Readers’ dilemma: Public displays of affection

Alan Light via Flickr

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year. It’s going great and he might be the one. There’s just one problem. He always holds back when it comes to public displays of affection – he shrinks away if I go in for a kiss when we’re out and about, and he never holds hands in the street. Why shouldn’t he want to hold hands when we’re out for dinner? What’s wrong with a peck on the lips when we meet up? It’s never been an issue with any other boyfriend. How do I get him to stop being such a cold fish?

Simon, via email

The Guyliner replies: PDAs – always a tricky area. They’re really not for me. I don’t really need an audience to tell me how much my relationship means to me. But I know some people love them – I’ve spent many a miserable hour on public transport watching a loved-up couple attempt to turn each other inside out using only their tongues. The fact that you have managed to get a year down the road into your relationship with this “problem” suggests you may be looking for conflict where otherwise there is none, OR there is another latent issue and you’re latching on to this hand-holding nonsense to avoid addressing it.

Are your needs for affection being met elsewhere? Is he only a “cold fish” when you’re out and about? You don’t say whether you have brought up the avoidance of public affection with your boyfriend or are suffering in silence. If you haven’t, why not ask him, maybe in a jokey way? If you have talked it out and he’s said it’s something he doesn’t like, you are going to have to learn to accept it.

It might also be worth asking yourself, assuming your relationship is otherwise going fine, why you need this validation from your boyfriend. You say he’s different from your other boyfriends, but isn’t that a good thing? All the handholding in the world couldn’t make those previous relationships last.

No doubt you’re proud of your boyfriend and want to show the world he belongs to you. But the fact is he doesn’t. And having him hanging off the end of your hand like an accessory or trophy isn’t going to make your relationship any stronger than it already is. If he were avoiding your advances all the time, acting like he wasn’t pleased to see you and not acknowledging you were his boyfriend to friends and family, I’d be worried. But if it’s a case of PDAs not really being “his thing”, then just accept it and concentrate on all the things you’ve got going for you. If you’re desperate to hold someone’s hand, take a friend’s child to a museum.

Also, think of the service your boyfriend is doing for the rest of us. Nobody wants to sit in a restaurant at the next table to the couple dry riding each other between courses. There’s much more fun to be had when nobody’s watching.

Need some good old-fashioned advice on matters of love, life or relationships? Email me in total confidence on I can’t respond individually and your emails may be edited for on

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