What Does It Mean When Your Boyfriend Says He Doesn't Like Public Displays of Affection?

Try to understand why your boyfriend might not like public displays of affection.
... Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Public displays of affection, otherwise known as PDA, can be a cute way to let the world know that you’re happy in your romantic life. So why does your boyfriend say he’s not into it? When he tells you about his dislike for acting lovey-dovey in public, don’t be offended. Take the time to understand what he means and why he might feel this way.

1 He Has a Different Definition

Your boyfriend's definition of PDA may be different from yours. Public displays of affection can be anything from holding hands to heavy kissing in front of others. There can be a negative association with the term because people often use it to refer to PDA that may be inappropriate. To avoid a misunderstanding, ask your boyfriend to define what he means exactly. He may be referring to extreme forms of PDA such as groping in public, but he may be OK with subtler forms of PDA such as hand-holding. Go over the different kinds of affection that can be shown in public and what his limits are. Location and company might also be a factor in assessing his PDA limits. For example, he might feel uncomfortable kissing at church, but he might be fine with putting his arm around you while you are with a close group of friends.

2 He Gets Embarrassed

Many people can be shy about being loved up, but just because he gets a little embarrassed about showing affection doesn’t necessarily mean he is embarrassed to be dating you. He might be self-conscious if he has friends or older siblings who tease him about his dating life. In “Public Displays of Affection” on HealthCentral.com, therapist Carole Altman says it is not uncommon for a person to go from no affection at all in public to very at ease and affectionate once you two are alone. Some people just feel so uncomfortable in front of others that they cannot engage in any kind of affection, whether it's calling you a pet name or caressing your arm.

3 He Is Unfamiliar

Parental and cultural influences can also be the reason why your boyfriend says he does not like PDA. His parents might have raised him to believe that he should keep affection private, especially if PDA is frowned upon in their culture. In “Cross-Cultural Parenting in Japan: Differences in Affection” on InCultureParent.com, environmental psychologist Sherilyn Siy described how affection was avoided in her Chinese household. Her parents did not hug, kiss or express love through words -- not only toward each other but to their kids as well. A person’s upbringing can shape his attitudes toward showing affection and is not necessarily bad or good, just different.

4 He Thinks It’s Disrespectful

Your boyfriend may be conscious of people around him and might want to avoid PDA out of respect for others. He may be very happy with you but might not want to throw your relationship in anyone’s face. If he has friends who are not in relationships, he could be avoiding PDA with the fear that they might think he is showing off. He might also want to avoid making others feel uncomfortable if he has experienced feeling weird when others have engaged in PDA in front of him.

Sarah Casimong is a Vancouver-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She writes articles on relationships, entertainment and health. Her work can be found in the "Vancouver Observer", "Her Campus" and "Cave Magazine".