You’ve seen Matty Healy of The 1975 kiss fans onstage at recent concerts. You’ve seen Kourtney Kardashian and husband Travis Barker pack on the public displays of affection at every moment possible.
But is that kind of PDA something you’re into? How about with your partner? It may not be for everyone – and that’s OK.
Experts recommend couples talk through their boundaries and honor each other’s love languages when it comes to PDA.
“Some touch may come naturally to one person but not to the other,” says Cecille Ahrens, licensed clinical social worker. “Consent and understanding are key.”
Plus, “you don’t want to give somebody permission to do something you’re going to resent later,” says Kathy Nickerson, licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert.
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‘Talk about it sensitively’
Lindsey Hadden and her husband of four years met some years ago while he was a sports broadcaster for a minor league baseball team and she had a part-time job as his board operator. They’d chitchat in between commercial breaks and something clicked. They met in person, started dating and did long distance for a while before their wedding.
The 31-year-old content manager didn’t notice at first, given the long-distance nature of their courtship, that her husband wasn’t fond of PDA.
“I started being around his family, or would get around his friends more,” the Minneapolis resident says, and “noticed that I was a little bit more into PDA than he was. And he would say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to hold hands,’ or ‘Oh, can we not do that?’ And I didn’t think that it was a bad thing. I just noticed like, ‘Oh, maybe I’m overly affectionate.'”
Couples can bring up the PDA conversation anytime, Nickerson says. But definitely do so before crossing someone’s boundaries. Especially if one partner wants more intense PDA than a hand squeeze or a peck on the cheek.
“Talk about it sensitively and just say, ‘I love you, I’m so happy, we’re together and things are great,’ ” Nickerson says. ” ‘I just would ask that when we’re in public, you avoid putting your hand up my sweater and playing with my bra.’ “
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‘I would feel rejected’
People’s differing takes on PDA might stem from their childhoods.
“People are raised with or without affection, and so depending on how much affection they got, when they were growing up, they’re probably more or less comfortable with it,” Nickerson says. But people also have different preferences for myriad reasons.
Hadden’s husband is an acts-of-service man: He surprises her with completed tasks around the house and plans elaborate birthday parties. But earlier in their relationship, she felt insecure about their communication styles.
“We did have to talk about it, because I would feel rejected in some ways and he would feel rejected in some ways just because we don’t show affection the same way,” she says. He’s not a vocally affectionate person, for example, and she’s not tidy around the house.
“For a person who considers touch and affection as a primary expression of love, they will naturally assume that not getting this from their partner is a negative sign, when in actual fact, their partner may be unaware or baffled by the assumption as they perceive themselves as being loving in other ways,” Ahrens says.
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Don’t expect people’s love languages to change.
“I would tend to say that most people stay pretty consistent with what they prefer throughout their lifetime,” Nickerson says. “But if somebody goes through some transformative journey, like they have an affair, or they get cancer, or they lose a loved one, their desire for physical comfort and affection might change.”
Couples therapy, too, might shake a relationship up. It “can help heal emotional ruptures between couples and facilitate new ways of relating with each other,” Ahrens says.
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What to do if you and your partner have different PDA styles
Express what you need and listen to your partner. “If you notice some hesitancy or if there is overt disallowance, honor that and respect the boundary,” Ahrens says. “But don’t just leave it at that. At some point, you may want to explore the reasons for the hesitancy or ambivalence and seek to understand and find ways to establish more trust and safety.”
And just because you’re not touchy-feely in public doesn’t mean your partner will take minimal physical contact in private. “If you’re with a physical touch type, it’s OK if you don’t want to do public displays of affection, but just make sure you give them lots of physical affection at home,” Nickerson says.
Consider therapy if talking to your partner requires some assistance.
Pay attention to changes, and address them. If your partner was very into holding your hand and suddenly isn’t, ask them why.
Compromise. Not like, you only get to make out in public on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “We don’t want to go to either extreme, but rather we want to find a comfortable middle ground,” Nickerson says. Think about what types of venues make sense to hold hands or hug – is a crowded restaurant too much, or is that OK? What about a park with minimal people around?
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Accept that it may be a deal-breaker. “Every person’s list of nonnegotiable traits vary,” Ahrens says. “If they fundamentally disagree on PDA and cannot arrive at a mutually satisfying compromise, then it may be time to reevaluate the relationship.”
Stop with the comparisons. “Don’t compare yourself to other couples, because nobody’s the same,” Hadden says. “Then you’ll just have unrealistic expectations for somebody you do care about. Pay attention to the ways that they do show affection and remember that even if it’s not the same way that you show affection, doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Trust, trust, trust. Just because your partner isn’t into PDA doesn’t mean they’re not into you. “Try to take what your partner says at face value, and trust them, even if it doesn’t make sense to you,” Hadden says.
Story Credit: usatoday.com