One means you're passionate about each other. The other, not so much.
When two people in a romantic relationship hold hands out in public, it symbolizes their connection to one another and shows the general public they are an item. “It feels good to hold hands with someone we know because it’s all about wanting to be close to them,” Toni Coleman, LCSW, a psychotherapist and relationship coach, told Women’s Health.
As with kissing and hugging, “research shows that touch, like holding hands, releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that gives you that feel-good buzz,” Coleman added.
However, according to writer and social media influencer Eli Rallo, hand-holding can mean many different things depending on how you do it. She used a recent photo of musician Taylor Swift and her new beau, football player Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, to demonstrate her point.
The couple was recently spotted in public with a tight interlocking grip. “I just want to make something abundantly clear: [intertwined finger hand holding] is something very different to [paw hand holding],” Rallo said.
Warning: Video contains mildly adult subject matter.
“[Intertwined] is giving ‘last night we said I love you for the first time now we can’t stop saying it,’ ‘we can’t keep our hands off each other,’ ‘we have both mutually agreed this is the greatest lay of our lives,’” Rallo continued.
“[Paw] is we hate each other, but we are still together because it is convenient.”
Rallo then went on to show some photos of Swift holding hands with different men, noting that she had an interlocking grip with her former boyfriend, Jake Gyllenhaal. “This leads me to believe two things, and this is a working thesis,” she continued. “Number one, hot men are always going to hold hands [with interlocked fingers]. Number two, men who are good in bed are always going to hold hands [with interlocked fingers]."
“You should never settle for one of these paw things,” she concluded.
Commenters on the video weren’t entirely on the same page with Rallo. Many say they choose the paw grip with their partners, not because of the lack of passion in their relationship but because it’s more comfortable.
"Intertwined fingers is awkward," Keetinamobina wrote. "Sometimes the intertwined fingers thing is painful for some of us," JSainte17 added.
While Tay noted that whether she “waffles” or pancakes” has to do with her relationship status. "I called interlocked hands waffle and the other one pancake—I must be waffled at all times—but if I’m mad, I pancake," she wrote.
Even though Rallo got mixed reviews in the comments, body language experts agree with her.
Celebrity body language expert Karen Donaldson told Women’s Health that the interlocking grip symbolizes a heightened desire to be and stay connected. “This is a display of a strong and deep bond in the relationship,” Donaldson said.
Those who enjoy the firm “but not interlaced” palm-to-palm action may have feelings for one another that are less intense or unequal. “Depending on where you are in your relationship, this handhold style could be a protective grip. But most likely, the person doing the tighter hold is the dominant one in the relationship and is aiming to take charge,” says Donaldson.
“Or, if it’s a newer relationship, the couple may be finding a way to stay connected because they aren’t yet ready to interlace fingers,” movement pattern analyst Alison Henderson added.