4 Things That Determine A Great Kiss — Or A Terrible One

Research shows great kisses are a super important part of a strong relationship.

A drawing of two love birds kissing  Edward Eyer from Pexels, Giuseppe Ramos J via Canva

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

Passionate, intimate kissing is a central part of expression in romantic relationships. In addition to feeling good physically, pleasurable kissing is associated with 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 were intimate with their partner. In addition, couples who kissed more frequently were more satisfied in their relationships.

Given the importance of kissing to 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.


Four important aspects of a great kiss:

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

RELATED: The Kind Of Kiss A Woman Will Never, Ever Forget

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.

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? 

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?

Your emotional experience: 
How did you feel emotionally during your kiss? Did you feel excited? Euphoric? In love? Repulsed?

RELATED: Why Do We Kiss? Science Explains Why People Kiss To Show Affection


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.

Great kisses 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 interest in a person because of a less-than-ideal kissing experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes quote about kissing 


The secret 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.


RELATED: How Each Zodiac Sign Kisses

Cortney Warren, Ph.D., ABPP, is a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). She is also the author of Letting Go of Your Ex and Lies We Tell Ourselves.