What Your PDA of Choice Says About You and Your Relationship

 by Natasha Burton

Actions speak louder than words, and this couldn't be truer when it comes to our choice of PDA. So what does your PDA say about you?


Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and this couldn't be truer than when it pertains to what we do in our romantic relationships. The way we behave with each other reveals so much about the state of our unions, our deepest feelings and ourselves.

But how you interact with your significant other is likely even more telling, particularly in public. "People in healthy relationships have body language and eye-contact cues that generally show they enjoy each other's company even when not communicating verbally," says communication coach and body language trainer Patricia Stark. In this way, displaying affection (or a lack of displaying affection), provides an inside look into what's beneath the surface of your relationship. Read on to discover what your PDA style says about you and your partner.


It may seem like a simple gesture, but holding hands can speak volumes about your bond. "Toned-down PDA means the couple still has a strong spark and intense attraction, but are aware that possibly grossing out the rest of the world might not be the best idea," says certified counselor and self-help book author David Bennett. By not trying to overstate the state of their relationship, couples who hold hands show they're secure in their romantic life, but also self-aware of how their actions play to the rest of the world.

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Over-the-Top Kissing

On the flip side, making out in public really makes a statement — and can make onlookers uncomfortable if the couple in question is getting hot and heavy. For those couples still in the honeymoon phase, they're probably so infatuated with each other that it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks, Bennett says — and good for them. However, laying the PDA on so thick can also mean that a couple feels like they have something to prove to the world about their bond. "They may be insecure and overly touchy in public to show 'ownership,'" Stark notes.

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Linking Arms

Like hand-holding, this gesture suggests that a couple is very comfortable with each other and enjoys each other's closeness and touch, says U.K.-based dating coach Suzie Parkus. "These couples are also playful and flirty and have no shame showing the rest of the world that they are together." She also notes, however, that some may argue that linking arms with your partner could mean keeping some sort of leash on them, suggesting a level of possessiveness. It really depends on the situation and the rest of the couple's body language — like if one person seems uncomfortable or like he or she is trying to pull away.

Carrying Your Partner’s Belongings

Helping your other half carry things — from a purse or suitcase to groceries or shopping bags — is a metaphorical symbol for showing that you two share the burden in your relationship. "It's a loving way to gesticulate that you want to help, support and care for your partner. It shows thought and respect for their well-being," Parkus says. "You don't want to see them struggle." Not to mention, she adds, it's simply good manners to lend a hand.

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Opening Doors

The classic gentlemanly act of opening car or building doors is all about putting your partner's needs before your own — but both women and men can display it, of course. "Holding the door open, pulling out a chair, letting your partner sit instead of stand — these gestures show respect," Parkus says. "These acts show a deep level of maturity and an inner feeling of wanting to make your partner feel good and cared for." Couples who do these things are mindful of each other's comfort and want to show the other person­ — and those around them — that they are number one.

Shoulder Squeezing

Giving gentle squeezes or full-on mini-massages are an indication that a couple is tuned in to each other's body and needs, says licensed psychologist Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D., who runs dating site ChristianCrush.com. "For example, a husband may know his wife has been under a lot of strain. And when that occurs, her shoulders tense up. So he lovingly provides a shoulder rub to bring her some relief," he says. This gesture is not only thoughtful, it shows the physical closeness and ease a couple has with one another.

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Thigh Touching

Think of this one as pre-foreplay. "Since the thighs are in close proximity to sexual hot spots, a couple touching in that area shows they desire sexual contact," Fisher says. A twosome whose go-to is this PDA move is likely very much into the intimate side of their relationship, but they don't feel the need to be overt about it. These couples may seem innocent in public, but they could be anything but between the sheets.

Fixing Each Other’s Appearances

Partners who pick microscopic pieces of lint off each other or put hair back in place primarily demonstrate care for each other. "When removing fluff it can say, 'I want to help take care of you,'" Fisher says. However, he also notes that this gesture can mean, "I care about your appearance and how others view you," which could potentially be problematic. On the one hand, if you know your partner is self-conscious in public, this gesture is very loving. On the other, it could show that you care just a little too much about how your partner's appearance reflects on you.

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Butt Grabbing

A playful booty tap is just that — fun and carefree. "Public butt smacks are almost always a sign a couple is generally happy and having a good time at that moment," Bennett says. "That's not scientifically proven, but I'd stand by it." Of course, both partners (giving and receiving) have to be cool with this form of PDA in order for its symbolism to be positive. Unwanted love taps are usually a sign that one partner is a bit too domineering.

No PDA-ing

Maybe acting romantic in public just isn't your style. "If you show no signs of PDA, it could mean you simply enjoy having your fun in private, but it's often a sign the relationship is cooling and that the initial attraction and intensity have cooled too," Bennett says. Naturally, some couples may not give love in public but fawn over each other at home, but this is not the norm. "Generally, when there is little PDA, there is also little happening behind closed doors," he adds.

Read more: What Your Sex Sounds Say About You

What Do You Think?

Does PDA define a relationship? Does your PDA style reflect how you feel about your partner? What types of PDA are you not crazy about? Let us know in the comments!


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