How likely is this conversation to end well?
February 5, 2015 11:25 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to hear how you would feel if after a few dates I told you that I'd like to avoid public displays of affection in front of our mutual acquaintances from (Shared Hobby), because (1) they can be really gossipy sometimes and (2) I have multiple exes in that crowd, and it totally kills the mood to imagine them watching us kiss. Can I actually say this, or should I just lie back and think of England, so to speak?

Re (1): I have heard people talking about who kissed whom at some event a month after that event. At the other extreme, I was taught to conduct my affairs with as much discretion as possible (still haven't seen my parents kiss each other on the mouth), so the idea of feeding such a conversation is deeply mortifying.

Re (2): I realize they all know I'm going to keep dating, because I've talked with them about it. I've even asked an ex for advice about the person I started seeing after her. I can't give a rational defense for why I should be shy about kissing other people in front of them, but the fact remains that I am.

(2) is particularly fraught for me because I don't want to get into a conversation about exactly which of our (Shared Hobby) acquaintances I have previously dated. One of them is just as discreet as I am, and probably would not approve of my spreading the word around.
posted by d. z. wang to Human Relations (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dude just say you dont like pda. Lots of people dont. Just
No pda at
All regardless
Of where you are.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:28 PM on February 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


This conversation would probably not end well, because of your request to avoid PDAs at shared hobby. That sounds like you're placing an ex above our relationship. The wanting to avoid gossip angle works better.

Suddenly wanting to avoid all PDAs would be odd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:42 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Do not couch it in terms of exes. I'm very generous when it comes to assumptions of goodwill on the part of others, and I still interpret your post as "I care more about how this affects them and your feelings and desires are secondary." Unless your life is really out of the ordinary, gossip about you has just about zero consequence on your life and your significant other might be hurt if you prioritize that over them.

Also, what about leaning in? A hand placed on your lower back? Bringing you another drink, unasked for? All of those could be considered affection "on display" and you shouldn't deprive your significant other of them unless they are totally on board with you. Where do you draw the line?
posted by halogen at 11:47 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Oh, that's OK. I mean, I guess."
...
"So, ha, like, how many exes? No, you don't have to answer, I'm kidding."
...
"Like, less than five? Ha, no, still kidding."
...
"Was it James? I don't need to know the rest, but I need to know if it was James."
...
"I mean, James, seriously? You dumped him, right?"
...
"Was his dick bigger than mine? You're thinking about him right now aren't you?"
...
*drunken sobbing*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:28 AM on February 6, 2015 [33 favorites]


The conversation is NOT likely to end well, because you seem to prioritize your exes' feelings over your current date's.

Lots of couples don't snuggle, fondle or kiss on the mouth in public and yet maintain perfectly healthy relationships.

If it bothers you that your exes and acquaintances might gossip about you, then abstain from public displays of affection.
posted by Kwadeng at 12:34 AM on February 6, 2015


Think about what PDA stands for: it's a public display of affection. It's not about making out and slobbering all over each other. Holding hands, a peck on the cheek when you greet one another - they're just simple signals that you have singled someone out for a gesture of affection because you have a relationship with them that differs from others.

Being told No PDA Ever, didn't sit right with me when my ex established that rule because he "didn't like making other people feel uncomfortable". It just made me feel like my own feelings and my stake in the relationship came in after others. I wasn't asking for a hot and heavy session over in the corner, but being told we shouldn't even hold hands?

It eventually made me feel like he was ashamed of me.
posted by like_neon at 1:16 AM on February 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Hello girlfriend, it makes me uncomfortable to have PDA around (shared hobby) people. ... I know, it just make me uncomfortable."

Try to increase the PDA other times to compensate (provided your partner is comfortable with such actions, of course).
posted by flimflam at 1:50 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Does PDA make you uncomfortable at other times too? That's okay. If so, I'd just tell them now so they don't feel even worse if it eventually comes out in a year or something that actually, you don't like holding hands like, ever. But be prepared to compromise at a level in between what you want and what they want.

If you truly only care about PDA in front of shared hobby people, that wouldn't sit well with me. I'd think you're embarrassed of me/us. Not a 100% rational feeling but that's what I'd think.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 2:05 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Hey, let's kiss in secret! I'm shy and doing it in front of those guys makes me feel kind of oogy."
posted by feets at 2:47 AM on February 6, 2015


Nope.

Being sensitive to an ex's feelings means finding somewhere else to do your shared hobby. It doesn't mean you clip the wings of your current relationship.

I know that some hobbies are very rare and specific and comprised of a small number of people. This is where the phrase "don't shit where you eat" comes in.

You're basically saying "I'm going to break my own arm in order to make sure my ex doesn't feel hurt or act jerky" - except that arm is shared with your new love. That arm is your relationship.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:42 AM on February 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


Okay - on re-read, I'm probably taking it a little too deep.

But basically, no.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:44 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is one of those cases where being more specific makes it worse. "I'm not into PDA" = okay. "I'm not into PDA at Specific Hobby" = ummmm, okay. "I'm not into PDA at Specific Hobby because they're gossipy and I have multiple exes in that group and no I can't tell you who" = what??

I'd be uncomfortable if the person I was dating asked me to modify or conceal my behavior in front of a specific group, because it would imply that they were uncomfortable with me or our relationship to some degree. I'd likewise be uncomfortable if they had an ex in their social group but wouldn't tell me who, because that suggests that the circumstances of the relationship may not have been entirely wholesome. Many people consider needing to hide a relationship or treat it differently around a friend group to be red flags.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:55 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would think you're too immature for me. You can respect exes' without walking on eggshells. So basically there's no way I'd be cool with this.
posted by Aranquis at 5:19 AM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Okay, sounds like a consensus to me.

Think about what PDA stands for: it's a public display of affection. It's not about making out and slobbering all over each other. Holding hands, a peck on the cheek when you greet one another - they're just simple signals that you have singled someone out for a gesture of affection because you have a relationship with them that differs from others.

Good point. Let me change the question then: what are some subtle PDAs that I might be okay doing? I don't mind holding hands, for example. (Shared Hobby) is a social dance, and sometimes sees spontaneous cuddle puddles anyway. So far it's really only been the kissing that makes me feel like I'm making a scene.
posted by d. z. wang at 5:26 AM on February 6, 2015


"HEY. You know how I'm shy sometimes? I also hate kissing in public! Let's never, ever do that! And if you notice me ever getting a little flinchy about being touched and hugged and stuff when we're outside, that's my shyness, so 1. I hope you'll notice and 2. it's not about you."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:35 AM on February 6, 2015


Let me change the question then: what are some subtle PDAs that I might be okay doing?

(Reposting for emphasis, not directed at you RJ Reynolds)
posted by d. z. wang at 5:41 AM on February 6, 2015


Hmm, I'm not sure how we can helpfully answer your new question for you since we don't know what you are okay with - I'm trying to phrase this kindly, but, well, you've seen other couples out in public, right? What kinds of things appeal to you?

If it would help to have a list of affectionate gestures that can be performed publicly but that don't involve kissing, how about:

- Leaning against one another
- A touch on the arm
- Hand on the knee
- Shoulder rub
- Lingering eye contact
- Smiles
- Spontaneous Islands in the Stream duet
- Head on their shoulder
- Saving a spot for them at lunch
- Pet names
- In jokes
- Little tokens of affection
- Taking care of them in personalized ways (e.g., I will sometimes pick all the celery out of my wife's chicken salad because I know she doesn't like it)

That's off the top of my head; I'm sure there others. Basically I think from a physical standpoint, we're talking about things that involve longer or more familiar physical contact than you'd make with someone you weren't romantically involved with; beyond that, the way you talk to a person, look at them, laugh with them ... all of those things can reflect the affection you share. Maybe it would help to focus on prioritizing her (and your relationship) over others - if you're driving her and some friends in your car, make sure she gets shotgun, dance with her in your hobby group, etc. - the bottom line is that this should be your goal, so however the two of you choose to express this prioritization, so long as you're doing that you should be on the right track.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


What was your behavior with the others in the group when you were hooking up with them? Your current relationship should be at least equal to, if not greater, than your previously allowed PDAs.
posted by beaning at 6:31 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure there is zero way for you to ask for this without the other person revising their good opinion of you.

I'm pretty sure you should get over this and behave at Hobby in normal affectionate ways for Public Places.

I'm pretty sure you need to ignore the gossip entirely (why do you care about gossip? what could they possibly say??)

You're being over-sensitive. Grow up. The person you are dating doesn't want to know you are not feeling out, loud, and proud about dating them!

Only bring this up if you want to torpedo the relationship in a passive aggressive way.
posted by jbenben at 7:53 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's totally okay for you not to be into extravagant displays of affection or even mild ones in public, but I think if you're going to make that a condition of the relationship then it has to be:

1) Universal. Picking and choosing where in public someone may be affectionate with you would be too confusing. I wouldn't want to have to think that much about it.

2) Something the other person can live with. I am a very touchy feely person in general and would probably never be able to follow this rule, thus creating unhappiness and discord in the relationship, which means I need to date people who are also touchy feely.


Do you want to be more comfortable giving and receiving physical affection in public? If so, then start out with DingoMutt's suggestions. You could also try sending sexy texts to each other while in public, passing notes, making eye contact across the room, fetching drinks/snacks for one another, sharing a secret. Doing things that make you each feel special to the other person is what matters most.
posted by brookeb at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2015


If I was dating someone and he said he didn't want to make out in public, I'd be fine with that (I don't want to make out in public either!)

if I was dating someone and he didn't want to hold hands, snuggle, or receive/give a peck on the lips now and again, I'd be concerned he was ashamed to be seen with me. Or in another relationship.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:53 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh hey I'm kinda in that situation now, since I play sports with my boyfriend and an ex, plus I already don't like PDA (especially kissing). I did tell him I was uncomfortable with PDAs, and also told him about the ex, but didn't specifically say anything about avoiding making the ex uncomfortable. Cause well, that's not really fair to my current boyfriend, his feelings need to take priority over the ex. I do feel myself holding back a little when the ex is around, but I don't give in to that impulse - we'll still hold hands, hug, touch etc and maybe kiss once, but not make out or anything (not that I'd do that in public anyway). Exes will have to deal with it, that's just part of staying acquaintances after a breakup.

(2) is particularly fraught for me because I don't want to get into a conversation about exactly which of our (Shared Hobby) acquaintances I have previously dated. One of them is just as discreet as I am, and probably would not approve of my spreading the word around.

This part jumps out at me, because a lot of people would not be comfortable with finding out their partner hid this kind of information. You don't have to go into details or anything, and you can ask your partner to keep it secret if you must, but it's pretty unfair to your partner to hide the fact that some of the people you're hanging out with together regularly are exes. I know I'd be really unhappy if I learned that and my partner had never told me - and the new partner probably will learn eventually, if you hang out together long enough. Even if they don't, keeping secrets from your partner isn't really a great habit to get into.
posted by randomnity at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


(2) is particularly fraught for me because I don't want to get into a conversation about exactly which of our (Shared Hobby) acquaintances I have previously dated. One of them is just as discreet as I am, and probably would not approve of my spreading the word around.

So, you have dated someone else in the group without anyone knowing, but with this new person you are engaging in PDA? Is this the first new person with whom you have done so? I think you are probably right; you don't need to be deep kissing each other in front of those people.

The whole situation sounds kind of messy though. Does the person you are dating now know how many exes you have and are you sitting on a tinder box in that regard? I think you should come clean to your s.o. about all of that, given how much gossip there seems to be. I don't really think that counts as you spreading gossip-- unless of course your s.o. decides to go around telling everyone.
posted by BibiRose at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Should have previewed; I agree with randomnity.
posted by BibiRose at 9:08 AM on February 6, 2015


Say, I am comfortable with ____ level of affection in public, for instance ____ (see DingoMutt's helpful list). Add, I don't like kissing around other people; I've never even seen my parents kiss on the mouth! (A statement which highlights the culture you come from and might help your new SO be more understanding of your needs).

But the secret exes thing is weird, and if this relationship doesn't work out maybe consider trawling other waters than this shared hobby for new dating partners. (You have multiple exes in this group at this point, and wrote "I realize they all know I'm going to keep dating, because I've talked with them about it"... what are they themselves doing, post-you? Not dating, just pining? Or looking outside the group, because it is awkward and that's the done thing in your circle? Consider your milieu.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I disagree with everyone pretty much.
My boyfriend isn't into PDA. It has nothing to do with how he feels about me, nothing to do with shame, it just makes him uncomfortable. I would never want him to feel uncomfortable or awkward so we just don't do it. It took getting used to, I'm a very affectionate person but now I don't notice. Relationships take compromise and I would be more worried if the person I'm dating doesn't respect the things that make me unhappy.
posted by shesbenevolent at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


(2) is particularly fraught for me because I don't want to get into a conversation about exactly which of our (Shared Hobby) acquaintances I have previously dated. One of them is just as discreet as I am, and probably would not approve of my spreading the word around.

I'm not sure if this has been discussed in depth above, but if my boyfriend and I had a mutual acquaintance/friend, and that person had dated my boyfriend in the past and I didn't know it, I would be CRAZY upset about not being told. If you're sensitive enough about this ex that you're shy about kissing someone new in front of them, then I'm assuming the dating was significant. If you had had sex with that person, I'd be especially upset about not knowing it.

Some people have strong feelings about their current significant other not associating with old flames. I'm not one of them - as long as all the feelings are gone. It sounds like your discomfort stems from cultural issues surrounding private affairs, not lingering feelings, but is that the case on the other end? If there were lingering feelings on the part of another person in the group I would feel uncomfortable. Your current girlfriend might have stronger feelings about the issue.

I think part of the reason I would feel upset is I would feel like the ex knows more about me than I know about her. You are protecting your ex's privacy more over your current girlfriend's comfort and ability to make joint decisions with you about boundaries with other people.
posted by unannihilated at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to add though I agree with everything unannihilated said.
I do like to know who exes are and if I'm around them. I would never stop my significant other talking to an ex. If I do get insecure that's my problem not theirs. But you should let this new person know.
posted by shesbenevolent at 1:07 PM on February 6, 2015


If everyone is as gossipy as you say, then your current flame is going to find out about your exes, whether you want it to happen or not. If I were dating you, I can assure you that I'd want to find out from you, not from someone else.

In a previous relationship I was told "let's not hold hands in front of this building; my former crush works there" and it was a real blow to my psyche. If you have to say "let's not kiss at Shared Hobby," don't make it about your exes, please.
posted by karbonokapi at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't you refer to keeping things "professional" in certain areas of your life? That doesn't mean you can't get each other a beverage or sit next to each other, it doesn't mean you have to eliminate all signs of being intimates, it generally means no public displays of sexual affection.

Personally, I'm not into PDA that isn't some kind of mutual spontaneous unthinking thing because it always smacks of insecurity or the "display" part, showing ownership or some kind of object related thing, so I'd been tempted to push it to the cartoon limit if it was expected at all. Being tired near the end of a night and leaning into somebody probably looks far more intimate that a chaste peck, and it sounds like kissing is way more of a hang up than clinging to each other all evening. It really depends on the other person and their need for what form of affection. Cooling it on kissing shouldn't be a big deal if you don't go all the way to treating them like an acquaintance, and it doesn't sound like you're public frotters.

If you feel fine defining, "Don't grab my junk in public," then adding a coda about the kissing as well should be a breeze.

Oh, all the stuff about exes rings true. If you don't want them to know about the exes then it seems like you don't have long term interests in this person anyway, just like if you're overly worried about what other people think.
posted by provoliminal at 2:44 PM on February 6, 2015


It sounds like the relationship is fairly new. I also think you need to be upfront that you're uncomfortable with public kissing due to your parents and engage in nonkissing PDA--otherwise she may think you're not taking her seriously. Putting your hand on the small of her back. Getting her something she needs (a drink, etc), being attentive. This might sound old fashioned but I appreciate it when I'm the new gf in a group of my bf's friends whom I don't know.

Once I got serious with someone I would expect to know whom my bf went out with in a regular group, but not if it's casual--unless the exe are sending weird vibes my way.

I understand not wanting to be gossiped about. What some Mefites may not understand is that some people get gossiped about much more than others, are targeted for it (kind of like being targeted for bullying) and they become sensitive to it and do things to try and avoid it. If that sounds like you then ask yourself why you're a target for gossip. I used to be because I was too open about myself and now I'm more protective about what I tell people.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 2:49 PM on February 6, 2015


Do you live in America?
posted by halifix at 3:42 PM on February 6, 2015


Apparently I'm weird, because I would absolutely not mind if someone asked me to cool the kissing around their exes, especially if you're still hand-holding or otherwise publicly together. Just seems polite to me.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:43 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks, everyone, going to go with, "talk to her about the kissing, find more discrete ways to show affection."

For those telling me they would want to know if I had dated any mutual acquaintances, can you model this conversation for me? I have no idea how I would bring that up.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:00 PM on February 6, 2015


For those telling me they would want to know if I had dated any mutual acquaintances, can you model this conversation for me? I have no idea how I would bring that up

I wouldn't make it a big deal at all, and might mention it when making plans to go to a social activity where your former dates would be. I'd just say something along the lines of, "Hey, just so you know Sally and I went on a couple of dates last summer and nothing really came of it. Kimmy and I dated for a year back in college, but that's ancient history now". Depending on your social group, and how distraught your exes might be about you seeing someone else, I might give Kimmy and/or Sally a heads up, but that really depends on a lot of factors.

I fully respect your desire to not be smooching up a storm in public, but I would be enormously uncomfortable if my partner wanted to hide the fact that we were dating, especially around mutual friends. The logical assumption I would make is that you are cheating on Kimmy and/or Sally with me, or at the very least keeping your options open to re-kindle a relationship with one of them.
posted by fermezporte at 7:53 AM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Turns out that she very emphatically does not want to know whom I have previously dated, and also shares my desire to keep our new relationship quiet at Shared Hobby. That was easy.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in. Even though the actual conversation took a somewhat different course, I felt much more prepared going in for having considered your advice. Had she wanted to be more open about our relationship, I think I would have better understood her position and been able to respond more intelligently.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:34 PM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


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