Help! My Partner Is a Terrible Kisser

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

A few months ago I started dating a woman who has a lot going for her—great personality, whip-smart, professionally accomplished, lots in common including music and sports—but things have not been ideal in the romance department. I think a lot of it has to do with how she kisses me. She has this thing she does (almost every time) where she practically sucks my lips entirely into her mouth, uses her teeth, darts her tongue, and slobbers all over me. It’s way too wet and over-the-top for me, and it distracts heavily from anything else that might be happening. In fact, it not only makes me not want to kiss her, it makes me not want to have sex with her because I know kissing will happen. I have erectile difficulties with her in part, I think, because this is always in the back of my mind. (I have not traditionally had such issues with other women.)

Before you mention it, I have talked to her candidly about this at least three times, as gently as I can. She knows our kissing isn’t working for me. She has given lip service (pun intended) to wanting to adjust how she kisses me. I have tried to lead the way a few times and asked her to do as I do. Yet she continues to kiss me like my face is a lollipop. I can’t take it anymore.

She is the only person I’ve ever dated who I’ve had this issue with. I am tired of mentioning it, and am starting to get the impression this kissing style is hardwired into her. If that is the case, I don’t see any choice other than to part ways. It’s just not sustainable (to me, anyway) to not want to kiss or have sex with the person I’m seeing. Any advice for me to try to salvage this before I kiss her goodbye? —Death to Smooching

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Dear Smooching,

Your friend might benefit from some help and persistence. I know of another similar case involving a college student who thought kissing meant pushing his teeth very hard into his date’s teeth. Needless to say, this was uncomfortable to his partners, and so he soon had no partners—which was a shame because, like your friend, he has many things going for him.

He was inexperienced and trying to seem otherwise; he needed lessons in kissing and some patience, but even more than that, he needed to learn how to choose the right partner. He was dating the kind of person he thought he was supposed to like instead of someone he found truly attractive. This took some time to work out, as he had to let go of his assumptions and find out what came naturally to him instead of playing the part he thought he was supposed to play.

Your date’s kissing style, as you describe it, seems uniquely hers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what comes naturally to her. Like the college student, she may be playing a part and over-acting to make up for certain feelings, perhaps including inadequacy. Without knowing her, however, that’s purely speculation. On the other hand, she may feel her kisses are genuinely sexy—and perhaps to some people they might be, but they are clearly not sexy to you. In fact, they turn you off.

Like sex, kissing needs to deliver mutual enjoyment. Focusing on pleasing your partner while being pleased yourself can be uniquely satisfying. Clearly, your friend is not focusing on your desire. Do you focus on hers? Are you able to? It sounds more like you are trying to endure her kisses since they are not pleasurable to you. Even though you’ve told her, she doesn’t seem able to understand what you’re saying, or if she does, the information simply isn’t sticking. Perhaps there is anxiety around this issue on the part of both of you at this point, but it’s hard to say without getting her perspective.

Let her know you’re coming from a place of concern and wanting to make a good thing (the relationship aside from kissing/sex) better. Let her know that what is happening is preventing you from enjoying her kisses—and you so want to enjoy her kisses!

It sounds like your relationship is in its infancy, so I’m not sure how invested you feel in it, but you describe this woman as having a lot of desirable qualities you might not want to give up. Maybe it’s worth considering going to see a couples therapist or a sex therapist together. It sounds like it couldn’t hurt. If you’re thinking about ending things with her, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by seeking help.

In the meantime, tell her what you like and don’t like—again. Continue to be gentle, but be honest and clear. Let her know you’re coming from a place of concern and wanting to make a good thing (the relationship aside from kissing/sex) better. Let her know that what is happening is preventing you from enjoying her kisses—and you so want to enjoy her kisses!

Also, ask her explicitly what, specifically, she finds pleasurable. It’s a two-way street, and if this kissing style has worked for her in the past, it’s possible your approach feels foreign to her. I’m wondering if you might both benefit from taking things more slowly. That means feeling your way through kissing, one movement and reaction at a time. If one or both of you is anxious, stop, relax, and wait until you’re ready to begin again. Starting, holding back, starting again, and releasing after a time—that’s sexy. Perhaps some wine, music, and/or low lights to help set the mood?

A kiss is still a kiss, as they say, but your friend needs to work on her style if she’d like more of yours. If you want to sustain or, better yet, improve your relationship, keep doing what you can to help her.

Kind regards,

Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.

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