INVESTIGATIVE FICTION Putting Kissing Research into Practice April 20, 2013 Written by Colby Stream Edited by Nicholas Chimonas
Putting Kissing Research into Practice My goal with these studies isn’t just to inform and entertain. Learning for learning’s sake is narrow-minded and unintelligent; if we learn something, we should incorporate it into our lives. Each person will do this differently. Just as two people who bring different chemical make-ups to the make-out table, we all bring varying elements from our lives to this study. What is important to me may not be important or novel to you. However, that hasn’t stopped me from taking my best shot at offering some observations that I think will be useful to most people. I’ve classified these into three sections. Read them straight through, or jump to the section most relevant to you. • Advice for unmarried folks (including teens) • Advice for married couples • Advice for parents
Unmarried Folks (including teens) The beauty of what we’ve unearthed in this study is that it gives you more control over your sexual and romantic life. It’s a little akin to knowing the rules of nutrition when it comes to eating. Once you know what your body needs you can make selective choices about what you give it, instead of just eating everything in sight. Of course, the metaphor doesn’t hold up completely, but in the end you can either “just go with the flow” or you can pay attention to what your body is saying. To better understand what I mean, let me break the advice into three areas: trust, date choices and sex.
Trust Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to “fall in love” with some of the biggest jerks on the planet? Now you have your answer: oxytocin. (If you haven’t read what we learned about oxytocin, read it here.) The chemical doesn’t tell us that a person actually is trust worthy; it just creates an attachment that encourages trust to start and then grow. Be aware that your body has the potential to trick you. When you hug a date, even for a short time, you’re building attachment and trust. When you do something for the first time with a person – hug, hold hands, cuddle – your body will release dopamine, rewarding and reinforcing the act. This may be a good thing. In fact, most the time it probably is. But it also may not be a good thing. When you’re spending time with a person, pay attention to the following:
The amount of physical contact you have. Physical contact isn’t bad, but too much may blind you to the realities of who the person really is (if they’re trying to hide something).
Things that don’t add up. If you ever feel yourself wanting to trust a person but also hesitating without knowing why, think it through carefully. It’s possible that the chemicals in your body are telling you to “trust” while your head (or intuition, if you will) is telling you there’s something wrong.
How you feel. If all you feel is romanticism – a sense of trust and attachment, a fluttery feeling, pleasure from the latest act – your relationship is superficial. That’s not bad; everybody starts at superficial. But if you’re a year into a relationship and that’s all you have, start asking yourself why there’s not more.
Date Choices A date usually goes one of two ways. In the first scenario you don’t hit it off. Given this information you now have some idea, at least, as to why. I think it’s easier to walk away from something when you understand it. For example, if I know that I’ll never be able to jump 20 feet high because of gravity, I’ll have an easy time giving up that goal. The same goes with dating; when you understand that your chemical makeup and their chemical makeup just may not jive, you can walk away easier. In the second dating scenario you do hit it off. In these instances, you not only know why but also know how to encourage the relationship. Are things feeling the same? Maybe the answer isn’t to “take the relationship to the next level.” Maybe it just means you’ve been to the movie theatre, the bowling alley and the pizza parlor on the last three dates and you need to do something new and exciting. Now you have science on your side when you tell your boyfriend or girlfriend why you want to try something new.
Sex Some people don’t mind having sex before marriage; others would like to wait. No matter which you are, this information helps you. If you don’t mind having sex before marriage, this information helps you understand the steps that lead to sex. If you want to have great sex, follow these guidelines. 1. Build the trust by touching and kissing a lot 2. Couple that with trying something new 3. End the night with a great time in bed If you want to wait until marriage to have sex, you now know what you need to pay attention to so that you don’t find yourself knocking at sex’s door:
• • •
Monitor physical contact Don’t kiss for extended periods of time Be careful about how much you’re bonding, particularly during high-dopamine releasing activities
Above all, just be aware, no matter what your beliefs are. Driving a car is a lot more safe and fun when you understand how it works; the same is true for kissing, dating and the way our bodies react. So be aware.
Married Couples For a couple weeks before this study my wife was talking about how kissing always seemed to lead to sex in our relationship. If you’re a married guy it’s likely you’ve had the same conversation. My response, internally at least, was always, “Well, yea, that might be true. But so what?” Now I know the answer to that question: I’m hurting my wife, our marriage and myself in the long run. It is to our benefit to pay attention to how much physical contact we have, without the promise of sex, and make the choice to do something new and fun together. Given that, I have some practical advice about how to do this in three different areas: • • •
Physical touch Kissing (or: when the other spouse doesn’t want sex) Trying new things
Physical Touch Brainstorm ways that you can touch more often. Here are some of my ideas: • • • •
Watch TV while laying together on the couch Embrace in the evening when you get home Hold hands when driving Give nonsexual massages (if possible, do it naked)
If you want to build a firm foundation of trust and attachment then just be conscious about it. Life is hectic and we tend to forget that we need to slow down and just touch each other.
Kissing (or when the other spouse doesn’t want sex) Make it a habit to kiss more often, and to put some affection into it. Like reading a book, kissing should be done both in short and long bursts. Here are a few ideas about when you can incorporate kissing into your life: •
When you depart in the morning and return in the evening. A few seconds of tongue-in-mouth kissing goes a long ways to setting up a relaxing, fun evening.
When you do something special for the other person, such as bringing them dinner, after giving them a massage or after doing a “honey do.”
In the bathroom. If your woman (or man) spends a lot of time in front of the mirror, interrupt them for a few seconds and steal a kiss.
In the car. Come on; you did it all the time as a teen!
What about those moments when one person wants to have sex but the other doesn’t? This is an instance where one person is crying out for physical contact, so don’t shut them out completely. Make it clear that you don’t want to have sex, but you’ll spend some time kissing instead. This does two things. First, it turns a potentially negative scenario into a positive one. Second, it sets you up for great sex at another time (you’ll get the hormones ready, giving the body time to warm up).
Trying New Things Wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Repeat. That’s about how most of us live our lives, and that’s OK. But it doesn’t exactly ignite the dopamine receptors in our brain. Spend some time talking with your spouse about fun things that you’ve never done together. Here are a few of my ideas. Although these tend to lean to the romantic/sexual side, yours don’t have to: •
Surprise your spouse by jumping in the shower with them.
Make out and/or have sex in different locations of the house, and in different positions.
Break the routine. Show up at your spouse’s work without them expecting it and have lunch together.
Anticipate what will come later. Tell your spouse that you’d like to cuddle or kiss or have sex at “X” time, leaving them to think about it between now and then.
Ditch your responsibilities (responsibly, of course). If you don’t stay up late normally then plan a date that keeps you out doing something fun until much later than bedtime. If you normally rise early to do yard or housework, stay in bed an extra hour and enjoy each other’s company.
The physical and chemical part of a marriage is just that: a part of it. But if it’s lagging you now have the tools to correct that and keep it going strong for a long time to come.
Parents If there’s anything this study has taught us it’s that kissing is so engrained in our culture and our history that you won’t be able to keep your kids from it. Your child may not even make it out of kindergarten without finding out what kissing is, and possibly even giving it a try. I suggest, then, that you teach them all of this. Teach your kids about the history of kissing you’ve read here. Teach them about the chemical reactions that happen when two people kiss. Teach them how to make logical, conscious, aware decisions about their relationships. Make them aware that just because they feel something doesn’t mean they should trust it, and talk them through scenarios about how they would respond. I’m not a parent, so this section is quite short. But I’ve watched some of my friends and how they parent. One of the things my parent friends do is teach their kids the names of their personal parts (instead of the “cute” baby version). The idea is that if someone ever tries to touch them inappropriately the child can say, “Why are you touching my vagina?” and it will shock the person away from doing it. I think the same approach can be true for your children, especially as they grow into middle school and high school. Teach them about the science behind their body so that they can understand what they’re feeling and respond appropriately instead of simply “following their heart.”
Conclusion It’s clear that kissing is not going anywhere. It’s too much a part of our history and culture – too tied to our chemical makeup – to do anything but stick around. So use the kiss appropriately. Use it to help yourself find “the right person,” to help you enrich your life and to give your kids the knowledge they need to make good dating decisions. Otherwise, all the time you spent reading this report is wasted. If you have something more to add, please say it in the comments section. If you haven’t read this whole study yet, you can read both the history of kissing and the chemicals behind kissing.
The final part in a 3-part series about kissing. This piece looks at lessons learned from both kissing history and chemical reactions that t...