional investment. If they’re just into flirting and not meeting your needs, they’re better off in the bin. 

  • Evasiveness. “They might give vague answers or avoid conversations by changing the subject,” she says. This is a clear sign they don’t want to get too involved and want to keep you on the back burner. Again: bin!

  • Making excuses about committing: “They might make excuses as to why they can’t commit right now. While this might be true, instead of letting you move on, they’ll use it as an excuse to keep you around,” says Alderson. 

How to move forward

So, what to do next? If you really like the person, it can be hard to even acknowledge that their intentions aren’t amazing. “Take some time to think about how it makes you feel,” advises Alderson.

“Don’t chase someone who isn’t investing in you. At all stages of a relationship, it’s important to be mindful of how much both parties are investing in each other.”

Alderson says there are three potential options to move forward if you’ve been back pocketed:

  1. Make a conscious decision to move on. When someone isn’t replying to your messages or making time for you, don’t keep pushing for attention. If the relationship has been casual, you don’t have to explain yourself if someone is clearly keeping you on the back burner. Quietly moving forward with your life can be the healthiest route for some people.

  2. Choose to take a step back and shift your focus elsewhere. Take time for self-care, pursue your passions, and date other people. This may prompt the back pocketer to take notice and recognise that they may be losing you. This can give them the motivation to decide that they want to commit and make their feelings for you known. However, the aim of doing this should primarily be to prioritise your self-esteem and emotional needs.

  3. Have a direct conversation with the person and make your boundaries and expectations clear. It can be difficult to have tough conversations like this, but it’s important to be honest about what you want. Yes, you risk losing them, but ultimately it’s a win-win situation. 

Whatever you decide to do, it’s all about prioritising what’s right for YOU. “It’s important to listen to your gut in scenarios like this,” says Alderson. “If something feels off, it’s your emotions telling you that something isn’t quite right. Our intuition is a powerful tool in helping us to recognise red flags.”