Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: Not everyone is comfortable with public displays of affection

Strong feelings about keeping romantic life private may reflect way you were raised
Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Ellie: My partner is over-the-top affectionate in public. I’m the opposite and don’t want to be showy about our personal feelings for each other.

But my holding back from close hugging and kissing in front of others, especially his friends, bothers him.

He’s even said that some of his closest buddies wonder if I’m a cold person and therefore not the right match for him.

Actually, I do love him, and show it to him in our private time together. I just don’t like public displays of affection.

I don’t even understand why some people choose to demonstrate their level of feelings to others.

I value our time alone together, the closeness of our bodies, the lovemaking that follows. It’s special to us and no one else. Sharing any of those feelings publicly seems, to me, to tarnish what we have for just each other.

But I don’t want to hurt my partner. How do I handle this difference between us?

The Private Partner

Search your own background and why/how you came to feel so strongly about this matter.

Since you express true love for your partner, be very open whenever alone with him about those strong positive feelings. But also, explain to him the best you can why public affection feels much less comfortable for you.

And don’t hold back on asking yourself some questions: Is it just any display of affection, such as holding hands in public?

Perhaps some of your preference for privacy relates to your own family background. In some very conservative homes, parents may purposefully decide not to show overt affection, in the belief that children shouldn’t be exposed to anything that suggests body contact.

That background could unfortunately be seen as a negative signal to children from puberty on, that affection is a forerunner to sexual curiosity.

Meanwhile, even if you were raised with any of that attitude, you’ve risen above it in your private romantic life with your partner.

So, be open, explain all this to your guy, and show him your love.

Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman who wrote, “Not Quite Me Too” (August 29):

“This happened to me, and to many, many young females (and certainly some young males, too) who didn’t, for fear of angering a boss, or a person in authority, push away someone suddenly grabbing, squeezing, pressuring and frightening us.

“A dentist recommended by a family friend, dismissed his assistant during my examination, and fondled my breast. I was 16. My father said I didn’t have to go there ever again, but the damage was done.

“At age 19, while working weekends in a restaurant because I needed the money, I was repeatedly pressured to stay late to ‘clean up.’ Several times, the owner locked the door and force-kissed me, tongue included.

“I quit but couldn’t trust men for years. My dating life was a shambles. And even when I finally married, I was insecure about our relationship, suspicious if he stayed out late, and always watching for the slightest joke or teasing between him and another female. We divorced, and he claimed it was all my fault.

“I still feel that he and all the other men who tried to use me for their moment of power over me, made it impossible for me to have a trusting relationship with any man.”

Ellie - Invest in yourself, by getting professional advice for moving past this painful history.

Reader’s Commentary Regarding the wife whose husband’s employer offered him a job in the U.S. (Aug. 25):

“Companies have programs helping with transition. They’ll normally pay for moving expenses, and may help with housing, if the cost of living is higher, and pay for the family’s scouting trip.

“I’ve seen many transplants. Some worked out very well, others lasted only a few months and moved back home due to cultural differences and lack of family support.

“Successful transplants embraced it and the chance to explore the country/region. It won’t be easy for the children but moving even a shorter distance would be a huge change for them.

“It may or may not limit your husband’s career, but one colleague turned down a promotion to the U.S. years ago for family reasons and was told he’d never be promoted again. He’s now president of our company.

“Most employers will understand if the time isn’t right due to family.”

Ellie’s tip of the day Loving someone needn’t be displayed publicly to others, but instead, mutually felt and enjoyed.

Send relationship questions to or

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks