Do you remember your pre-teen years when you used to dream of kissing your crush?
In those days you likely couldn’t imagine much beyond kissing, but kissing was a BIG DEAL. All the romance movies ended when the couple had their first kiss. The culmination of teenage relationship movies was that first kiss. When to kiss someone you were dating was always filled with that tense anticipation!
This February, I thought we’d take a look at kissing in marriage, because all too often that excitement for kissing wanes.
Most of us (over 90%) kissed breathlessly before we were married, according to our surveys. But not all of us enjoy kissing now.
That may not be a problem, of course. Some couples just don’t like kissing that much, but they enjoy snuggling, or touching each other’s hair, or rubbing each other’s arms or necks, and they still feel all close to each other and affectionate. If you’re someone who just doesn’t like swapping salivia, but you still enjoy touch, and your spouse does too, then that’s great! You don’t need to feel like you’re doing aything wrong, and keep doing just what you’re doing!
But often kissing falls to the wayside for other reasons.
This month, I thought we might examine some of those reasons, and talk about them. And to do that, I’m going to list seven different dynamics that I’ve seen and heard about with couples, and I’ll ask for your input on which ones we should explore more!
Now, I’m not going to deal with the biggest one–that there are major relationship issues. Obviously if there’s tension, if you’re feeling taken for granted, if there’s abusive behavior or betrayal you’re not going to watn to kiss, and rightly so. But let’s look at why kissing may evaporate in relationships that are in other ways functioning quite well.
7 Reasons Kissing May Stop in Marriage
1. Hygiene makes kissing off-putting
Maybe one of you has really bad breath and really bad hygiene issues, and it makes kissing nauseating.
Whether it’s someone coming to bed with major body odour, or someone who doesn’t brush their teeth properly and has chronic bad breath, kissing just isn’t fun.
And addressing this can seem daunting, because nobody wants to insult their spouse. But you don’t want to live with it either!
2. Facial hair makes kissing uncomfortable
When beards aren’t properly trimmed, or when they’re so short they’re mainly stubble, kissing can be prickly. No one wants to feel all prickly!
Now, not all beards are bad for kissing. My hubby has a beard and he makes sure that it’s soft and there’s no problem at all! But many women do report to me that they feel like their husband’s beard has stolen affection from them because they can’t kiss anymore.
Now let’s get to more of the relationship issues!
3. Kissing is seen to always lead to sex
I think this is the #1 killer of kissing–when it’s assumed that if we kiss, we’re going to have sex and we’re going to welcome more sexual touch (like groping the breasts).
Many men don’t realize how much they’re killing their sex lives with this attitude. If a wife feels like she’s promising sex if she starts to kiss him, and she also doesn’t know if she wants to have sex, then she will stop kissing because she doesn’t want teh tension in the relationship of having to say no or him getting upset because she started.
She doesn’t want to put a downpayment on something she may not want to buy later.
But here’s the issue: most women have responsive libidos, meaning that desire doesn’t kick in until after they’re a little bit excited. It’s only once you’ve been kissing for a while; once you’ve been affectionate for a while; once you’ve been touching for a while, that she may actually want to have sex.
If you take kissing out of the equation, it’s likely you kill her desire too.
Couples who have fun sex lives do so because desire is allowed to build, but affection is allowed to stay affection too. So value touch and affection that doesn’t go anywhere, including kissing, and it’s actually more likely that some of that affection will go somewhere!
We talked about this phenomenon in our learned helplessness podcast, too, where women especially can find kissing triggering because of the associations that kissing now has. We’ve got to get this right!
4. Kissing is rushed to get to the real stuff
Before you were married, you likely had major makeout sessions when you kissed FOREVER. It got you both hot and bothered, and it was really fun. You mingled breaths; you felt close, you learned what each other liked. Even if you had sex before you were married, kissing was still likely a big part of your relationship because you were just starting out and getting to know each other.
But now that everything else is totally on the table, and you know each other really well, kissing can often be treated like a poor substitute for the “real thing.” Why kiss when we can do other stuff?
And yet studies have shown that one of the biggest predictors of women reaching orgasm during a sexual encounter is that the couple kissed. Kissing isn’t a poor substitute. For many people, women especially, it’s a central part of the real thing. It is the real thing!
5. We stop kissing because we ignore bids to connect
John Gottman has found in his decades of research on succcessful marriages that healthy couples look for bids to connect and honor them. You look for natural times when you can build connection. When your spouse starts talking, you face them and ask questions to keep the conversation going. When a spouse arrives home, you greet them and kiss them. When they leave, you say good-bye and give a kiss.
At night, you kiss.
We have natural times during the day when you can acknowledge, “Hey, you’re important to me.” It doesn’t have to take a long time, but these little things build connection and build a marriage.
We tended to do them when we were dating, kissing at the end of each date, and often at the beginning too. But often we get so caught up in real life and in busy-ness that we forget to use those natural moments to kiss.
We’re not focused on connection; we’re focused on getting things done.
6. Your spouse kisses in a way that you don’t like
Then there’s preference! Do you like tongue, or no tongue? Do you like lots of saliva, or no saliva? Do you like kisses that are a few seconds and then you pull away and start again, or do you like lips locked for the entire time?
If you’re married to someone who likes tongue and lots of saliva, and you feel that’s a little bit gross, you’re not going to want to kiss. Or if you like shorter kisses, and your spouse likes the kind when you have to come up for air, you’re going to feel like you’re being suffocated.
None of these things is bad, by the way. Tongue is great–but no tongue is fine too. Ditto for saliva. It’s all about what you like. But if you like different things and haven’t talked about it, then kissing can become something you don’t look forward to at all.
7. Your spouse has terrible technique and kissing is uncomfortable
Where you the kind that practiced kissing with a teddy bear, or against a window to see the lip prints? I remember talking about this with my friends in fifth and sixth grade! We were always trying to figure out how to kiss properly.
But maybe your spouse never went through that phase, and kissing means pushing against one’s teeth, or crushing one’s lips, or making it really difficult to breathe.
This goes beyond preference to technique. Maybe your spouse has never figured out how to kiss properly (or doesn’t seem to care to figure it out), and so it makes kissing really distasteful.
So there you go! Seven reasons why kissing may fall by the wayside in a relationship where there aren’t necessarily major issues.
I’d like to explore the ones that resonate the most with you this month. So let’s crowd-source this!
Leave a comment and tell me which one, or ones, are big issues for you and I’ll try to concentrate my posts on the ones that people react to the most. Or is there an eighth I should have added? Leave that as well! Let’s reclaim kissing and affection in our marriages.