What a First Kiss Tells You

I recently read an article what a first kiss tells you, and it didn’t sit right. The author called a first kiss a litmus test. She wrote that it’s how you confirm that a guy is into you—that it’s how you determine whether he’s confident.

And maybe, for her, that’s what a first kiss is. And maybe it is for you, too—a gauge you use to measure stuff, like your interest in a person, or a person’s confidence.

But is it supposed to be?

People kiss to express, but the author suggests that a kiss can express something on its own, that ultimately we can trust how a first kiss goes to be a guide by which to make actual life choices. (In the author’s defense, she did add a disclaimer, which I’ll paraphrase: probably don’t dump a person because the first kiss is awkward.)

But the statistics she quoted, which said that lots of people end relationships because of a “bad” kiss, allude to arguments that I have heard before, in response to older posts that I have written: that one first must be physically intimate and second must appraise the physical intimacy in order to determine whether “chemistry” exists.

Do you know what that is?

It’s a lie.

It’s the same lie part of our culture tells us about sex: that you should have it outside marriage, that we should use it as a guide by which to decide whether to stay in a relationship.

This is why people who don’t believe what I do about sex (that it’s a sacred physical sign of the vows a husband and wife made at the altar) call it a bad idea to wait until marriage for sex.

This is why when I wrote about why I’m a virgin, a lot of readers rolled their eyes. They called me crazy in comments and emails—called me foolish for not taking men for “test drives.”

They responded as if we absolutely must be physically intimate in order to determine to whom we’re attracted (we don’t). As if lips could determine a relationship’s viability (they can’t). As if authentic love is powerless over what happens the first time your mouths meet (it isn’t).

To call a kiss a gauge that we should use on a quest to determine “how into each other we are” or “whether a guy is confident enough” is just to shroud a different unfortunate quest, for something else so widely primarily sought: effortless gratification.

But when that’s what we seek, we rob each other of something for which we all are designed: real love.


arArleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com. Click here to follow her on Twitter, click here to like her on Facebook, and click here to follow her on Instagram.



  1. I don’t actually agree with this. I’m a devout Catholic and I believe in waiting until marriage, but I think you’re jumping to conclusions. We have to remember to understand where people are coming from and stay balanced enough in our faith that we don’t get a radical “holier than thou mindset.”

    Chemistry is a good thing. Because my boyfriend is a great kisser, I know that if we got married, the sex would be great. God created chemistry. The chemistry we have on small levels reflects what it could turn into. Chemistry has to happen before marriage. If it doesn’t, it can potentially bring some major challenges to a relationship. Chemistry is designed by God to motivate man and woman to be together. Sex is meant to be addictive, it keeps the marriage strong and fresh.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with theology of the body. The body is good and it’s a beautiful thing. Real love doesn’t leave out the physical aspect of a relationship.

    I agree, an awkward first kiss doesn’t mean a relationship should end. But no one should force a relationship that is lacking chemistry. I did that, actually with my last boyfriend, and I very much regret it.

    Please don’t be discouraged, it is still beautiful that you embrace chastity. Just my two cents

    By Katie | 5 years ago Reply
    • I actually agree with your statement. Good point! Spiritual, physical, and emotional chemistry is all important.

      By Unknown | 5 years ago Reply
    • Please note, Katie, that my article does not say (nor do I believe) that chemistry is a bad thing. It simply says that how well a first kiss goes is not a gauge for chemistry — that is, that there are other, more reliable ways to determine that you have chemistry. I’d venture to say, in fact, that most people know whether there is chemistry before they even have had their first kiss, and that’s why they kissed each other in the first place — that’s assuming, of course, that the first kiss is consensual.

      And sex is not meant to be addictive — addiction is not healthy. Sex is meant, however, to be enjoyed.

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
      • Arleen, excellent article and excellent clarification. Keep up the good work

        By David | 5 years ago Reply
        • Thanks so much!

          By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
      • I agree with you. Keep up the good work

        By Lenah | 5 years ago Reply
  2. Loved what you stated♡

    By Luz | 5 years ago Reply
    • Thank you!

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  3. 25 and just broke up. Yep. Illusion was cast. But you learn a lot from it.
    And ur right.

    By Adrian | 5 years ago Reply
    • Thx for reading! Hang in there.

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  4. THIS. IS. AMAZING. I’ve always wanted an article like this to explain to people about things like this… but they were all either too long and too ‘Catholic specific’ (I know that’s dumb, but i’d also want to be able to show my friends who aren’t Catholic without overwhelming them.) and this is perfect! <3 Thanks again. Keep up the amazing work. God bless.

    By Moyra | 5 years ago Reply
    • Thx so much!

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  5. Preach How wonderfully true. My husband and I never kissed while dating or engaged and I believe our relationship is healthy because of it. It’s not about the physical aspects that make it. It’s if the person brings you closer to God.

    By Rachel B | 5 years ago Reply
    • Yes! Marriage is supposed to make us holier.

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  6. Arleen, I just want to thank you for writing this. If I had followed the type of advice that article provides I would not have stayed with the man I am currently preparing to marry!! Yes, first kisses are important, but they should not be the determining factor of whether you stay or not. Love is so much more than physical pleasure and I thank you for sticking to your guns even though you received poor comments and emails about your values. Stay strong! God Bless!

    By Rachel | 5 years ago Reply
    • Grateful for your feedback, Rachel! Thank you.

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  7. I will say, that I agree about “bad kiss not being a litmus” in the sense that if a kiss is awkward etc, that it doesn’t mean doom to the relationship.

    However I will say, the first time I kissed a guy was when I was 20. And I wish I’d ditched him right then and there because the kiss didn’t sit comfortably with me at all. He immediately went for a makeout and I felt like my mouth was being tongue-raped for a lack of better expression. I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I was considering saving my first kiss for marriage and that he’d taken that away from me without waiting to see if I felt the same. The entire feel was as though it was all about his lust and passion and zero sentiment, feeling or sharing a moment with me as an individual. When I told him that it was my first kiss ever, he freaked out saying “ew, why did you tell me that? You shouldn’t have said that”. So on occasion, a kiss can tell you a bit about the person, if it is aggressive and/or selfish, “kiss” him/her off.

    By Mez | 5 years ago Reply
    • Yes, Mez — good point. I think a caveat to what I wrote is that for it to be relevant, the first kiss must be consensual. it indeed does say a lot about a person that he or she decides to kiss somebody when that person’s words or cues haven’t communicated “it’s ok to kiss me.”

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  8. This article is awesome, great Catholic insight and direction. Keep up the good writing! 🙂

    By Maggie Kuhn | 5 years ago Reply
    • Thank you, Maggie!

      By Arleen Spenceley | 5 years ago Reply
  9. Great article! A note about first kisses from my personal experience: my boyfriend asked if he could kiss me and I told him I’d rather wait. He waited and after 6 months we had our first kiss (which was hilariously awkward!). We have kept our kissing pretty limited since then and don’t do make outs. However, part of me wishes I had waited even longer to kiss him so that I would be even more clear-headed in this relationship. However, the other part of me is glad that I kissed him because it is such a special thing to share with someone. Does that make sense?

    By Liv | 5 years ago Reply
  10. I would like to say that you kiss because your compatible not the other way around. If you realy love each other, every thing you do is special.

    By Richard | 5 years ago Reply
  11. Awesome, awesome and awesome article! Thank you and May Ave Maria be with you in work, ministry and life!

    By Awesome | 5 years ago Reply
  12. For Christians, like Katie and myself, sex before marriage is a sin. Regardless how the world changes, or what laws are made, nothing trumps God and his guidance for us. I have been married before, and still waited to have sex before marrying my current husband. Thanks for sharing your comments.

    By Kathy | 5 years ago Reply
  13. I strongly agree to what Arleen said. It all starts with a kiss and then we end up having sex. If we can’t wait for it, in most of the situations it means we dont love them and dont respet them. We just want their body and to satisfy ourselfs. Thanks for sharing this Arleen. God Bless you 🙂

    By Archana Beck | 5 years ago Reply
  14. Arleen, thank you so much for writing this. I should show this article to my recent ex-girlfriend. Allow me to explain. Recently my ex-girlfriend and I decided to terminate our relationship. My reasons were because we were not spending enough time together and her reasons were because “there was no physical chemistry between us.” Allow me to explain further.

    I thought the relationship was going to work because we had a lot common. She is almost 40, lives with her parents, and works at a job almost 3 hours away from her parents place. I am 36, living with my parents, and I work at a job that is 1 hour away from my parents place. The 2 biggest differences between us were 1) Why we lived with our parents (hers was because her 3rd cohabiting relationship with her most recent ex-boyfriend failed and mine was because of divorce and job loss) and 2) Our faith (she was born-again Christian and I am Catholic)

    Anyhow to get to the point. Since she lives in a small town right off the expressway, our dates mostly consisted of walking around Wal-Mart, hanging out at truck stops, and eating at fast-food food restaurants. We didn’t kiss until our 3rd date. After that, she used our 1st kiss as a gauge for how the relationship was going to go. She completely over-analysed the way we kissed and determined that “we need to find a private place in order to work on our physical activity.” I didn’t know where she had planned to do this considering we both lived with our parents and most of the places in the small town where she lived were filled with either bored teenagers, overly exhausted truck-drivers, or people looking for food and Pokemon in their pajamas at 1 in the morning. My idea of dating was the two of us going out and exploring places but she wasn’t really up for that idea. Maybe the crazy commute to her job had something to do with it, but that was my only guess.

    Needless to say after 2 months of dating, we decided to terminate our relationship.

    Basically the point I am trying to get at is simply this: If you base all your relationships only on the physical, all your relationships will be doomed to fail.

    By Andrew | 5 years ago Reply
  15. My boyfriend and I have been dating for over 2 years now. If we went based on the first kiss it would have ended real quick. He was nervous and didn’t want to do anything to upset or offend me. He is quiet introverted guy who respects the dignity of females so much. But when it came to us kissing for the first time, need less to say I made the first move. I knew he was not going to and I was okay with that. No it wasn’t a deciding factor of his confidence he was just scared. Though it was not one of the perfect first kisses that we all see in the movies. It was simple and left both of us with butterflies in our stomachs.

    By Kayla | 5 years ago Reply
  16. Thank you so much for this post, Arleen. I really enjoyed it. God bless you!!! Greetings from Argentina 🙂

    By Rocío | 5 years ago Reply

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