Bleak? Definitely not because there are ways to be a better kisser and we have the goods. Plus, your kissing skills play a role in your overall relationship’s health. You might not think kissing is this huge thing, but it never stops being a cornerstone of happy intimate partnerships.
“The first kiss is a deal-breaker in terms of determining how the relationship will play out. A woman feels a kiss can predict how good of a lover a guy will be. A bad kiss will deter her from getting involved with him,” Susan M. Hughes, Ph.D, author of a prolific 2013 kissing study, tells Men’s Health.
If you’re a good kisser, you might just get a relationship out of it. While this doesn’t negate being, you know, a nice human being, it can help.
Jen, a 27-year-old from New York City, says she’d start a relationship with a guy based on his kissing: “If a man is conscientious and intuitive enough to kiss me in a way that makes me feel special and cared about, then that tells me he’s the kind of man I’d like to be in a relationship with,” she says.
Kissing tip 1: Take care of your breath
Take your breath into consideration. Bad breath or scummy teeth will always be a turnoff for a potential partner. It might seem trivial, but science says there are legitimate reasons we trip over someone’s breath.
A partner subconsciously evaluates you by the way your breath smells and mouth tastes. Studies have shown that humans use kissing as a way to source out potential mates based on microbial makeups. By swapping saliva, you’re able to tell if a person’s immune system compliments yours. Evolutionary speaking, if you choose a mate with a complementary immune system, you’ll produce stronger offspring. We know, science. So cool.
While a partner might not know why she finds your smell or breath so appealing (or not), science does. So, make sure you pop a mint to increase chances of success.
“An immediate turn-off would be bad breath,” says Kristina, 22, from San Diego.
Lips are important too. “Kissing requires good breath and moist, non-crusty or chapped lips,” says Whitney, 27, of Philadelphia. “These things show a guy takes care of himself, a crucial sign he can care for others. Good breath and moist lips may also indicate that he was considerate enough to freshen up after the garlic-bread appetiser.”
Showing someone you care enough about their comfort to freshen up means a lot and goes a long way. And if you or your potential boo are grossed out by each other’s smells, despite your care - well, it might just not be a great fit. You can’t fake chemistry.
Kissing tip 2: Be gentle
Kristina says overeager kisses are always bad. “Sometimes it seems like he’s eating your face off. A good kiss would be relaxed and natural,” she says.
Does that mean no tongue? Not necessarily. Start with slow kisses, move to opening your mouth a little, and if it feels right—try a little tongue.
“A willingness to explore with pressure, tongue, and body positioning is good,” Whitney says. “A gentle but firm and controlled touch on my face or back is great; covering my lips and chin with his mouth is not.”
“A good kiss combines spontaneity, tongue but not too much force, light nibbling to my lower lip, and using your hands to touch other parts of my body,” says Kristy, 24, of New York. “That combo equals euphoria for me.”
“Be present in the kiss- touch their hair, touch their face, go at the same pace and take the time to connect. Major turn offs are when someone cannot recognise they are too fast, too firm, or too tongue-y,” says Liz, 28.
If her kiss is passionate, she’s ready to play. Match her aggressive style by sucking on her lips a little more forcefully.
“No sloppy, wet kisses with mushy lips. Save those for puppies,” Adds Louise, 56.
Use the tip of your tongue to play with hers. Maybe even a lit lip nibble could be nice.
Kissing tip 3: Kissing doesn't always mean sex is on the table
Don’t think that a kiss guarantees sex. Just because someone makes out with you, doesn't’ mean they want to sleep with you.
Before you kiss someone, be sure they’re into it. “First and foremost, make sure the person in front of you is consenting,” says Anne, Laure, 28. “It doesn't happen that often for people to just assume and go for it, but it's way too common at parties.”
“Kissing and making out are the ultimate foreplay—how can you get in the mood without testing the waters first?” Jen says.
“Kissing is the starting line for sex,” says Whitney. “It heightens my senses and sends me into overdrive. Kissing brings you face to face and forces you to look into the eyes of the person with whom you're about to share this incredible experience.”
Women in the study said kissing was important before, during, and after sex—and we’re talking about her mouth here.
“Kissing helps get your partner aroused for sex,” Hughes says. “And, afterward, women want more kissing because it creates more of a bond.”
Kissing tip 4: Kissing and cuddling never stop being important
The first smooch may score you a second date, but kisses are important throughout a relationship. Showing your partner affection keeps them in a comfortable state. For many of us, we need intimacy to be reminded we're valued and appreciated. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together three months or ten years, kissing is always needed.
Charyn, 45, from Seattle, says that kissing essentially foreplay. It shows your interest and need for your partner. Making your partner feel wanted is super important:
“I love a good makeout sesh—it's one my favourite kinds of foreplay. I like to go slow and let my lips, tongue and hands wander until I find a good groove with my partner. There's a fine line between being too aggressive and simply being greedy because you can't get enough. The latter is super hot.”
“Once the initial excitement of a new relationship settles, kissing is sometimes the first thing that becomes routine—if you let it,” Kristy says. “If you don’t, though, then a great kiss can let me know how much you love me even if I’m not wearing makeup and I have old sweatpants on and my hair is frizzy.”
“Long-term relationships need lots of rekindling on a regular basis, and a simple kiss is a great way to do this,” Jen explains.
“A kiss can mean anything from ‘I know you’re working hard on a big project right now, but I want to remind you I love and support you’ to ‘Turn off the TV and come to bed with me,’” she says.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health