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How to Deal with Unwanted PDA

Updated on March 9, 2012

Ah, the classic issue of unwanted Public Displays of Affection.

This hub will deal with both sides: There's the uncomfortable one being affected upon, and there's the one having to awkwardly witness the affection from afar.

What Is It?

What makes some PDA unwanted and some of it seemingly okay? Many Americans (I only want to speak about my own country because of cultural differences such as those in the video to the right) do not mind a nearby couple holding hands or sitting close together in a booth.

And I'm pretty sure that most Americans would be fairly uncomfortable with a nearby couple whose hands are clearly under each other's clothes and tongues are clearly down each other's throats.

So where is the line between tolerable and disgusting?

It seems that everyone's personal "line" is different, whether they be okay with their own kissing but not okay with that of others, vice versa, or any mix of any of these.

Instead of trying to make everyone's morals align with ours, then, let's develop some methods of how to deal with excessive PDA. When is it right to ask for it to stop, and when should we just walk away?

Ahh, young love.
Ahh, young love.

When It's Someone Else Getting Loved On

As long as both of them seem to be enjoying it (and you can bet they will be), the best thing to do is probably to ignore it. After all, do you really think you'll change the behavior of complete strangers at first meeting? Of course, if you're in a bad mood and think it will make you feel better, go for the gold at calling them out for being gross.

In any other case, it's probably best to walk in the other direction.

This is, of course, unless they are blocking your path or otherwise preventing you from going about your business. This might be the case in a small hallway, on a bus or subway, or in various other cramped spaces. In this case, I think you should go to town in any fashion you feel comfortable. This can include (depending on your level of anger/annoyance, necessity of getting to your destination, and quality of outgoing personality):

  • Tapping one or both of them on the shoulder.
  • Poking them very hard in the fleshy part of the arm.
  • Saying "Excuse me," in your most obnoxious voice.
  • Verbally reaming them for obstructing your daily activities.

Rest assured that you have sufficiently embarrassed them to stop for at least a few minutes and have therefore bettered someone else's day.

When It's You Getting Loved On

This is, of course, slightly more complicated. You might not mind hurting the feelings of the strangers or otherwise embarrassing them, but you probably don't want to do this to your significant other!

Try to get him (or her) in a good, talkative mood when the two of you are alone. It may be easier if you are not in public (like a restaurant) because that eliminates the possibility of the behavior arising before you can start the conversation!

You'll want to approach the subject lightly, as it's hard to predict how your partner will react. Try opening with an "I" statement, as this will focus the attention on how you feel instead of what he is doing. It should help avoid him jumping to defensiveness at first. An "I" statement works like this:

"I feel ____ when you ____ because ____, and I need ____."

It might help, at this point, to immediately say what you do like. Remind him that you love kissing him, or hugging him, but that you feel uncomfortable doing it when other people are watching. If you feel like you might eventually be more comfortable, tell him that. And tell him what you are okay with doing in public. Is holding hands okay? Say that, and then remember to initiate hand-holding often.

Don't be offended by him (or her) showing affection for you in public. While it may make you uncomfortable, remember that he just wants to be close to you. You can acknowledge this when you confront him, and reassure him that you want to be close to him, too.

A relationship is about communication, comfort, and affection. So as long as there's a balance of the three, you'll both be better off.

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The End

We can never stop teenage hormones from surging, but we can certainly hope that adult decency will eventually kick in. Otherwise, we gotta just keep on going!

Share your opinions, suggestions, and entertaining stories!


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    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 7 years ago from Manhattan

      Ooh, good question, Hummelsexual! I'd say you need to approach them individually -- just talk to whichever person you know best and try using the "I" statements.

    • profile image

      Hummelsexual 7 years ago

      What do you do when you know the couple engaging in the gratuitous PDA?

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan

      Hi Sonick, thanks for writing. I think that your fiancée may have been hurt initially -- she probably felt like you were rejecting her in some way -- but hopefully once she thinks about it a little bit, she will be able to see it from your perspective. Reassure her again that you LOVE being affectionate with her, especially in private, and be positive in telling her what you DO want to do with her in public.

    • profile image

      Sonick 8 years ago


      I have a question. My fiancée and I are very affectionate towards eachother. We have no problem with PDA. The only thing is that sometimes I feel she does it a little too much. I don't mind holding hands and stealing the occasional kiss. She likes kissing and hugging a lot. We were having a conversation the other night and I told her that I love showing affection towards one another but I wanted her to cut back a little bit. She was hurt by my opinion. She said that she will just stop doing it all together. She says she is now self conscious about showing any type of affection in public. I told her that I don't want to STOP PDA's I just want less. Im not sure how to handle this situation.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Wow, Jason! Thank you for sharing your experience! In different cultures, everything is so completely different, which is why I didn't really want to touch them in this hub. When I was in Japan, I constantly made mistakes, especially when trying to hug my male hosts (a huge no-no!) to thank them.

      After 24 years of marriage, I think it's adorably romantic to kiss hello and goodbye!

    • profile image

      Jason Stanley 10 years ago

      Sometimes it can really be hard to understand. We are "mature adults" (that means we have grandcyhildren) and are way past public displays of anything an American would consider sexual. While living in Vietnam we found it wrong to give a little kiss goodbye, even on the cheek, if it was anywhere insight of a school. The wild thing for us was that while in the places it was truly culturally insulting to give my wife a kiss goodby for the day, there could be a grown man openly uninating into the dranage system.

      Here in America pepole think of us still kissing goodby after 24 eyars of marriage as romantic role models, and peeing in public as a felony sexual offense. We're back in the Sates now, we still kiss goodbye, and no, I didn't pick up those other habits.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 10 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks Gale ;)! I know it's a touchy subject, but he's just a boy. Boys are silly. Thanks for commenting, and feel free to let us know how it turns out!

    • gale583 profile image

      gale583 10 years ago from New England

      Thanks so much Helena. I feel like you can always put things in a way that I find helpful and easy to understand. A lot of this is along the lines of what I've tried with Eric, but as you know this is a touchy subject. I guess I just need to really think about it and how to present it. I mean, who can blame a lovestruck guy whose never been to a professional theater event to be leaning over for kisses in the middle of watching RENT on stage? Thanks again!

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 10 years ago from Manhattan

      Definitely, Woody. In your case -- as is also the case with many gay and even interracial couples -- you not only have to decide where your own comfort lies, but also how much attention you want to draw to yourself. Excellent point to bring up! Thanks for the comment!

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for know it can be even more difficult to decide where to draw the line when your girlfriend, as mine is, is MUCH younger than me...for example we often get stares when we are JUST holding it's a complicated question in more ways than one!