The Kissing Series: Sometimes Kissing Needs to Just Be Kissing

by | Feb 11, 2023 | Libido | 16 comments

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Sometimes a kiss needs to just be a kiss.

Mondays in February are all about kissing, and last week we started our series looking at why kissing sometimes falls by the wayside once you’re married. I listed 7 reasons kissing can stop, and then I asked you all which were the most important reasons so I could write more about them.

By far the most mentioned was #3-kissing always needs to lead somewhere. Here’s how I explained it:

Why kissing disappears in marriage

7 Reasons Kissing Can Stop in Marriage

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!

People by far wanted to talk about this, so let’s tackle it!

When your spouse doesn’t understand kissing shouldn’t always lead somewhere

Sometimes the problem is that she would actually enjoy kissing more, but he believes kissing has to lead somewhere. So if it doesn’t, he gets grouchy or upset, or else he goes straight for sex instead of letting kissing build. 

In this case, he needs to understand that she needs kissing to just be kissing.

She can say something like this:

I want to have a passionate sex life with you, and I want to enjoy making love to you, but I feel all kinds of pressure and I feel quite used, to be frank. I feel like you won’t touch me or kiss me unless it leads to sex.

If it doesn’t, you get upset. But that makes me feel like I’m only important if you get an orgasm. That’s not a complete sex life. We need affection, too.

I would like to be able to kiss you again, and to love kissing, because that’s how my desire builds. But if it always has to go to sex, then I feel like I can never kiss you, and that’s not fair.

How can we resolve this?

And if he isn’t willing to listen, then she can think about what boundaries she wants to put in place, because he seems to want to use her body without any consideration to her feelings. That’s not okay.

Another woman said:

I’m not sure my husband knew how to kiss without instantly grabbing my backside or breast. Seriously, a kiss should be able to be it’s own thing, no handsy strings attached every time. I’d likely debate a few seconds on giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if needed, it was such a problem!

If you have asked your husband not to grab your backside or breast right away, and he does, then a good example of a boundary would be, as soon as he grabs you like that, kissing stops and sex is off the table that night. If he is not honoring your boundary, he is treating you like a thing that he owns, rather than a person he wants to serve and know. That isn’t okay.

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When she feels like he can’t handle it if kissing doesn’t go somewhere

Other times the issue is not that he feels it needs to go somewhere, but that the narrative in her mind is that if it doesn’t go somewhere, she’s depriving him and putting him in a really difficult position.

Here’s how one commenter described it:

Remember that misinterpretation of Shaunti Feldhan’s research about guys not wanting to stop once you get going?

A lot of us women were literally taught that guys do not have the self-control to stop once you get them riled up, or that guys will get blue b*lls and it will cause them physical pain if they don’t orgasm right then and there. So if you aren’t married yet, don’t do any of these things at all to protect your purity. (R*pe culture much?)

Well, that messaging then also creates dysfunction in marriage too and causes us to not even start the other things “just to be safe” if we aren’t up for sex. My husband and I just talked about this last week. That he deeply desires more physical affection from me, and I realized I had some of this programming leftover and was unconsciously avoiding it whenever I wasn’t up for sex. And he was so confused! He apparently did NOT get the message that it was impossible to stop.

He can stop at ANY time, even if there is some sexual touch too. He said it does help to lay out the expectation (of no sex intended) ahead of time, but he will always welcome a good make out session even if that’s all it is.

And just like you said, it’s funny, half the time I say I don’t want this to lead to more? It leads to more. Because with the pressure off I am able to enjoy it more first—which leads to me actually wanting more.

Just when I thought I had healed from purity culture, there’s another layer of dysfunction there waiting to be discovered. **sigh**

It can be so hard to get rid of this programming in your head! If you know this is you, here are some ideas that can help you break that guilt feeling like “he won’t be okay if kissing doesn’t lead to sex”. If you can see that he’ll be okay, then you can be free to enjoy kissing again–and even let desire grow naturally.

How to break the association that kissing needs to lead to sex

  • Talk to your husband like this woman did. You may find his response is a big stress relief for you!
  • Practice kissing when it doesn’t have to go anywhere! Even set a timer and say, “we’re going to kiss for 15 seconds without stopping” (that’s long that you think). And then go on with your day! If you’re both on board to practice this, it may help you reset the programming in your head.
  • Kiss at a time when it CAN’T go somewhere. Share some passionate kisses as he’s leaving for work, or right before you have to do something. Get in the habit of seeing that he can live if it ends like that–and also let desire build yourself!
  • Kiss on no sex nights. Make a decision, “tonight, we aren’t going to reach orgasm at all, no matter what.” And then just kiss to your heart’s content! If you know it can’t go anywhere, you can be free to just explore again.
  • Be teenagers again! Even drive to a makeout spot in your car and just kiss when you know nothing else can happen.
  • Deal with the association between kissing and panic. When you are kissing and you start to feel panic–”do I want sex now? Is this going anywhere?”–practice deep breathing, try to calm your mind, and just focus on the kissing. Or else just stop altogether and take some deep breaths, or turn to back rubs or something else. It’s important to allow your brain and body to stop associating panic with kissing, so when the panic response starts, then try to calm it, or, if you can’t, stop what you’re doing. Break that association!

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Kissing can be such a fun part of your relationship, and it’s sad that so many couples want to kiss more, but feel like they can’t. 

I hope these ideas can help (and I’d love to hear more of your ideas in the comments!).

Next to this issue, the other main problem women reported was bad hygiene, and not wanting to kiss someone who is stinky. So we’ll tackle that one next!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    It’s not JUST kissing that this happens with. A wife can no longer snuggle with her husband on the couch, a wife can’t rub her hand down her husband’s back or arm, she can’t hold hands walking through a parking lot, she can’t even inadvertently touch him with a toe while she rolls over in bed or tries to find a slightly more comfortable position.

    Once sex is morally allowed, that’s what ALL touch MUST lead to. And it takes a VERY short time for women to learn that lesson.

    • Suzanne

      I agree that with some men that touch leads them to believe that sex is always on the table, that somehow they think any touch equals their right to orgasm, but I don’t agree all women deal with husbands that behave that way. My husband and I can flirt all day long and not have sex on the table that day we know when it’s just flirting, just kissing, just snuggling. Men are very capable of being good peope who have control over their own desires, they just have to make the choice to not objectifying women as their own personal sex doll.

      I am so sad for the culture that taught men to behave like they are always owed use of another humans body just because they are married. The secular world is much healthier in the way they do not expect woman’s submission in all things including their body.

      • Jo R

        “Christian” pastors, teachers, and authors would never be so crude as to outright say to women, “If your husband gets an erection, he needs to ejaculate as soon as possible” (although Every Man’s Battle apparently comes close—pun intended), but the three or four things they do say explicitly most certainly do add up to that conclusion.

        And for the record, I agree with your outlook, but the rampant teaching in the church is that men need it, and constantly, or at least as soon as possible.

        It occurred to me the other day that the book title “The Act of Marriage” itself implies that marriage is only, or at least primarily, about that act, and other things are merely bonuses and not also necessary parts of marriage. 🤮

        • SLP

          This was our marriage (until sex came permanently off the table when I finally put a boundary in place around his p*rn use, and he refused to give it up…because he has tried, and for him it’s not possible). Prior to that, things like me asking for help getting my self-tanning lotion evenly applied to my back, asking for a neck rub after a particularly bad day at work, or agreeing to go away for a weekend all, in his mind, HAD to lead to s*x, or I wasn’t being FAIR. Regardless of what else was going on with me or between us.

        • JB

          This reminds me of reading “Preparing for Adolescence” by James Dobson when I was 12. I clearly remember the line “sex is the fun part of marriage”.
          I am happy to say that now, at 25 (and almost two years into marriage), I I know that James Dobson was advocating treating your spouse (a valuable human being, who you hopefully love intensely) like a sex toy.
          I married an amazing man. We can kiss and just kiss (or hug, or whatever). Because I’m dealing with vaginismus and sexual trauma, we have to pretty much keep it to “fooling around” right now. Yes, for me, sex has not been very fun, but we’re getting there. I’ve got a great counselor and am about to start pelvic floor physical therapy for the second time.
          I would say that the companionship, in all things, or someone who truly, completely loves you (and who you truly and completely love) is the fun part of marriage. James Dobson is giving kids (and adults) a meager and harmful view or marriage!

      • Sequoia

        Well said Suzanne!

        I think we need reminders that men like your husband exist.
        Mine is also wonderful, but I often view him as the only exception in a sea of horrible entitled “Christian” men and lose hope for the general population.
        So often I find that in places where sexuality and gender are discussed, all other Christian ethics are thrown out the window. As if the fruit of the spirit, the “one-anothers”, and everything for being a basic good human don’t have a seat at the table for how we should act in marriage or towards the queer community. 🤷‍♀️🤦‍♀️

    • Nessie

      Agreed with Jo R!

      I literally slept some nights with one foot on the floor to keep from falling off the bed b/c I couldn’t risk waking him up by accidentally bumping him, as he would wake up raring to go (which meant no sleep for me.) Oftentimes, I just slept sitting up in a chair in another room b/c I couldn’t risk it. If I had cramps, a UTI, yeast infection, any physical ailment that I just couldn’t deal with having intercourse b/c of, I often chose a chair and terrible sleep.

      And yes, every physical interaction held the “promise” of intercourse so I learned not to touch him He lived the extreme Feldhan claimed- mostly because he LEARNED from church culture he must be that way if he was a “manly man.” He truly behaved like he couldn’t survive if I “got him started” and didn’t follow through each time.

      Like that first example, I DID tell him not to grope me when just starting to kiss. He ignored me, so after years of it I finally set boundaries because I learned he was being unChristlike, I was enabling that behavior in him, and I had enough worth as a person to not be violated by the man that had promised to love me as Christ loved the church.

    • Connie

      For me, I couldn’t even smile at him, he would come and whisper that he caught me smiling, so I must want sex.
      I think that a lot of people see most relationship s as transactional and reactional, rather than Christlike.

    • Codec

      Snuggles feel good though. I don’t see a good reason not to snuggle just because sex is available.

      • Nessie

        Hey Codec-
        When you know that snuggling means you HAVE to have intercourse though (or else be treated badly for days until you finally do), it stops feeling good and you associate it with being forced to do something you may not want. Over years, it makes even something as sweet as snuggling turn into a stomach-flipping, anxiety-ridden mess. The only safe snuggles I could look forward to were from my kiddo.

        Wish more guys could be content with “just” snuggles sometimes, knowing there will be other days to do more.

  2. Suzanne

    I hope no man takes from this that his wife probably has a reactive libido so if they start kissing with no strings attached, those strings will all of a sudden be there and sex is now on the table because reactive libido how could she resist! If she says not tonight, that means something. If earlier she said I had a rough day lets just snuggle, kiss and go to sleep that means lets just snuggle , kiss and go to sleep.

    I was watching a video on fair play in Instagram and a man was explaining that doing the dishes is not a way to coerce your wife into sex, its just being an equal partner, helping out at home was not a tit for tat agreement that she now owes you her body. One of the first comments was a man saying come on guys if you wife says no offer her a back massage, always works that massage will lead to sex. He had so many comments from women that what he said was harmful and a back massage after a long day should be just a back massage especially if she had already said no, and that men who tried to fool their wives into sex this way just made women chose to not accept nice gestures because of the strings attached, every touch is not a sexual touch.

  3. Jen

    Sheila, could you say more about breaking the connection between physical touch and panic?

    The obligation sex message led me to dissociation during intimacy because it was a job I had to do. I crawled into my mind, and while I could feel pleasure, there was very little emotional intimacy (much of this was due to my husband’s emotional anorexia and hidden sex addiction – we are in individual therapy and more recently couples therapy with a licensed therapist).

    My husband and I are both working to overcome the damaging teachings and the other trauma in our marriage, but I still feel stuck in the leftovers of the obligation message. We’ve been married for almost 29 years, so this way of thinking is deeply habitual. I feel like my body and mind separate before I have a chance to step in. I want to have healthy sexuality with my husband. How do I break these old conditioned responses?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I’m going to do a post on learned helplessness and this trauma response–likely next week!

    • JB

      I would also love more information on panic and physical touch! I sometimes panic from physical touch. I also know that the obligation sex message plays a big part in this (even though my husband reminds me that it’s not true). For me, a lot of the obligation sex messages came from a therapist I saw for 10 years who, (I’m now convinced) got off on sexually objectifying girls and young women (I was 15 when I started seeing him), so there’s that (the flashbacks to him make me panic alongside the obligation sex message he gave me).

      • Nessie

        JB, I just wanted to say I saw your comment and am so sorry you were treated so horrendously by a
        “professional” that was meant to help and heal you, not damage you! That is unconscionable!

  4. Marian gallivan

    All this sex on the table… Not eating at your house! lol. We have been sexless for 6 years because of this, aging, his sexual selfishness, health issues, and verbal abuse. I’m just not interested in it anymore. Married 22 years today. I wish he would read this.


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