4 Things That Make a Kiss Amazing—or Horrible

Most of us have experienced an amazing kiss that leaves us tingling from head to toe. Unfortunately, most of us have also kissed someone that took us from a place of excited enthusiasm to sobering disinterest and even repulsion.

Passionate, intimate kissing is a central part of sexual expression in romantic relationships. In addition to feeling good physically, pleasurable kissing is associated with sexual arousal, attraction, and bonding. In a 2020 study that included 1,605 adults in long-term committed relationships, Busby and colleagues found that the more frequently people kissed, the more positively they experienced sex with their partner. This included being more generally interested in sex, becoming sexually aroused, and reaching orgasm. In addition, couples who kissed more frequently were more satisfied in their relationships.

4 Important Aspects of a Great Kiss

Given the importance of kissing to sexual and relationship satisfaction, you may wonder what makes a kiss amazing, In a recent study of 691 US adults, Simpson and colleagues (2020) found that participants described the “best kisses” as those that evoked emotion—including passion, love, or surprise.

Overall, four primary characteristics affected whether a kiss was amazing—or terrible:

  1. How good the kiss physically felt: The actual physical components of the kiss—everything from how someone moved their tongue, lips, and head to how their breath smelled.
  2. Your kissing partner: Who you kissed and whether you had a romantic or sexual connection with them. Was it a stranger? A crush? A long-term partner?
  3. Where and when the kiss happened: The context for kissing—the circumstances around how and when the kiss occurred. Was it on a romantic vacation after a relaxing dinner? At a club late at night on the dance floor? Sitting on the couch eating popcorn in pajamas?
  4. Your emotional experience: How you felt emotionally during your kiss. Do you feel excited? Euphoric? In love? Repulsed?

Researchers found that the best kisses were typically experienced with a meaningful partner—someone people were already in a relationship with and strongly attracted to. They evoked strong emotions of love, longing, and passion and were associated with memories or occasions that were highly positive. The feelings, circumstances, and connection to the romantic partner were more important to how wonderful the kiss was than the physical mechanics.

Conversely, the worst kisses were described as being physically intolerable—participants described them with disgust, antipathy, and even revulsion. For example, too much tongue or saliva was a turnoff. In this study, about 44 percent of participants lost romantic or sexual interest in a person because of a less-than-ideal kissing experience.

The Naked Truth Is This

Want more amazing kisses? Understanding what you like in a kiss and openly talking with romantic partners about it can help. In long-term romantic relationships, Hughes and Kruger (2011) found that kissing is more important before sex than after; and, cuddling and verbally expressing love to your mate is more important after sex as part of bonding. So, to keep a meaningful relationship close, don’t forget to kiss and enjoy it. Not only does it feel good, but it adds to the shared emotional experience central to a romantic partnership.

Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D., ABPP

Note: This content is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. I cannot respond to personal requests for advice over the internet. Best on your continued journey.

Image Source: kieferpix by Getty Images

Dr. Cortney S. Warren, PhD, ABPP

Exposed to a diversity of cultures and lifestyles from an early age, Dr. Cortney was intrigued by the ways cultural and environmental conditions affected the psychological well-being of individuals, groups, and even whole societies.


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