What Constant PDA Reveals About Your Relationship, According To Experts

How do you feel about public displays of affection? Do you love snuggling up no matter where you are and who might be watching? Or does the mere thought of holding hands in public give you pangs of anxiety? My guess is, like most people, you fall somewhere in the middle. It's natural to want to be affectionate with someone you love, but what constant PDA reveals about your relationship is more illuminating than you might think, and definitely something to consider next time you feel the urge to go into full octopus mode with bae on the bus.

We often make snap judgments about people getting their PDA on — sometimes out of jealousy and sometimes out of a general feeling of, "oh come, on! No one needs to see that much tongue action before 11 a.m!" But is it actually possible to know anything about a relationship based solely on how free to get frisky we are with our partner in public? According to the experts, the answer is yes. Some of what we say with constant PDA is really positive about a partnership — and some of it, not so much. It really depends on the degree of the PDA and the motivation. Because not all “constant PDA” is over the top; it can also just be as simple as always holding hands, or frequently finding reasons to touch one another. If you're not sure what your open-air makeout seshes reveal about your relationship, well, then read on.

You're comfortable with each other.

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As NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter explains, one of the main things engaging in PDA with your SO reveals is that the two of you feel very comfortable with one another.

“The first thing we do when we're not comfortable with someone is to recoil from their physical touch,” says Winter. “Physical touch within the relationship shows that we're comfortable with each other and amenable to our romantic connection.”

Being affectionate in public not only shows a level of comfort with your partner, but it also allows you to be seen as a unit by others. “Comfort with your partner's physical touch means you're in acceptance of the partnership unit you've created," Winter adds. "And, you're proud to let the world know that as well."

You’re feeling the love in your relationship.

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You can tell a lot about how two people in a relationship feel about one another based on how they express it through touch. Body language expert Blanca Cobb explains that, when those feelings are loving, “It's natural to show your feelings with a caress, a kiss, a touch.”

However, if you want to know how genuine that behavior is, Cobb says to pay attention to their body language in order “to gauge whether the PDA is genuine... ask yourself whether you get a sense that both partners are enjoying the PDA. Is the PDA reciprocated? Is the couple engaged with each other?”

If the answer is no, then it may be performative PDA, as “when couples aren’t ready to bail on their relationships, they’ll show PDA because they think it’ll convince other people that the relationship is solid,” Cobb says.

You’re masking insecurity in the relationship.

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While PDA can be a sign of comfort and security in a relationship, Cobb also warns it can be a sign there are deeper problems there, too.

“Some people show PDA because they’re feeling insecure in their relationship,” says Cobb. And when that happens, you will see an imbalance of PDA as one partner tries to use is it as a way to kickstart the connection. “When one partner is feeling jealous or insecure then they might show more PDA to silently convince their partner of their feelings. To let their partner know that they love, want, desire them."

And there is one more way that PDA actually becomes less about the dynamic between partners, and more of a defense mechanism, Cobb explains.

“The PDA can also be a sign to any potential poachers that their partner is taken,” she says.

But just because PDA can be used to communicate that someone is taken, it doesn't automatically mean that’s toxic. As Winter explains, “Humans are pack animals. Touching someone, and continuing to touch them (as in handholding, or an arm around the waist) shows that you've taken each other into your pack.”

It’s all comes down to what motivates the PDA.

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Whether constant PDA is a sign of a healthy loving relationship, or problems in a relationship, ultimately it comes down to what inspires it. Winter says “a healthy amount of physical touch can take place in public when prompted by external cues." For example, if “we’re excited and happy about an event or situation we're both experiencing,” or “when the external environment sets a romantic mood.” Because, in situations like that, PDA is really “an unconscious form of staying connected,” Winter says.

Winter sums it all up by explaining that “a healthy amount of PDA allows the couple to express their affection to each other, and also to the world. Best practices include using 'on and off switches.' Continual PDA loses its importance, and makes others uncomfortable.”

So, if you like holding hands or stealing kisses from bae to express your connection, then go for it. There’s nothing wrong with a little PDA, and that’s according to experts.

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