When is the last time you kissed your partner for six seconds or more?
Having a hard time remembering? It might be time to take a look at the six-second kiss and what it can do for your relationship.
Sarah Timmer M.A., LLPC, LLMFT, NCC, BC-TBH, founder, Counseling Center of West Michigan, cites Dr. John Gottman's couples therapy research as the basis for this idea: Couples should kiss for at least six seconds a day.
"He says 'it's a kiss with potential,'" explained Timmer, a Gottman-trained therapist who uses the method with her couples. "Kissing does wonders for you! It releases oxytocin, which makes you feel a sense of comfort and bonding, along with dopamine, which activates your brain's reward center."
Some couples report to Timmer that they feel butterflies in their stomach during their six-second kiss, caused by epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase your heartbeat and send oxygenated blood to your brain. Timmer notes studies have shown kissing can cause a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol, which could help lower blood pressure.
"Most couples who come into my office aren't kissing at all anymore or have gotten into the habit of doing what I call the 'peck and go': Peck and go to work; peck and go to bed," said Timmer. "This isn't a loving romantic kiss and it's not long enough for these wonderful feel good hormones to be released. There are also some couples who only kiss as a prelude to sex."
Either way, Timmer is a believer that we need oxytocin flowing more often. This is also why she advises couples to hold hands in her therapy sessions—even when they're mad at each other.
"I tell them, 'Remember how you felt about each other in the beginning? Remember the butterflies? Remember how you couldn't get enough of each other? Well, you thought that was love, but it was what I call oxytocin soup. And now here we are five, 10, 30 years later and you don't feel that way anymore. Get that oxytocin flowing!"
Most couples feel silly and uncomfortable at first, but after a week or two, Timmer sees visible differences.
"They sit closer to each other; they look at each other differently," Timmer said. "It's all about the hormones!"
According to Timmer, most of our relationships simply need some tweaking and a perspective change, not an overhaul as we often think.
"Touch each other. Prioritize the relationship. Listen to each other. Speak each other's language."
Touch is a powerful tool, used by people of all walks of life and relationships to communicate heart to heart—whether it's an intimate six-second kiss between a couple looking to reconnect, or a friendly 60-second hug between a teacher and an anxious student in need of some comfort and support.
How will you reach out to touch someone else's heart today?
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar 2020 issue of West Michigan Woman.