I was a socially awkward late bloomer, not to mention the classic “good girl,” so naturally when the news slipped out to my very small high school that everyone’s favorite prude was dating a textbook “bad boy,” life got a lot more complicated. I’d been keeping it quiet that I’d started going on dates with the boy who got arrested for stealing jeans from Abercrombie. I knew my wholesome friends would think I was trying to be something I wasn’t and that the popular people I drifted amongst would think of the situation as a joke, despite the fact that the two of us were serious.
It was great: we could freely be ourselves. There were no societal pressures and I didn’t have to worry about PDA. But it all came crumbling down when he posted a #wcw (woman crush wednesday) picture of me without asking my permission, two weeks into our relationship.
Although he meant no harm, I was still offended by the fact he didn’t ask for my opinion on announcing our relationship only two weeks in. I had been keeping quiet for a reason and now this post brought both positive and negative attention to us. A friend even sent a snide text after the post asking me if I was still a virgin.
While some don’t mind attention and others even love it, there are people who shy away. Perhaps someone’s significant other is of a different political or religious background and they’re not ready to tell their friends and family yet. Maybe someone hasn’t come out yet, is still questioning, and isn’t ready to announce their sexualtity. Maybe someone is insecure about the way they look in comparison to their partner, or perhaps they’re just not into the mushy gushy stuff. Whatever the case, if your significant other doesn’t want your relationship out in the open so soon, it’s important to respect that.
You’ll eventually have to tell the important people in your life—family, friends—because, unfortunately, you can’t hide your partner away forever. However, it’s okay to be private in your newfound love while you’re still figuring out your relationship and whether you’re are happy with its current state or not.
It was a month and a half in that my current boyfriend posted a picture of me on Instagram as a birthday post. He asked me the night before if it was okay and I said yes. This was our social media debut, but I felt as if enough time had gone by and was
happy he checked with me first. Until that point, I had been terrified of posting anything in fear of him thinking I was too clingy too soon. A few people knew we were dating but until then, although we were official in everyday life, we weren’t a thing yet in the digital world. It was his post that I used as the green light to go ahead and openly comment about our dating, both online and in person.
Just because one couple posts a million things online about their relationship, does not mean you have to. The internet allows people to openly comment on someone or something due to the fact that they have a screen to hide behind, and if you are not ready to expose your relationship to the eyes of others and possible negative commentary, it’s not worth the stress.
Every relationship is different, and there are numerous combinations of personalities and sexualities that lend to conflicting opinions about social media. There also tends to be an overwhelming pressure to share every aspect of your life on social media, and this sometimes leads couples to post sooner than they want to. Overcoming this kind of pressure is incredibly difficult, but I realized that my relationship is just that, my own. When my boyfriend asked me to post a photo of us, we made the decision because we wanted to. This may not be the same for other couples.
One solution is to tell each other what you do or don’t like within the first few weeks of dating. If you are a private couple, wait however long you need before posting, or don’t post at all! On the other hand, if you are a social couple and enjoy putting yourself out there, go ahead and post immediately! There is no time limit or need to post. What matters most is that you both agree with the decision.
Know that you are not defined by the pictures you post. Relationships are about spending time with someone that makes you happy. If you capture a moment that displays that happiness and you want to share it with the world, do it without fear of backlash. Or, if you both want to keep your relationship private, for whatever reasons, you should. Remember that the only people in the relationship are the two of you.
Illustration by Julianna Sy