In the age of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, cropping has gained a very specific meaning. When you crop someone out, you're not just finding the best composition of a photo, you're saying that their existence in the memory doesn't matter. And for that reason, cropping someone out of a photo is considered a "savage" move. (The slight is so universal that you can can buy this snarky coffee mug.)
But what if your partner is cropping you out IRL? It's a real thing, and it happened to a friend of mine. Ashley's* ex-boyfriend would talk about every vacation they took together as if she hadn't been there, even when she was standing right next to him as he recounted the tale. Somehow, that feels even more savage than finding you've disappeared from your ex's Facebook photos. But how much should you really worry if your partner is cropping you out of the experiences you've shared?
It really depends on your situation, says Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a relationship therapist in Manhattan. Most people do some level of IRL cropping, because we tend to center ourselves in the stories that we tell. "I'll have couples who have children together and one of them will refer to 'my son' or 'my daughter,' even though the other parent is sitting right there," she says. They don't do it to hurt the other person, it's just that people are used to talking about themselves.
But just because it's not malicious doesn't mean that there's not a problem with your partner cropping you out, especially if they do it consistently. "So one thing we talk about with a couple is a transition from 'me' to 'we,'" Fitzpatrick says. Over time, a couple in a healthy relationship should start including each other in their stories. They should start thinking of themselves as a couple, and speaking of their adventures as joint experiences. So, if your partner isn't willing to do that, it might mean that they're not really considering themselves part of the relationship just yet.
But don't worry too much, the cropping is just one sign that the relationship has problems. You'll have to consider other red flags, too. "Does she feel respected? Does she feel cherished and included? These are questions the second person should ask herself," she says. If the answers to those questions don't worry you, then the cropping shouldn't, either. Focusing on themself could just be your partner's storytelling style.
If being left out of stories bothers you, though, bring it up. But don't be accusatory. Instead of attacking your partner and saying something like, "It feels like I don't matter to you," or "Are you leading a double life?" focus the questions on your feelings. "Say, 'Hey, listen, when you were talking about our hiking trip, I noticed that you didn't mention me,'" Fitzpatrick says. "'And I felt like I wasn't important, because I remembered that as such a special time for us. What was that about?" As long as your partner doesn't get defensive, the talk should clear up your feelings and help you and your partner make the "me to we" transition.
Of course, if your partner is cropping you out in all of their social media photos, that's a whole other problem.
*Name has been changed.