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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Cheating Partners and PDA

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Cheating Partner - Do I Tell? | Public Displays of Affection

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Friend's Partner is Cheating - Tell or Not?
Public Displays of Affection - OK or Not?

Should you telll a friend that his or her partner is cheating?


"It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. So to love a man that you cannot bear to see a stain upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is friendship."
Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887)

This is an interesting question, and a situation that’s more common than people might think. Let me answer it this way. If you and a friend were about to cross a busy street and you saw a bus coming and about to hit your friend, would you pull that person back to safety on the curb or allow your friend to keep walking? I would hope the answer would be, “stop my friend from getting hit.” Well, if you know your friend’s partner is a cheater, then my view is that you should tell the friend so that person can try to avoid a major hit with an “emotional bus.” Your friend may not believe you (love is blind, after all), and your friendship may suffer or even end, but what’s the alternative?

By not speaking up, your friend has now been betrayed twice, not just once. From this perspective, how would you answer when your friend confronts you with, “You were supposed to my friend, and yet you said nothing knowing he (or she) was cheating on me?”  No amount of sugar-coating or marketing spin can make a response palatable.

From my conversations from people who’ve been in this situation, it’s true that the honest friend sometimes is pushed away out of anger or disbelief. But those breaks tend to be temporary. Let’s face it, the cheating partner will get caught and your friend will eventually come to know the truth. It may happen soon in a few days or weeks or it may occur in a few years… but it almost always happens. When reality sets in, the friend usually comes around and makes amends. And if not, you should rest with a clear conscience knowing you did the right thing. Friends look out for friends – period.

What public displays of affection are OK?

PDAs – public displays of affection. Ah, the term reminds me of high school. Many high schools seem to be cracking down on PDAs, but in my time, holding hands, arms around waists and quick kisses between class were never seen as rude or crude. I still feel much the same now as I did back then – simply put, too much of a good thing can be a nuisance. At a point, too much physicality shows no class, no sensitivity to others’ comfort levels.

More importantly, it defeats the purpose of PDAs in the first place. PDAs to women are often an outwardly sign of a couple’s identity. PDAs to men are often ways to get a quick fix of pleasure and to send the message of “stay away” to potential competitors. Physical expressions of love are wonderful, but they’re arguably best when they occur without inhibition. This typically only happens in private. In my view, PDAs are a tantalizer for what’s to come later. PDAs can build anticipation, feed romance and passion and lead to a better time for all once in private. My advice is to stop any “heavy” PDA action. Keep it light, casual and without throwing your sexuality in other people’s faces. I guess all of this commentary leads to this simple rule-of-thumb: if your PDAs make people stop and stare – then they’re probably excessive. Take for instance:

  • Excessive kissing, especially French kissing.
  • Groping of any kind.
  • Sexual gesturing or gestures.
  • Sexual language.

What is appropriate then? Well, I liked some of the suggestions recently published by Frequent Foreplay Miles1.  PDAs needn’t always be physical touches; they can be any expression of affection. For example:

  • Send flowers to her office.
  • Display your partner’s picture in your office.
  • Wink at your partner from across a crowded room.
  • Brag about your partner’s promotion.
  • Refill your significant other’s wine glass at a dinner party.

Of course, withholding all PDAs from your partner can get you in trouble. Worse still are what Frequent Foreplay Miles1 calls “Reverse PDAs.”  Reverse PDAs might be called PDRs – Public Displays of Rejection. Examples include:

  • Publicly criticizing your partner.
  • Teasing or humor that makes your partner the butt of the joke or an object of ridicule.
  • Correcting or interrupting your partner in public.
  • Getting drunk at his holiday office party or family gathering.
  • Flirting with your partner’s friends.
  • Failure to show your partner common courtesy.

PDRs add the insult of public humiliation to the injury of hurt. And, they undermine your partner’s self-respect and self-esteem and completely damage your couple solidarity. Bottom line: be cognizant of you do and don’t do with your partner in public.


1Dean, S. (Nov 14, 2007). Public displays of affection: the shiny ribbon on the ultimate gift.  Frequent Foreplay Miles, Accessed November 28, 2007.

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