Whether it’s the first time or the 100th, French kissing is something that, ideally, should leave your partner feeling weak in the knees. From figuring out the right amount of tongue to use to remembering to breathe, there’s a lot that goes into how to French kiss. In general, the more confident and relaxed you are, the better. So if you’re doubting your make out skills, chill. French kissing is an art, and you can always improve your technique. Whether your looking for a basic outline of how to French kiss or pro tips to take your make out game to the next level, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to French kissing, with expert tips from sex therapists and dating experts.

How to French Kiss: The Basics and Beyond

1. Make a Move

Don’t be afraid to make the first move! “We are all responsible for our own pleasure, and shouldn’t always wait for the other person to turn us on or kiss us. Both partners should be assertive if they want (to French kiss). Don’t ask if you can kiss. Perhaps start off with a forehead kiss, and then a kiss on the tip of the nose – then go in for a kiss. Pull your love close to you by the waist and tell them how good their lips taste on your tongue,” says relationship and sex therapist Marissa Nelson.

2. Start Slowly

When it comes to french kissing, there’s no need to rush. Rushing, actually, can do more harm than good. “Ease into it. Sometimes people are anxious and jump into the kiss. It’s not smooth and it can get a awkward. Make sure it’s mutual and start with meaningful eye contact,” explains Dr. Claudia Six, a clinical sexologist and counselor.

“Start by keeping your mouth relaxed and your kisses soft and tender at first. Kiss the top of the lips, the bottom of the lips, graze your tongue between the lips and slowly add a little tongue. You can play and chase your partner’s tongue for a couple of seconds and then suck on the top and bottom lip. When you start getting into the groove, you can increase the pressure and intensity of the kiss,” says Dr. Nelson.

3. Be Present and Passionate

Stay present, relax and try not to overthink about your kissing technique. According to Dr. Chris Donaghue, relationship expert and author of “Sex Outside the Lines:Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture,” the No. 1 thing people struggle with when french kissing is focusing too much on trying to be good. “What makes French kissing good is being present but also being passionate. Just be in the moment. When you’re French kissing with someone you’re saying ‘I have passion for you. I want to connect deeper. I want to build intimacy with you.’ It’s a profound act of showing interest, care and love. You’re trying to communicate to someone that you care about them; don’t be so obsessed with technique.” says Dr. Donaghue.

4. Pay Attention to How Your Partner is Responding

If you’re paying attention to your partner, you pick up on things. If they’re going slow and not using tongue yet, it’s a signal to you to keep things slow and simple (for the moment). All along the way it’s important to read their energy. “Make eye contact once in awhile and pay attention to what’s happening. If you know don’t if the other person can’t breathe, for example, don’t ignore it and just kind of plow forth.”

As passion builds and momentum increases, you can kiss them with more urgency. “See how they’re responding and if they seem to like what’s happening. Look at your partner and also feel their breath,” says Dr. Six. Is their breath getting faster or deeper? Are there hands clinging to you? Those are good signs.”

5. Use Your Tongue Purposefully

This isn’t a kiss hello or a peck on the cheek. French kissing all about passion, and that means using your tongue. There’s a fine line between the perfect about of tongue and too much tongue, however.

“It’s that really beautiful gray area where you’re using tongue thereby making it more impactful and hot and sexier than just a closed mouth kiss or a peck on the cheek. But don’t overwhelm with thrusting and tongue power; it’s about a gentle use of your tongue to communicate interest or passion,” says Dr. Donaghue.

While movie kisses are typically wide-mouthed, tongue-lapping affairs, that’s always a real portrayal of how to French kiss. There’s an ebb and a flow, at times slow, tender and sweet but gradually increasing in intensity. But when you’re actually kissing a real guy, how much tongue do you use? If you want a flat-out formula, try this:

  • As you start kissing, lick his lips a tiny bit. It’s like a movie trailer of what’s to come!

  • Tease him by putting the tip of your tongue in his mouth for just a second and then moving your head back slightly to tease him. So sweet and seductive…

  • Run the tip of your tongue around your guy’s teeth, play with his tongue and even suck on his tongue gently for few seconds, which will feel surprisingly amazing.

  • Combine tongue kisses with sweet kisses, slow and soft kisses, neck kisses, cheek kisses, etc.

5. Use Your Hands

Don’t leave your hands in your pocket or limp at your sides. Use them! There’s literally so many sexy and sweet ways you can use your hands while your making out:

  • run your fingers through partner’s hair

  • gently scrape them along their back and neck

  • hold their hands in yours

  • grip their waist or legs if your sitting in their lap or straddling them

  • cup their face in your hands

  • etc.

“Where your hands are communicates something,” says Dr. Donaghue. “If your hands are wrapped around them that naturally adds like another layer of passion and intensity.”

6. Open Your Eyes (Sometimes)

Once you’re really comfortable with French kissing, start to play with basic technique can play with it. Now that you’ve got the basics down, try opening your eyes. When most people think of kissing, they think of closed eyes. But making eye contact before the kiss and during the kiss can make the experience more intimate.

7. Get Lost In the Moment

“Get into it! Bring your excitement and passion. No one wants to kiss a dead fish. Allow yourself to let go and get lost in the moment,” says Dr. Nelson.

8. Don’t Neglect Make Out Sessions

Continued effort to make out years into your relationship communicates to your partner that you care about them and that they are important to you. It is a big deal and it matters greatly.

“Unfortunately, the longer a couple is together the lazier they get about how much work they put into French kissing. They tend to think it doesn’t matter as much, that it’s not as needed,” explains Dr. Donaghue. “I think couples need to prioritize kissing more because that is one of the first things that diminishes. Sex will keep going, but kissing slows down and stops. But for most of the couples I work with, kissing is more meaningful to them than just sex. French kissing needs to remain a priority, especially in long-term relationships.

9. If It’s Not Going Well, Talk About It the Right Way

When it comes to any criticism of kissing (or anything sexual), most people are a little fragile and insecure. So don’t do criticize. Far better to let your partner know what you like and what turns you on. Make it about you, not them. The fact of the matter is, there’s no right or wrong way to French kiss. Everyone kisses differently, and all that matters is that you and your partner work together to make French kissing a positive experience for both parties.

“It’s better to not make a comment or critique about how they kiss. Instead of saying ‘You use too much tongue’ or ‘I don’t like the way you kissed me,’ it’s better to say ‘Hey, I love when people kiss me with a lot of tongue,’ or ‘I love when people use less tongue,’ etc. And that’s actually the whole truth: there is no such thing as a wrong kiss hurts. It’s just that they don’t know how you like to be kissed and then you need to tell them,” says Dr. Donaghue.

One of Dr. Nelson’s suggestions is for couples to write a list of turn ons and turn offs when it comes to their French kissing styles and share it with each other. One night, one partner should take the lead and show how they like to be kissed, and the following night you the roles are reversed.

Common Complaints About French Kissing

Curious about what people complain about when it comes to their partner’s French kissing? It’s only natural to wonder. Plus, understand how not to French kiss helps us know how to French kiss even better. Here are the top complaints heard by Dr. Six and Dr. Nelson on French kissing technique.

Bad Breath

It might seem obvious, but it still needs to be said: no one wants to French kiss someone with bad breath. If you know your going to get up close and personal, it’s important to brush your teeth and/or pop a breath mint beforehand.

“I can’t tell you how many couples privately complain about their partner’s bad breath,” says Dr. Nelson. “I had a client where one of her biggest turn offs was her partner’s (bad breath). When she was kissing she would not be into the moment, but rather thinking about what he had for lunch. It would prevent her from wanting to kiss or be intimate.”

We worked on sandwiching the critique by her praising what she liked best about their kissing and sex life. Then she let him know that she wanted to be closer to him and noticed that sometimes she was distracted or turned off by his breath when he came home from work. He said ‘no problem,’ went to the dentist to get a cleaning and when he came home he would brush his teeth.”

Kissing That’s Too Wet or Sloppy

“Keep the saliva at bay and the drool to yourself,” says Dr. Nelson. “It’s one of the biggest reported turn offs when the kissing is too juicy or someone is slobbering on them.

Too Much Tongue

When someone uses too much tongue during French kissing, it can leave their partner feeling overwhelmed and anything but turned on. If your partner is overzealous, try kissing without tongue, and then reintroducing it later. “A guy in session told me his girlfriend tried to play tonsil hockey with him and it freaked him out. We focused on just kissing without tongue and paying attention to being tender by holding each other’s face, and using kissing to connect emotionally,” says Dr. Six.

Scratchy Facial Hair on the Man

Some women love the feeling of a man’s stubble or beard along their cheek, but for others it’s downright painful. If you fall in the latter camp, ask you guy to shave! Communication is everything when it comes to French kissing (and just about everything else in a relationship). “If you’re really going to get into it, you can can end up chafing the girl’s skin,” says Dr. Six.

See More:

  • I Love Sex but I Hate Making Out—And I Refuse to Do It

  • Why Women And Men Kiss Differently (Who Knew?)

  • 6 Secrets to the Perfect Wedding Kiss

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