Humans have been kissing each other for probably as long as they’ve had lips, and it’s no secret why: A good kiss is a blissful experience, like taking a bite of a delicious snack, high-fiving the coolest person you know and acing a difficult test all at the same time, while fireworks go off in the distance.
It’s physical, it’s psychological, it’s emotional — hell, in some circumstances, it might even approach the spiritual.
A couple kissing on the lips is almost a universal stand-in for the concept of romantic love, and even before we’ve ever locked lips with someone for the first time, most of us can detect what subtle variations in kissing mean: a quick peck is unemotional; a tongue-heavy French kiss is passionate; long is intimate, short is nervous and shy.
Location matters, too — lips are expected; on the cheek is platonic, even distant; the forehead is parentally protective; on the neck is seductive and raw. (And, well, there are a few other places you can kiss someone, too…)
But when you’re first starting out, the lips are the place to go. That puts both partners on the same level; there’s no kisser-and-kissee dynamic; just two people who want to be very close to each other in a special, specific way enjoying the sensations of desire in a way that only kissing can bring you.
Sound good to you? Most likely, you already know that you want to kiss someone. You might have a specific person in mind, or you might have specific persons in mind — or you might not.
But if you’re nervous about kissing someone for the first time, have no fear. We spoke to two different dating experts, as well as a number of men and women about their first-kiss experiences to put together this guide.
It’s been explicitly constructed to help you overcome your first-kiss jitters and with any luck, you’ll be a kissing expert in no time.
1. Kiss Preparation & How to Practice Kissing
“We met online and were long-distance for two months before meeting in person, and we kept talking about whether we were going to kiss right away or not, and how and when, in painful detail — and then as we approached each other I panicked and hit him with my keys.” – Rachel, 27
The first kiss between any two people can be a nerve-wracking experience — even if they’re both experienced kissers. That’s because kissing someone for the first time changes the dynamic between you in a big way.
You’re expressing in a real, physical way the reality that you’re attracted to them, and because attraction is such a powerful and often confusing feeling, the prospect of kissing for the first time can often feel overwhelming and nerve-wracking.
Since there’s a natural desire to practice things a little bit before trying them for real, you might wonder if there’s a way to practice kissing. The answer is yes — and no. While you can familiarize yourself with the physical sensations of kissing, you can’t really practice kissing without another person to kiss, since the emotional component is such a big part of it.
That being said, if you want to get comfortable with the physical mechanics of kissing, there are definitely ways to work on that without another person present.
“Practice kissing using a piece of ripe, soft fruit, like a peach or plum,” says dating coach Connell Barrett. “Start by softly, lightly brushing your lips against the skin of the fruit. After a minute or so, gradually increase the pressure, and use the tip of your tongue.”
You can also just practice kissing yourself on the arm or hand — joining your thumb and forefinger together into a mouth-like shape where your thumb is the bottom lip and your index finger is the top lip — and experiment with kissing each “lip” in turn, putting your lips together and pressing softly against the “mouth” of your hand.
Dating and relationship coach and host of the “Man Whisperer” podcast Laurel House suggests that being gentle is much, much more important than asserting your dominance when it comes to kissing, especially in the early going.
“Think about how you lick an ice cream cone,” she says. “Your tongue is soft and moving around. It’s sensual and slow.”
Though you might not be bringing your tongue into the equation right away — kissing with tongue, also known as ‘making out’ and ‘French kissing’ is something you’ll want to wait on until you’re both comfortable with lips-only kissing — the ice-cream cone mentality is a good one to keep in mind. You’re not trying to destroy or devour your ice cream, you’re trying to slowly enjoy it with a soft touch that won’t knock it sideways off the cone or lead to brain freeze.
It’s also important not to get too nervous about kissing. Particularly if the person you’re going to kiss is also a first-timer or relatively inexperienced, it’s OK if it takes you a few attempts (or more!) to figure out a kissing style that works for both of you.
“If you aren’t great kissers together at first, that can change,” says House. “Everyone has their own kissing style, and your styles can mesh in time.”
The most important thing about a good kiss is both people wanting to kiss each other. Everything else can be lacking, but if the emotional component is just right, that won’t matter. On the flip side, if you do everything right but you or the other person isn’t particularly really interested, it’s likely to be an unpleasant experience at best.
2. When to Kiss & How to Initiate a Kiss
“My first kiss was in a subway station a few weeks before I turned 16. I was saying goodbye to my girlfriend, and as the train came in I said, ‘Kiss?’ and she said, ‘OK!’ and that was that. Consent is important!” – Ian, 30
As great as a kiss can be, the feeling of getting rejected is just as powerful — but in a bad way, not a good way.
It can feel like an overwhelming failure; like you’re unattractive or overall worthless. Of course, there are lots of reasons someone might say no to a kiss, but in the moment, it can be hard not to feel extremely disappointed.
“The biggest kissing-related challenge guys face is knowing when to move in for the first [one],” says Barrett. “It’s about fear. Going for it and getting the cheek can feel awkward, even painful.”
So how can you know that the person you want to kiss wants to kiss you back? How can you know for sure that you’ll get a kiss and not a rejection? Well, it’s tricky. Without the ability to read minds, you’re left with two possible ways to figure it out — the other person telling you, and a good guess about what they want based on contextual clues.
“Sadly, your date won’t hold up a flashcard that reads, ‘Kiss me!’” Barrett says. “So look for indicators that they’re connecting with you and are ready to [start kissing]. Start with the eyes — look for a deep, steady gaze. It’s a good sign if they’ve been casually touching your arm, knee or thigh, and leaning their body into yours.”
In addition to touching you, House notes that your date touching themselves can also be a sign that they’re ready for some kissing action.
“If you notice that she keeps looking down at your lips, she starts playing with her hair, or she touches her lips, those are signs of interest in kissing,” she says.
“No matter how many signs you get, initiating the first kiss usually takes good old-fashioned courage,” Barrett says. “Assuming you feel a nice connection, simply make a decision that you’re gonna go for the kiss, then slowly, confidently move in. It helps to wait for a window — a silence of two or three seconds with continued eye contact. That’s a great time to lean in and lock lips.”
RELATED: Here’s What You Need to Know About Sexual Consent
However, if you don’t get that window, don’t force it. It’s better to ask if the other person wants to be kissed than it is to kiss them out of nowhere — which could be confusing at best or deeply shocking and traumatic at worst for the other person, and could technically constitute sexual assault depending on how they feel about the experience.
3. How to Kiss & How Not to Kiss: Kissing Dos & Don’ts
“I banged my teeth against the other person’s teeth the first time I kissed someone at the ripe old age of 15. But I very kindly asked for a do-over — and that went well.” – Bryan, 35
Still not sure how to get your kiss on without committing any horrible mistakes? The experts I spoke with helped break down some basic dos and don’ts to ensure your kissing game is up to par.
Do: Check Your Breath
An otherwise great kiss can be tragically ruined — or prevented from even happening — if you have some seriously bad breath. Some people will be willing to overlook (or oversmell?) a mouth that smells like it hasn’t been cleaned in a while, but regardless, why gamble?
If your breath is smelling great, your kiss won’t just be a great sense experience, it’ll also mean you can feel confident and worry-free. If you think you might be kissing someone — say, on a date — it’s a good idea to prepare yourself in the breath department.
“Brush your teeth and brush your tongue,” Barrett advises. “The tongue’s large surface area and countless crevices make the perfect home to odor-causing bacteria. Give your tongue a good pre-date brushing,” he suggests — or even consider getting a tongue scraper, which could be more effective.
It’s also a good idea to bring something with you to freshen up closer to the kiss itself — especially if you’re eating beforehand or the first-kiss moment drags on until you realized you brushed your teeth hours ago.
“It’s OK and not cheesy to use a breath mint,” House advises. “Gum is less good, unless you can spit it out right before making out.”
Don’t: Overdo the Tongue
“The biggest don’t? Keep your tongue holstered at first,” says Barrett. “A man who’s all tongue is bad as a man who’s all hands. Start slowly and softly and let her decide that she’s ready to use tongues. If she does, let the Frenching commence.”
House agrees that a subdued approach is better, tongue-wise. Once you get the go-ahead, she says, “Make sure to soften your tongue.”
“You don’t want to be jabbing her with your tongue. You’re not a lizard. You also don’t want to be shooting your tongue in and out and in and out. It’s more of a figure-eight and a dance.”
Don’t: Take Your Cues From Porn
For starters, even if many of the kisses you’ve seen in your life have been in porn, it’s not a great place to get an idea of how to kiss. The actors in porn aren’t trying to recreate a romantic first kiss; they’re trying to titillate the paying customers.
“Porn is not the best example when it comes to how to kiss, since it tends to be more extreme — like spitting in each other’s mouths,” House says. “In general, licking a woman’s entire face (yes, people do this) — is generally not sexy. Except maybe during very dirty sex.”
If you’re really intent on watching people kiss to get an idea of what to do, kisses in romantic movies are more likely to approximate what you’re going for.
Do: Listen to Your Kissing Partner
Regardless, the best approach is to ask what the person you’re kissing likes — if not beforehand then at least early on, and certainly before you try anything new or extreme. It’s great to want to experiment, but you can’t know for sure how the other person will feel unless you talk about it.
“Every [person] likes something different, so just because one person likes something, or you read a book about one person liking something, doesn’t mean that [this person] will,” House cautions.
So if you ignore everything else in this article — at least pay attention to this and keep the other person’s requests and desires in mind when kissing.
4. How to Be a Good Kisser: Advanced Kissing Techniques
“My first real hardcore makeout kiss that I can remember was at an amusement park in like eighth grade. He was really tall and lanky — and a Juggalo — but he was an amazing kisser.” – Jennifer, 29
OK, so you’ve got the basics down. Congrats! But what about the next step up from that? What separates an amazing kisser from a merely competent one?
To some degree, that will be more a question of your chemistry with the person you’re kissing. Are you both into the same kiss dynamics? Do you like long kisses or slow ones, lots of tongue or none, lots of hand action or barely any?
That being said, a really good kisser will be flexible and able to adapt to his partner’s preferences — as well as have a few tricks up his sleeve. Here are some advanced techniques that the average guy might not know about:
How to Ask Smoothly
It’s always better to ask before you try to do something new or unexpected to someone’s body, and kissing is no exception. However, asking can feel awkward, and if you’re concerned about ruining the moment, Barrett suggests you try this approach:
“To test the waters, make deep eye contact with your date, give a mischievous smile, and say, ‘Close your eyes.’” he says. At this point, there’s a good chance that she’ll know what you’re getting at. “If she’s ready, she’ll shut her eyes,” says Barrett. “It’s a smooth way to get the green light without having to ask, ‘Can I kiss you?’”
“If she doesn’t close her eyes, wait for another window of opportunity to open,” he suggests — or if she asks why, admit that you want to kiss her. Framing it as a desire on your part enables her to consider what she wants without putting pressure on her to answer yes or no right away.
Trying Different Techniques
At the end of the day, kissing is always going to be variations on two people putting their mouths together. That’s not to say that you can’t get creative, however.
“Techniques like sucking her tongue, licking the inside of the top of her lip, and biting [her lips] can be fun, but [might be] better during intense sex than during everyday kissing,” says House. Regardless, she notes, “It’s OK to ask her what she likes and what she wants more of.”
Similarly, if your kissing partner suggests something new, you can try giving that a shot — not everything you try needs to come from you.
Stop and Start
As pleasant as kissing can feel in the moment, realistically, doing the same thing over and over can get repetitive and even boring after a while. A good solution to this is to work little breaks into a kissing session.
“Sometimes you are going to kiss for long periods of tongue-in-mouth, then you might do a couple of different pecks for different periods of time close-lipped, then go back in for tongue kisses for a few seconds or even minutes or more if it’s really great,” says House. “Pull back a couple of times to look at her, then push forward towards her again for another kiss.”
Taking a little break is also a great way to check in with your kissing partner to make sure they’re still enjoying themselves.
“If she does a quick and short peck,” says House, there’s a good chance “she doesn’t want to continue kissing.” If you have any doubts, just let your partner take the lead for a change — or ask!
5. Trying Different Kissing Positions
“We were listening to Avril Lavigne in my bedroom in the sixth grade. He made the first move, but I was definitely ready.” – Essie, 28
While much kissing is envisioned or depicted with both participants standing up facing each other, when it comes to kissing positions, you’re really only limited by your imaginations (and the space you’re in, and each other’s physical abilities).
You can kiss with your bodies parallel; lying on top of each other; or lying next to each other on a bed, or with one of you hanging upside down; one or both of you could be sitting; you can kiss up if your partner is taller or down if they’re shorter; if you’re really ambitious, you can kiss each other while walking side by side at a brisk pace. If you and your partner are both open to trying things, you can experiment and see which kissing positions you like best.
One technique that’s great when it comes to what to do with your bodies is using your hands. That doesn’t necessarily mean letting them roam wherever you like — after all, your kissing partner might not be ready for full-on heavy petting, where you fondle their erogenous zones — but that using your hands can amp up the intensity and intimacy of a kiss.
And, as House points out, there are lots of ways to do that without touching body parts that aren’t yet ready to be touched.
“You can put your hand in her hair while kissing, support the back of her head, put your hand on her lower back, hold her face, with your hand on her cheeks, she says. “There are so many styles to play with and practice.”
Depending on how much experience you have, kissing can feel like the most exciting thing ever — or something you already feel almost bored of. But a good kiss, or kissing session, between two people who are truly into each other can be an incredibly delightful experience.
“Kissing can be even sexier and intimate than sex if you do it well,” House says. “It’s an essential connector. Kiss hello and goodbye. Once you start kissing, you’ll likely find that you’re more emotionally connected, too.“