When couples come to my office to discuss improving their intimacy, one question I often ask is, "How often do you kiss?"
No, I don't mean the obligatory peck on the check or lips--the kind of kiss you give your grandma--I'm talking about a real kiss. You know the kind I mean: that you did at the end of your prom date, football game, saying goodnight to your date. Put that way, it sounds fun and exciting, doesn't it?
For some, the thought of really kissing your spouse sounds exciting, while for others it's awkward, since they may have forgotten what such a kiss is like.
Real kissing has many names: French kissing, grubbing, making out and even swapping spit. I call it "pleasure kissing" since research shows that this kind of kissing is indeed a source of pleasure as it stimulates the lips, tongue and mouth. The oral zone is one of the principal erogenous zones of the body, and it's thought that the tongue is more erogenous than the lips.
So what do most married couples say when I ask how often they pleasure kiss? Before reading their typical answer (and if you're married), pause here and answer the question for yourself.
Inevitably, my married clients answer, "Rarely." Many couples report that early in marriage they "pleasure-kissed" frequently, but later they rarely kissed that way except during intercourse.
Why is that?
1.Pleasure kissing can be more intimate than intercourse. Based on my research, many couples report that kissing is more intimate than intercourse. This wasn't the case for many in high school and college. Back then, kissing didn't have the same meaning that it has in marriage. Then it was playful and fun -- something you do when you like someone. For many in marriage, such kissing has more weight and meaning.
2. For many married couples, sex focuses more on climax and less on intimacy.
I define intimacy in sexuality as eye contact, emotional connection and being mentally present. After a long day filled with kids, work and dozens of other responsibilities, married couples just want to feel good without having to put in more time and effort that true intimacy requires.
3. Sometimes a desire for intimacy doesn't show up until you start kissing.Most individuals want to feel something -- passion, excitement, arousal -- before they kiss. However, in marriage, desire can start after you start kissing, not before. How many times have you thought during sex with your spouse, "Why the heck don't we do this more often?"
4. One partner "always" has kissing sexpectations. When I ask why married couples don't kiss, I often hear, "If we kiss, it always has to lead to sex." Without a doubt, couples who kiss have more sex. Yes, kissing in marriage usually creates more desire to have sex. And there are couples who make an intentional decision to increase kissing and hugging for a week while forgoing sex. The partner with a lower desire for sex will thank the other partner for offering such a guilt-free week.
5. One partner feels anxious about kissing.
"It's awkward to kiss since it's been so long." I hear this remark more than any of the ones above. "Awkward" is another word for anxiety, so in essence this answer means, "I feel anxious when we kiss just to kiss." If you want to have a better sex life, it is important to learn how to manage your anxiety and push through awkwardness.
What if you could gain more intimacy in your relationship simply by making a choice to kiss more often? Are you willing to go through some awkwardness and move past your anxiety to get to enjoyment?
If you are willing to try, here are a few tips that might help:
• For one week, focus on kissing and put sex on hold. Center in on being with your partner rather than trying to get to sex. Focus more on how much you care for and love your partner and less on getting something from them.
• If you feel your anxiety rising while you're kissing, as noted by an increased heart rate, shallow breathing, or feeling a fit of nervous laughter coming on, push through the anxiety by:
-- breathing through your nose
-- focusing your mind and your awareness on the moment
-- focusing your heart on connecting with your spouse
To learn more ways to improve your overall intimacy, communication and connection with your spouse, check out my new book The Story We Tell Ourselves.