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PDA: How Much is Too Much?


PDA: How Much Is Too Much?When you are in a loving relationship, it can be hard to keep your hands off your significant other. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about witnessing mushy-gushy exhibitions of affection. And sometimes, your partner is actually the person most uncomfortable with the PDA.

Our reaction to PDA may vary according to whether we are the giver, the receiver or merely an innocent bystander. We often have double standards: We enjoy being affectionate in public, but aren’t comfortable when others do the same. Our relationship status may also influence our tolerance level—when we are madly in love, it is less irksome to see someone else being affectionate. But when we are single or struggling in our relationship, such displays can seem obnoxious.

Most people don’t mind a little public hand-holding, snuggling or the occasional quick peck. But some people can’t abide seeing—or participating in—any kind of public affection. Here are some PDA rules to live by:

Basic PDA Etiquette

  • Context Matters
    Few people are going to begrudge a happy couple a goodbye kiss at the airport. But making out in a restaurant (especially when you’re going to see each other the next day) isn’t necessary. There’s a time and a place for everything; family gatherings, religious services and work functions probably aren’t the best places to get “handsy.”
  • The Mother Test
    If you’d be uncomfortable with your mother or father seeing you being so physical, spare everyone else too. No one needs to see your tongue and public groping is definitely off-limits.
  • Don’t Be Obtrusive
    Even the most cynical among us can find some charm in a loving couple strolling hand-in-hand the park. That same act on a crowded city street, however, is far less endearing.
  • Virtual PDA
    The same rules governing in-person PDA apply in the digital realm. Don’t text or post anything that would make other people squirm if experienced up close and personal.
  • Pace Yourself
    PDA, particularly in the early stages of a relationship, can be corrupted by jealousy, control or the need to “mark territory.” Keeping your public displays of affection in line with the overall intensity and maturity of your relationship will help you avoid these temptations.
  • Respect Your Partner’s Comfort Level
    Often, one partner is more publicly affectionate than the other. While it’s important to be sensitive to how PDA makes other people, it’s even more essential to be aware of how it makes your partner feel. Don’t just assume you already know your partner’s comfort level with PDA—ask how he/she feels about it. Does PDA make him/her feel loved and secure? Or does it make him/her embarrassed and uncomfortable? Some people are naturally affectionate; others are more reserved. Your partner’s willingness (or unwillingness) to engage in PDA is not necessarily a reflection of his/her feelings for you—it may have more to do with his/her upbringing and temperament.
  • Be Sensitive
    You shouldn’t have to hide your happiness from the world. But you don’t have to flaunt it either, especially around close friends going through a difficult time. If your best friend is nursing a broken heart, try to dial it down a notch or two.

In Defense of PDA

PDA can help strengthen a couple’s connection. Non-verbal indicators such as holding hands and a kiss on the cheek can communicate important messages such as I love you, I’m proud to be with you and I’m glad we’re together. There’s a lot of skepticism today about the possibility of lasting love. Seeing a snuggly couple—especially one who has been together awhile—can actually be somewhat encouraging. Whether you are personally comfortable engaging in PDA or not, focus on treating your partner in a way that makes him/her feel confident of your love and appreciation.