I see so many couples who aren’t having sex, or only having disconnected, unsatisfying sex, and inevitably they are also not kissing. Kissing, like other
forms of gentle, sensual touch, is the link between emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy. It is very difficult to go from day to day living to sexual
intimacy without this intermediary stage. Kissing allows your body to relax and soften and from that arousal is possible.
From my column in Body+Soul
Question: My husband of 10 years and I have recently started seeing a marriage counsellor, and I feel like she’s on his side, and our sex life is ruined because of it. Why? Because my husband doesn’t like to kiss deeply, and the counsellor says he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. Kissing has always been a point of contention in our relationship, because I love a good, deep kiss and it seems to me like a cornerstone in sexual intimacy. But now he’s flat-out refusing, and is very smug about it. We started seeing a counsellor because we had drifted apart. Is this the final straw to make me end our marriage completely?
Answer: This is why you should always see a couples therapist who is trained in sexuality as well as relationships. This situation is far more complex than ‘he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to’. Can you imagine going to a dietitian because your health was bad, in part because you don’t eat vegetables and being told by the dietitian that you don’t have to eat vegetables if you don’t want to? That would be absurd! We know that vegetables are an essential part of a good diet and no authority on the subject would tell someone they don’t have to eat them simply because they don’t like them. Quite the opposite, the dietitian would explain why vegetables are so important to good health and investigate why you don’t like vegetables and discuss ways that vegetables could be made more appealing.
So, I am going to be your ‘dietitian’ of love, because kissing is like the ‘vegetables’ of intimacy. Without kissing your relationship is lacking essential ‘nutrients’. Research has shown that couples who kiss frequently have better relationship satisfaction, less stress and lower cholesterol.
But what is kissing? There is of course a whole range of ways in which we can kiss, from a brief peck to a long pash. A kiss can be lips closed, slightly open, tip of the tongue, whole tongue, wide open mouth. It can be done for a moment or for hours (or what seems like hours). A kiss can be done with no emotion or with overflowing emotion, disengaged or totally engaged.
So how do you each like to kiss? And in what circumstances? You say you like deep kissing and your husband doesn’t, but you don’t say how he likes to kiss and how you feel about it. This is where the conversation needs to be. It’s not about whether one has to succumb to the other’s desire or not, it’s about understanding meaning. You need to understand each other’s feelings around kissing. Why do you like deep kissing? Why doesn’t your husband? What does it mean for him, what is his experience of deep kissing, what needs to be different for him?
Once you discuss intimacy at this level of detail you will gain the information you need as a couple to co-create mutually desirable intimacy. It could be that he came from an emotionally distant family and finds kissing awkward, so needs to learn how to approach and enjoy. Maybe you come in too quickly, so he recoils rather than moving towards, in which case you need to practice an approach and a pace that makes him feel comfortable and engaged. Maybe he likes lots of little kisses before slowly increasing the depth. Maybe you go on for too long. Maybe you move your tongue in ways he doesn’t like. Maybe you use too much saliva. Maybe you have bad breath and he’s too embarrassed to tell you!
There are so many factors at play here, and it can make for really interesting conversation that is also deep and connecting. Try having this conversation with your husband on your own. Be inquisitive and non-judgemental about what he does like and why, what he struggles with and why. From there you can share gently and openly about why you desire him in this way and how good it makes you feel. Find the commonality through this discussion and explore ways of connecting that do make him comfortable.
If you can’t find resolution on your own, or the conversation is too difficult, then find a therapist who is trained and practiced in sex and intimacy and can help facilitate your conversation.
Most importantly, don’t give up on your relationship. If you love and desire each other, with the help of a skilled therapist you will find your way through.