How To Navigate You And Your Partner Disagreeing About Your Level Of PDA

As love languages have been a hot topic in recent years, you likely know that expressing and receiving physical affection is one of the major communicators of fondness. Holding hands, kissing, an arm around the waist — some partners don't just want, but need these demonstrations of adoration and togetherness. When they happen out in the world, they count as public displays of affection (PDA). If physical touch is one of your love languages, then you know that these efforts reassure your nervous system that all is well in the relationship. And not only that, they simply feel romantic, fun, and exciting.


"PDA represents a wanting, which validates how important your partner is to you," said Kentucky-based couples therapist Juliana Morris, PhD, in an interview with Women's Health. And most would like to be able to express and receive physical affection whenever the mood strikes. But what if you and your partner have differing comfort levels when it comes to PDA?

"Some touch may come naturally to one person but not to the other," licensed clinical social worker Cecille Ahrens told USA Today. "Consent and understanding are key."

As with many points of conflict in a relationship, healthy communication is the magic wand. Let's look at how that applies to different levels of desired PDA.

Use sensitivity and compassionate listening

If you want more PDA than your partner or vice versa, then it's time to use those listening skills and resist criticism (via Perhaps one of you grew up in a less affectionate home and doesn't feel comfortable being touched while out to dinner or in the company of friends. It's important to respect those boundaries and seek to understand the root of why someone might be PDA-adverse.


"If you notice some hesitancy or if there is overt disallowance, honor that and respect the boundary," Cecille Ahrens told USA Today. "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."

Essentially, try not to give into feelings of rejection if your partner doesn't want to hold hands and kiss in public. Reversely, if you're the one who isn't into PDA, be sure to show your affection at home and communicate that your love for your partner is still running strong.

Trust and find a middleground

If you're still wishing your partner would show off their adoration for you in public, this may be a good opportunity to practice acceptance of your and your beau's differences — and to resist comparisons. Easier said than done, right? But if you see a couple in public very much showing their intense love for one another, pause for a moment to take inventory of all the other ways your partner does express love for you, and know your relationship isn't any lesser because of it. Maybe your partner shows their appreciation through acts of service or gift-giving. But if you can't seem to work past the lack of PDA, it may be time to evaluate compatibility.


It also may be helpful to note that while PDA may be perceived as something reserved for new couples who still get butterflies for one another, it can reignite the flame for those who have been together forever. It's an exclamation to the world that you choose your partner and that can feel really invigorating for you both, especially if it's something that feels a bit taboo. So, if your relationship needs some spark, PDA is, at the very least, a topic worth exploring.