If You're Not Into PDA, Here's What It Could Mean About Your Relationship Style

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Judging on my past relationships, I'd say I'm not into PDA. Like, at all. In high school, I hated when my boyfriend would try to get me to sit on his lap or side-hug when we were out with friends. I vividly remember intentionally sitting across from him or walking ahead at all times just to avoid what I felt was an uncomfortable and unnecessary display of affection.

Looking back, I'm certain I was in the minority when it came to my anti-PDA views, since some of my Catholic school classmates spent their time after school getting scolded for making out in a nearby shopping center. Did I not like PDA because I wasn't not cool enough? Or had I just not met the right person?

Why is it that even now, in my 20s, I cringe when I see a couple posted up on the wall of a nightclub, going at it like the other person's face is a dollar-slice of pizza?

I asked Lisa Mitchell, body language expert and founder of Power Body Language, what your PDA levels say about your personality and your relationship. Thankfully, she acknowledged that there are tons of people who feel the way I do about an outdoor make-out sesh. Each person is entitled to define their own rules for PDA, in and out of a relationship. Here's what your preference says about you.

If You're Not About That PDA Life

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You should know that absolutely nothing is wrong with you or your relationship if you'd rather not tongue-wrestle on a busy sidewalk. Mitchell says there are a number of reasons people prefer to reserve shows of affection for more intimate settings. "Perhaps you were taught that affection and intimate behaviors should be done in private. This could be a cultural norm or personal boundary you've grown accustomed to," she explains. If you feel comfortable in your decision, there's no need to dissect it further.

Another obvious reason, she adds, might be that "one or both partners just aren't there yet in the relationship, and displaying a lot of public affection wouldn't feel sincere or authentic to you at that stage." In this situation, Mitchell says you should honor your feelings and take things as slowly as you'd like.

Whatever your reason for being PDA-averse, it's best not to make a bigger deal out of it than it is. According to Mitchell, "The more important factor is the intention behind or need for PDA. If one partner is forcing it or demanding it to make themselves feel more secure or have others see the relationship as solid, that's a bigger red flag than whether PDA is present or not. That shows a lack of boundaries and respect for the other partner."

My advice is to do as much or as little of whatever feels right to you in the moment, but check in with your partner to make sure it's OK with them, too.

If You Can't Keep Your Hands Off Each Other

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On the opposite end of the spectrum are those couples whose limbs are so intertwined at the dinner table that it's almost impossible to tell where one partner ends and the other begins. It's OK. All are welcome here. Mitchell explains that, most times, these couples just express and register their emotions differently. It feels natural to them to hold hands, embrace, and kiss, regardless of where they are or who might be looking on. Seriously, more power to you if you're among these brave lovebirds!

In the past, though, I've often felt inadequate when stacking my relationships up against these. I mean, they're literally all over each other. How could that not be true love? Well, Mitchell says sometimes, excessive PDA is an overcorrection. She explains, "More PDA can signal a higher level of insecurity in the relationship, leading one or both partners to feel it necessary to flaunt or publicize their affections in order to feel more validated or grounded in the relationship."

The reality, she says, is that, "PDA doesn't make or break a relationship, nor should it be considered an indicator of future failure or success." Instead, treat it as just one of many relationship behaviors you can adapt to fit your and your partner's comfort levels. It's normal for your relationship behaviors to evolve over time. You may be all about PDA right now in the honeymoon phase of your relationship and not so much later on, or vice versa. Either way, you should allow yourself the time and freedom to explore these preferences without succumbing to social norms that don't feel true to who you are.

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