According to the superstition, the person you kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve is the one you’ll share your love and affection with in the upcoming year. An NYE kiss allegedly brings good luck for the future of your relationship with the person on the other end of your lips…but can a kiss really predict the future?
Kissing is used as a mate assessment strategy. It allows an up close and personal view of a potential partner, and a first kiss can impact the future of a relationship. A survey of 58 men and 122 women revealed that in response to the question “Have you ever found yourself attracted to someone, only to discover after kissing them for the first time that you were no longer interested?,” the majority (59% and 66% respectively) answered “yes.”1
If a bad kiss can spoil a budding relationship, what kissing techniques should be avoided? In one study of college students, a person’s breath and the taste of his or her mouth was an important factor in the desire to kiss someone, especially for women. Also, although men reported liking wetter kisses in general more than did women, women especially dislike wet kisses with a new partner (before they are in a committed relationships).1
Kissing ranks high for both men and women in terms of the types of physical affection they like in a relationship. Men and women rated kissing on the lips as being more intimate than cuddling, hand holding, hugging, and massaging.2 In a study of adolescents and young adults, those who engaged in more frequent kissing had higher levels of relationship satisfaction.3 One reason for this satisfaction boost was because conflict with a romantic partner was easier to resolve when there was more affection, like kissing on the lips, in the relationship.2 Kissing promotes emotional closeness, and partners report that kissing after sex strengthens their bond and that they desire to kiss each other after orgasm.1 This makes sense because kissing may increase levels of oxytocin (aka the “love” hormone), a chemical that promotes bonding.4
Kissing may also have some healing and stress-relieving powers. In one study, atopic patients (people more sensitive to allergies) were assigned to a kissing group (they spent 30 minutes in a room kissing their partners) and were tested for allergens before and after. Compared to a control group who embraced (i.e., hugged) their partners without kissing, the kissers demonstrated fewer allergy symptoms following their makeout session.5 When married and cohabitating couples participated in a 6-week trial where they were instructed to increase the frequency of kissing in their relationships, they experienced reduced stress and greater relationship satisfaction compared to a control group of couples who were not given the kissing instructions.6
Although kissing someone does not give you a crystal ball into the future of your relationship, men and women do use kissing to assess potential mates and kissing does have positive consequences for established relationships. So if the stars and oral hygiene were in your favor at midnight, you just might have enhanced your bond with someone special… Or NYE could just have been a good excuse for a kiss.
(Not satisfied with your NYE kiss, and want to be better prepared next time? Check out this instructional video).
Happy New Year from Science of Relationships!
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1Hughes, S. M., Harrisson, M. A., Gallup, G. G. (2007). Sex differences in romantic kissing among college students: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 612-631.
2Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmann, R. F. (2003). Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31, 233-242.
3Welsh, D. P., Haugen, P. T., Widman, L., Darling, N., & Grello, C. (2005). Kissing is good. A developmental investigation of sexuality in adolescent romantic couples. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 2, 32-41.
4Carter, C.S. (1992). Oxytocin and sexual behavior. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 16, 131-144.
5Kimata, H. (2005). Kissing selectively decreases allergen-specific IgE production in atopic patients. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60, 545-547.
6Floyd, K., Boren, J. P., Hannawa, A. F., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. E. (2009). Kissing in marital and cohabitating relationships: Effects on blood lipids, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73, 113-133.
Dr. Amy Muise – Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.