Who doesn’t love a little public display of affection? Well, apparently a lot of people. And, according to some relationship experts, most people hold pretty strong preferences — whether they be for or against PDA. As a self-proclaimed touchy-feely kinda gal myself, it came as quite a shock to me when I first learned that some people really disliked being touched, especially in public.
Touching, hugging, cuddling, and kissing are all forms of PDA. While some cultures embrace these actions in public (Italy quickly comes to mind), others strongly shun these displays anywhere except behind closed doors. And, even though cultural norms tend to dictate overall comfort levels with PDA, recent research indicates that a person’s comfort level is strongly linked to the amount of displays of affection witnessed in their own childhood home. According to psychiatrist Dr. Chloe Carmichael, “In some families, it’s very normal to see. In others, it’s not… If you came from a family where your parents divorced and didn’t re-partner, PDA could be foreign to you.”¹
Keeping in mind that opposites tend to attract, it shouldn’t be surprising that someone with emotionally giving tendencies ends up partnering with someone who is more emotionally reserved. Such was the case with my own spice and me. Early in our relationship it caused friction. When he refused to hold my hand in public, I took it as a slight, a sign that he wasn’t committed to me and our relationship. He wasn’t.
The good news, for me anyway, is that PDA compatibility tends to change as relationships progress. In most healthy, growing relationships, even people who are normally averse to public displays of affection become more comfortable with small gestures — such as holding hands or the occasional kiss on the cheek. PDA was so important to me that I vividly recall the first time my spice (at the time still just my boyfriend) put his arm around my shoulder at a party. For me, it was akin to him announcing out loud to every person in that room that he was actually committed to me and our relationship. My later query confirmed that he was.
Of course, being the introvert of our relationship, he’s still not big on outwardly public displays of our love, but he is much more comfortable with more “private” PDA. For instance, at home is very affectionate — enough so that it causes our kidlens to roll their eyes and offer a mock-groan. But in public, I’ve learned not to take it personally if he just squeezes my hand in response to my offered kiss.
Regardless of your comfort level of PDA, it is a good idea to check in with your SO about their feelings toward the subject. Communicate your own level of comfort and be open to theirs. Of all of the components of a relationship, PDA seems extremely low on the deal breaker list. From puckering up, to hand holding, to even an occasional wink and a smile, there seems to be a lot of room for a congenial compromise.
¹”An Expert Explains Why You Either Love Or Hate PDA With Your SO” Sheena Sharma, Elite Daily
Further reading: “How Nailing your P.D.A. Style Can Make Your Relationship Better”
Walker James Loetscher, The Date Report