Dating
Holding hands creates intimacy on a first date.

Here's Every Single Thing You Need To Know About Holding Hands

Like, everything.

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My first kiss came right after a long, sweaty hand-holding session. I was 15, he was 16, and we were sitting on a friend’s couch watching Armageddon. We didn’t kiss until the very last scene, but the entire experience was thrilling — only partly because of the film itself (even though it’s a really good movie!). I was nervous the entire time because I really liked him even though I’d only just met him the day before. Not once did I wonder, "When is it normal to start holding hands?" I didn’t care, I was just happy to be there with him.

What followed was a years-long saga of me obsessing over him and him not really giving a crap (boys), but I’ll never forget how happy I felt that day. Holding hands is a really sweet, really innocent way of showing affection, and it’s easy to associate it with being a kid and the tiny little love milestones that come with that period of life. Remember the first time you held hands in your first relationship? I wouldn’t be surprised if you did! It’s something you remember for the rest of your life, probably. Holding hands with someone is always the first physical step — the first thing that makes you think, “Oh, they’re into me!” It’s nice to realize that someone wants to be close enough to you that they can’t not touch you — that they want to be connected with you in some way.

But when is too soon to hold hands? Is the first date an appropriate time? The first kiss? What if, like me and Armageddon, you’ve just met? I took to Reddit to see what other people had to say, and if there even is such a thing as “too soon” to hold someone’s hand. Here’s what they had to say about their own experiences.

Should You Hold Hands On A First Date?

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So you’re out on the town with a total smokeshow, someone you just met tonight. Things are going great when your waiter brings over the check and you and your date reach for it at the same exact time. Before you know it, your hand brushes theirs. Sparks fly; angels sing. What next? Do you dive in hand-first and encase their paw in yours?

Maybe. Almost. But probably not.

“I very much dislike the answer ‘it depends’ because it’s overused, but this is one of those cases where it does depend,” Tari Mannello — a San Diego–based sex, intimacy, and relationship coach — tells Elite Daily. “As a general rule, I would say take the other person’s hand as soon as possible — as soon as both people feel comfortable — so that contact is initiated. But only take their hand for very brief moments.”

A full finger-lace with palm-to-palm contact at this early stage is a little heavy-handed, literally. Keep things light but flirty with fleeting touches before you push for the extended hold.

What’s The Best Way To Hold Hands?

If you’re still in that deliciously awkward do-we-like-each-other phase, Mannello has got you covered. When you’re out in public together, offer your date some casual guidance as a cheeky excuse to touch their hand. “You can say, ‘Hey, let’s go over here, into this store,’ and guide her, just hold her fingers or her palm, just to see how that feels,” Mannello says. “Does she pull away? Or does she relax into it? And then you can gradually see if you can linger a few more moments. Then the person who’s trying it out can let go first so there’s no rejection happening.”

If you’re feeling ready to graduate from the hand-graze to the full knit, Mannello suggests that you wait until after your first kiss. “That signifies that you’ve shared some kind of sexual intimacy,” he says. At that point, a more traditional hand-holding grip is totally on the table.

What Should You Do If Holding Hands Makes You Uncomfortable?

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As with any other intimate gesture, you never have to do anything you don’t want to do. Just because holding hands is associated with lovers and relationships doesn’t mean all couples must hold hands all the time.

Mannello acknowledges that there are plenty of reasons why you might not want to hold someone’s hand. “Hand-holding publicly is very suggestive; it suggests that you’re a couple — at least in [the United States],” he says. “So especially if you’re on the first or second date and someone’s trying to hold your hand but you’re just trying to be single and continue to mingle, that can be a little tricky.” Maybe you don’t like the optics of hand-holding; maybe you’re a heavy palm-sweater and the idea makes you nervous; maybe PDA in any form makes you feel unsafe or uneasy; maybe you just need a little more time to get to know them better. No matter the reason, you are always allowed to assert your boundaries with your partner, and it’s their job to respect them.

Explain to your partner that holding hands makes you uncomfortable. Be sure to communicate that it’s not their hand in particular that you don’t want to hold, but anyone’s hand, period. Discuss with them some ways that you can share physical closeness and intimacy that don’t involve your mitts. Be patient with yourself and communicative with your partner.

What Should You Do If Your Partner Doesn’t Want To Hold Hands?

So maybe you love the idea of hand-holding, but your partner isn’t on board. Much of the same advice from above applies here, too; keep in mind that their aversion to hand-holding likely has nothing to do with you or your generously moisturized, baby-soft hands. There could be a whole host of reasons that they’d prefer to keep their hands to themselves. If you feel like you’re really missing something by not holding hands, talk to them about it. Approach the conversation more from a place of wanting to deepen your connection than from a place of disappointment or hurt. Work together to find ways of building intimacy that make you both feel good. Maybe that’s walking arm-in-arm; maybe that’s wearing each other’s underwear à la Chandler Bing and Susie Moss. Whatever works!

No matter how you go about it, hand-holding should feel good. It’s an oft-overlooked element of any sexy relationship, and a time-tested way to communicate a lot by saying very little. Go forth and hand-le with care.

Expert:

Tari Mannello, sex, intimacy, and relationship coach and founder of Closeness San Diego