Whether it's your first kiss or your thousandth, whether it’s with someone new or with your longtime partner, kissing leaves an impression -- one that lingers long after your lips have disengaged.
And, experts say, kissing plays an important role in relationships. "It fosters romantic compatibility," says Michael Christian, author of The Art of Kissing (published under the pen name William Cane). "The more that people kiss, the more they're able to communicate on a romantic level."
Many couples hesitate to talk about kissing out of embarrassment, Christian says. But if your first kiss -- or any of the many that follow -- isn't what you're hoping for, talk about it.
Don't be shy about telling your partner what you like or asking what your partner prefers, Christian says. Just don't do it while you're kissing so your partner doesn't take it as a rebuke.
Men's and Women's Kissing Mistakes
Most of us have clear preferences -- turn-ons and pet peeves -- when it comes to kissing styles.
Christian says men's biggest mistake is that they're too aggressive with their tongues. And men claim that women don't open their mouths wide enough.
For both sexes, the No. 1 kissing complaint is lack of variety, Christian says. He recommends kissing the different parts of your partner's face and paying special attention to the ears and neck. He suggests biting softly on the lower lip and nibbling gently on the earlobe.
Make It Memorable
Kirkland Desmond, a software engineer in Tampa, Fla., vividly recalls his first kiss with his wife a decade ago. They were sitting on the couch in her dad's living room, and as he leaned over to kiss her, he lost his balance and fell off the couch, pulling her down with him.
"I was so nervous because she was completely out of my league," he says. "So our first kiss happened while we were laughing, and 10 years and three beautiful children later, we're still laughing and kissing every chance we get."
Two keys to a memorable kiss are pleasing your partner and pleasing yourself.
"Put your whole body into the kiss," says Marilyn Anderson, author of Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl's Guide to Creatures from the Dating Swamp. "Without words, your lips should say, 'Baby, there's more where that came from!' There are ways to keep it fresh and new all the time."
She suggests starting with gentle kisses on the neck, move up to the ear, then go to the lips. Take some small breaks and then come back to the lips.
And don't get hung up on what a kiss might lead to. Enjoy it for its own sake.
Pamela Weiss, marketing director in Los Angeles, offers this tip. "Put a hand on your kissing partner's neck. It adds passion, like 'I can't get enough.' And let's be honest. That's what makes for a great kiss."
"A good kiss is deep and soulful and you should feel each other's love through the kiss," says Dan Landau, a graduate student in Bridgewater, N.J. "A great kiss is an adventure in itself, not a stepping point to something else."
Don't Fall Off the Kissing Wagon
Steamy make-out sessions usually happen early on in a relationship or during the honeymoon period.
But later on, when people are in a long-term relationship, they too often stop kissing and lose that intimate connection, Anderson says. In a Redbook poll, 79% of women said they don't kiss their husbands nearly as much as they'd like.
"You've got to keep kissing in the game," Anderson says. "The emotional importance of a kiss is where it all begins and you shouldn't let it go just because you've known someone for a long time."
"When my wife kisses me, it's like she's telling me, 'I love you' without words," Desmond says.
Time hasn't made kissing ho-hum for Landau and his fiancée, either.
"If anything, our kisses are better now than they were initially," Landau says. "We know each other on a much deeper level after two and a half years together. When we first kissed, there were sparks. Now, there are fireworks."