What's a fast way to stay more connected with your partner in the new year? How about more kissing? Daily kissing. Not just a peck, but real contact. What does a kiss do? Well, it may just do more than you think and everything you need.
Consider this: as a child whenever my dad came home from work and kissed my mother hello, I would announce "They're getting married again!" Everyone would laugh. I laughed too, even though I didn't get the joke. Growing up in the era of "The Brady Bunch" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," I'd learned that "you may kiss the bride" equaled marriage.
Looking back, my young self did grasp something more about what it means to kiss. Maybe it is like getting married again, every single time. A wedding is a microcosm of your relationship -- a small world that you create and inhabit together. A daily kiss is a ritual which reminds you to climb back into that small world that you've continued to build. The more you tend to that world, the more it expands.
A kiss can be entrusted with this transformational charge because whether given a hundred times or thousands, it is pretty extraordinary. During a kiss, time stops, or becomes irrelevant. You smile. You swoon. Dishes, emails, kids disappear momentarily, and everything that needs to be communicated, is--just like that, in a language so primitive, yet one that you and your partner have invented and been developing since your very first encounter. Lifted off the treadmill of life, you can read every nuance of each other's day. No wonder the brain devotes so much space to input from the lips. There's nowhere to hide in a kiss, and hiding is not so good for marriages. So, a way of not hiding that is free, fast, and doesn't require a babysitter? That's a good thing.
And if that weren't enough, kissing is also good for you. It can lower blood pressure, release serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine (happy hormones) burn calories, help fight cavities (you produce more saliva when you kiss, it's nature's mouth wash). Even if none of this were true, (but it is), we would still want to kiss, because of how good it feels.
Lest you think I am the naïve idealist that I appear to be (and am), I do realize that we don't need lessons on how to kiss. Not on a good day. But kissing on a crappy day -- on those days that we don't want to kiss at all, or we don't want to admit that we want to kiss -- that takes some practice and trust.
Especially on those days, in a kiss you can begin to let go of whatever mess you came from, and in a matter of a few seconds allegiances are re-aligned and you center in the moment. You are home.
Isn't that what a relationship is really all about?
So kissing has obvious benefits for parents, but what about the kids?
Some parents express hesitation to have any kind of public displays of affection in front of their children. They don't want to make them feel uncomfortable. And that's a good point, up to a point. Nowadays kids would probably quip "get a room" instead of making my nuptial pronouncement, but the fact is, it's important for children to see how natural and good intimacy and connection are. This is what we hope for (way) down the line for our kids. But right here, right now in the moment, just as kissing brings parents closer together, it has a greater function for everyone.
You are building strength and connection in your family for the long run. You are lowering conflict and tension levels, which is key -- it's ambient conflict which is most destructive to a child's sense of emotional safety and well-being. Plus, you are modeling for kids the importance and wonder of being connected to others in life. This must have been what my parents knew way back when and have been practicing for nearly 60 years. So, go ahead and pucker up for the greater good.
For the new year, make a resolution to get married again. Repeat daily.
© 2015 Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. A version of this blogpost was previously published on Newsworks.org