silly, clueless girl in need of help parsing male behavior
March 4, 2009 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Public physical contact: what does it mean? (silly overanalyzing girl filter)

The guy I'm dating always seems to want to have a hand on me in some way: on my back when we're walking, around my shoulders, holding my arm or hand, or on my knee if we're sitting, etc. I don't mind it at all (he never takes it to gross, excessive PDA-land), but I've never had a boyfriend be so overtly physically affectionate in public or seem to want constant contact. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding what this indicates? Is it possessive, sexual, or just affectionate? Some combination? None of the above? I realize it's silly to think about this and I'm in no way complaining, but I am curious.
posted by faeuboulanger to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Impossible to know. Some people are just prone to touching and his touching you might be unconscious in part.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:09 PM on March 4, 2009

I'm constantly touching my boyfriend in the way you describe. It's just a sign of affection on my part, I just like to be close to him.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:12 PM on March 4, 2009

Is it possessive, sexual, or just affectionate? Some combination? None of the above?

Yes. All of the things you describe are very very common, just like anything in life some people like things others don't. Some people attach meaning where others intend none.

I know a girl who hates an arm around her shoulder (really, really hates it), but would feel odd without a hand occasionally on her knee when sitting. And a girl who would pull a guy's hand out of his own pocket to hold it, but is not familiar with a her arm being held even while going down icy steps or in other potentially precarious situations.

Everybody's different!
posted by Science! at 9:14 PM on March 4, 2009

I'd read it as him being really into you. He wants to be around you, wants to show off the fact that you're together, and wants to make sure you don't disappear on him. Congrats!
posted by Phire at 9:21 PM on March 4, 2009

I would take it as a good thing. I mean, unless he seems like the crazy jealous type and doesn't let you speak to other guys, what's the problem? I guess generally speaking, if it was indicative of anything problematic, there would be much more obvious indicators.
posted by Nattie at 9:39 PM on March 4, 2009

Ask him. It's only silly if you think it's silly.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 PM on March 4, 2009

Possessive, maybe.

Myself, I'm against public display. Are you uncomfortable with his physicality? If yes, tell him, if no, no biggie. Are there situations (professional?) where you'd rather he not have his hands all over you?

I notice much more public affectionate 'holding' amongst Taiwanese/Mainland Chinese kids than N. American kids on campus and public transit. That and younger people in general.

'Wannabe's (insecure) also display a bit more than their peers.

As long as you don't mind, there's no harm, no?
posted by porpoise at 10:33 PM on March 4, 2009

Is it possessive, sexual, or just affectionate? Some combination? None of the above?

I have this habit and I would say that it all three to varying degrees. More basically it goes between all three of those things dependent on the situation and you probably wouldn't notice. Most of the time for me the simplest answer is simply because it feels nice.

As the others said as long as there's no problem on your end sounds like you're both happy. Good luck.
posted by kinakomochi at 11:07 PM on March 4, 2009

As long as the touch isn't controlling, I wouldn't be worried in any negative way. But you describe him as "this guy I'm dating", without saying anything about how long, or how old you both are. I might be concerned that he's overly attached for the stage of your relationship, depending on those details.
posted by Goofyy at 11:31 PM on March 4, 2009

I do this. I'm a toucher with those I care about. With my boyfriend most so. He is similar. We hold hands in public, his hand goes to my knee at the movies, or mine will go to his, and similar little things. For us, it's affectionate and sexual.

If it bothers you at all, speak up. I have a friend who hates to be touched. It was difficult at first but I hold back around her and give her her space.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:14 AM on March 5, 2009

Best answer: As people have suggested, seems not uncommon that PDA level varies for a given individual, depending on the relationship. From personal experience and those related to me by friends, unless someone is toward a margin in this realm (and putting aside the question of the other person's reaction), there's usually a broad range in inclinations toward amount/sort of PDA.

Not putting aside the question of the other person's reaction, some of us guys actually manage to pick up on clues that the woman likes it or doesn't. Really; it happens--more often than a total lunar eclipse visible from where we are located.

Feels likely enough that the PDA level you describe is a healthy sign of enthusiasm on his part, a sense that you're pleased by it.

Speaking of clues, dunno how long y'all have been dating, but there should or will be clues to shed light on whether he is generally touchy-feely, affectionate, controlling, etc.--if for good, for ill or otherwise, this is part and parcel of his nature or if it's more him thinking you're the bee's knees.
posted by ambient2 at 1:33 AM on March 5, 2009

dont say anything unless it is a problem for you.
posted by edtut at 2:25 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend and I are like this with each other. We're just both very cuddly, affectionate people. In case it matters, we're in our mid-20's and we've been dating for a few years, so it's not puppy love and we're not still in that new-love infatuation phase.

Since you don't mind it at all, I take it that there hasn't been any other "circumstantial evidence" that he may be controlling or possessive. I don't see any reason to read some hidden meaning into his affection.

"I notice much more public affectionate 'holding' amongst Taiwanese/Mainland Chinese kids than N. American kids on campus and public transit. That and younger people in general.

'Wannabe's (insecure) also display a bit more than their peers."

porpoise, what exactly are you trying to imply here?
posted by keep it under cover at 3:10 AM on March 5, 2009

IANATP (I am not a touchy person), I think touching is just another way to communicate. I put my hand out, arm extended, into someones chest it means "stay back". Grab your arm and pull means "come here". So I'd imagine an arm around you means "come closer" or "it's easier to do this than stop walking and hug each other". Little touches that don't serve an overt purpose are probably just replacements for repeated verbal "I like you's". It's not automatic like blinking, so maybe sub consciously it is meant to convey, I am thinking about you enough to expend x amount of energy to remind you of my presence and desire to be near you.
posted by syntheticfaith at 4:56 AM on March 5, 2009

I'm going to throw my non-psychologist two cents in for insecurity leading to a tiny bit of posessiveness. Touching a mate, particularly a new mate in public tells everyone, conciously or unconciously, "this is mine." If he is not feeling particularly confident he doesn't want anyone else to come in a swoop you away so he is marking his territory. My guess is none of that would be concious behavior on his part, it should be reassuring however that he really likes you. my guess is also that he is not trying to project this posessiveness towards you, he is not saying, "you're mine."
posted by Pollomacho at 5:08 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

That's so sweet! He's affectionate, likely by nature, and proud of you. Aww. My husband is like this and it makes my heart sing. I notice if, for some reason, he isn't lightly (non-disgustingly) touching me. Enjoy it! I love the way my husband is such a guy-guy -- football, red meat, cannot cook, etc. -- yet is so sweet and snuggly with me all of the time. It is a good sign that he doesn't give a damn what other people think. I say, yay for you. It is very sweet and totally positive. I think you'd be able to tell if it were possessive or due to insecurity. It is adorable.
posted by Punctual at 5:26 AM on March 5, 2009

This question is bean-plating. Give your significant other the benefit of the doubt and assume it's because he likes you and expresses his affection through touch. If it bothers you, ask him to tone it down based on your feeling, not some pop-psych interpretation of his motives. If you like it, enjoy it, cuz in a few years you'll be standing at a gas station pump and he'll squeeze by you to get into the car somehow avoiding every molecule attached to your body and sulk into the passenger seat and you'll stand there feeling the cold metal of the pump through your mitten staring into the winter sun remembering when his hands were almost part of you all the time.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:40 AM on March 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

Insecurity + affection.
posted by synecdoche at 5:42 AM on March 5, 2009

It happens both ways. My current girlfriend was quietly getting in as much affectionate contact as she could on our second date. I 1) am a less touchy person 2) had only dated more emotionally distant women, so I was a little concerned what personal flaw she had. Weeks later, I'm satisfied that she just enjoys being with me.

Is he pining for sex verbally? Does he clearly dominate you in other ways? No? Then he likes you.
posted by spamguy at 6:39 AM on March 5, 2009

touch is one of the five love languages, it could very well be how he expresses affection.

see wiki and official site
posted by phritosan at 7:23 AM on March 5, 2009

Why not, I dunno, ask him?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2009

He's not pinching your butt or rubbing your breasts in public, is he? Then it's all good.

Really, I have a friend who occasionally puts his hand on my back to guide me somewhere, like lead me to the exit or something, and sometimes just reaches out and messes with my hair. It creeped me out at first, since I'm not dating the guy or anything and I'm pretty self-conscious, but then I figured he's just friendly. Nothing bad happened or anything.

@porpoise: The heck? Not true. Around here, everyone is huggy regardless of race.
posted by curagea at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2009

Nthing the "he likes you and demonstrates that by touching you". I would only be worried about it being a possessiveness thing if he touches you more in public than in private.

If it makes you uncomfortable, say something. Otherwise, you might want to consider returning/initiating the contact sometimes. I think people often give what they want to receive.
posted by kjs4 at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2009

Nthing the "some people are just touchy, and if it doesn't bother you and he's not creepy in other ways, let it ride" opinion.

For data points, I'm very touchy myself (though I'm an introvert! the two aren't necessarily related) and the more I like someone, the more I want to have some sort of physical contact - with my friends it tends to be things like hugs and back-pats and such; my husband and I tend toward the hand-holding, arm-in-arm, hand-on-knee, etc. I also like to play with hair - my husband's hair, mainly, but I remember when I was little I used to spend lots of time brushing and braiding and unbraiding and just generally playing with my little sister's hair. I hated (and still hate) doing my own hair, so it wasn't to "play beauty parlor" or anything - I just liked the way hair felt and feeling close to someone I love.

I know that when I've not been able to be physically close to my husband in a while - like I've had to work late or had a project going or whatever, even if we were both in the house - I will start to miss him as though one of us was actually gone for that time.
posted by oblique red at 9:16 AM on March 6, 2009

Is it possessive, sexual, or just affectionate? Some combination? None of the above

It could be any of those things. How is anyone on this web site supposed to guess? You should ask him about it, or wait, because over time you'll probably get a sense of why he is so affectionate yourself.
posted by chunking express at 10:59 AM on March 6, 2009

« Older Potty training readiness signals?   |   Bad Marriage Help Wanted Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.