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Ashanti and Nelly have certainly been making headlines for their public display of affection recently. Fans were excited when they were seen holding hands while attending a boxing match in Las Vegas over the weekend - and immediately took notice. Holding hands can be seen as a subtle indication that two people are deeply in love with one another; however, different styles of holding can also have various interpretations. 1. It’s a Sign of Affection Holding hands is a universal sign of affection and often seen among romantic relationships; however, it may also signify friendship or family love. Science has demonstrated that handholding can reduce stress, synchronize brainwaves and decrease pain. Furthermore, it soothes anxiety and generates feelings of comfort - all while decreasing cortisol levels associated with heart disease and other health conditions. John Gottman, a relationship researcher from the University of Washington, states that affection is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. Affection helps couples overcome difficulties, build trust and maintain connection. Holding hands publicly indicates a sense of protection and safety from others; whether that means stopping someone from trying to harm you or simply showing his excitement over spending time together. Research demonstrates that couples who demonstrate affectionate behavior towards one another are more likely to stay together, since both partners must genuinely feel their affectionate expressions of love for each other. Many couples find comfort in holding each other close during sleep - an obvious indication that they require physical touch after an exhausting day. Handholding with palms facing each other firmly can also show the intensity of a relationship and your desire to build it strong. There are various methods of holding hands, but it's essential to recognize there are specific activities you should and should not do to ensure your relationship remains healthy. Each relationship differs. 2. It’s a Sign of Commitment No matter the stage of a relationship you may be at, expressing commitment is key to showing your partner you care. By showing that they matter to you and having you show their affection accordingly, commitment can make all the difference in their feelings for and loyalty towards you. Though commitment can be challenging to attain, it is an essential quality for making any relationship thrive. Committing shows your partner that you love them and will do whatever is needed to see them thrive. At times of struggle, having someone there for you can give strength. Your partner's presence will give you strength when times get rough - something no other relationship can give. Additionally, showing your dedication to them through small acts is another effective way of showing that you value their relationship more than anything else in your life. Picking up their favorite dessert on your way home, or declining plans with friends so that you can spend time together is a fantastic way to show that you care deeply for them and show that your commitment is real. As part of your commitment, show affection by being affectionate toward your partner in ways they like. For instance, holding her hand while sleeping is a wonderful way of showing that you're thinking about her at all times and show your dedication. At the end of the day, it's essential to remember that everyone holds their hands differently. Paying close attention to both body language and verbal cues from your partner will give you a better idea of their meaning. If their hands seem oddly placed compared to usual, make sure they know you noticed so they can discuss it further with you. 3. It’s a Sign of Intimacy Holding hands in a relationship is an invaluable way of showing each other your affection and commitment, as well as signalling to others that two are together. Holding hands has come to symbolize love and affection in many cultures worldwide, from young children to adults - it has long been recognized as an intimate sign of affection and friendship. Holding hands releases oxytocin, the so-called "cuddle hormone." Oxytocin helps facilitate trust and empathy between partners in relationships - two essential characteristics necessary for long-term intimacy. While physical contact can be an intimate gesture, it's important to keep in mind that similar physiological changes can happen even without sexual intent. Studies have demonstrated how handholding can reduce stress and anxiety by decreasing cortisol levels within the body. Hand-holding releases oxytocin, which makes us feel connected with those we're with and decreases any fears about intimacy. Furthermore, it may lower blood pressure and heart rate significantly. Holding hands also acts as an unconscious protective mechanism, prompting partners to hold on if you find yourself vulnerable in some way - for instance if an attacker approaches, your partner might feel obliged to protect you by holding onto you tightly as a form of support. 4. It’s a Sign of Respect If you're in a healthy, loving relationship, it's essential that both partners show each other respect. This might mean communicating your emotions directly to them, being polite and courteous around them, asking their opinion, or not making fun of them in public or making hurtful comments during an argument; or not treating them with disrespect and cruelty. An intimate and respectful relationship can also help build your self-confidence and sense of security. You're free to be open with each other without fear of ridicule or reprisals being applied by either party. Holding hands as a show of respect shows commitment and affection between partners, while also acknowledging them as integral parts of life. However, while holding hands may be an appropriate way of showing respect and affection for other people, not everyone may feel comfortable doing it publicly. Some may find physical contact uncomfortable while others might fear what others will think if they display their affection this way. Holding hands as a sign of respect also shows your partner that you appreciate them and their achievements, helping them feel more relaxed around you and strengthening the bond between both of you. Kissing someone on the lips is another effective way of showing that you love them, whether that's while watching a movie together or simply cuddling close in bed. Make it an extra special memory by asking someone else to take your photo as you and your partner are engaged in this activity. Show your affection and create lasting memories! 5. It’s a Sign of Friendship Holding hands has become an increasingly common romantic gesture between couples. But while it may show affection, holding hands too long or inappropriately in public could become overbearing and embarrassing. Indeed, such conduct could constitute an act of obscenity - particularly in India where this kind of conduct can result in jail time being handed out as punishment. Don't let fear stop you from showing your affection to your partner publicly; while some might consider it overbearing, this can also serve as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how much they mean to you and show friends and family that you care. Holding someone's hand can also be seen as an indicator of friendship, as this gives you an opportunity to caress them and pull them towards yourself. Psychologist Silva Neves asserts that our brains are hardwired for connection through touch and that this form of communication can help you share emotions with one another more freely and connect on a deeper level with your partner. Many couples in relationships feel pressure to express their affection in public ways, yet it's important to remember that overt displays of affection may often be more about performance than genuine desire for connection. Elisa Gonzales and Michelle Mueller of Houston's artists came together to form an art exhibit entitled PDA: An Art Show Exploring Displays of Affection; this will open its doors at Crown Station on February 15.