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Most people head off to college with a new laptop and plenty of dorm essentials in tow. I had all those things, yes, but I also headed into my freshman year with an odd little stuffed green frog who was holding a heart. “You’ve gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince,” the note accompanying it read. The stuffed animal was a gift from my grandma.

Was my very own grandma actually encouraging me to go off kissing lots of men?! And more importantly, did I really have to kiss so many frogs in order to find the one? I can’t even begin to count how many frogs I have encountered over the years, but I can definitely count the number of princes—on one hand.

If you’re dating in your twenties or thirties, chances are that you rely on a number of methods to figure out if you are into it or if the guy you’re dating is into it, too. But too often there seems to be an inordinate amount of attention placed on the significance of the physical stuff, especially the first kiss. In the same way we might overanalyze a first date, the first kiss can also become a point of relationship dissection. What does this mean? we might ask. Where is it leading? Are we going too fast? Too slow? Should we have done this already? Is this too soon? Does my breath smell alright? Did I drink too much?

There’s a reason kissing has become a customary part of courtship over the centuries. Research suggests that a kiss serves as a key indicator during that initial attraction stage, and people certainly do make judgments based on them. According to evolutionary psychologists at the State University of New York at Albany, 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women say they stopped pursuing a relationship because of a bad kiss. And from an unromantic, biological perspective, there’s all kinds of data suggesting that the scent of a man could provide subconscious clues about his genetic compatibility. While I would never encourage anyone to judge a human being solely based on his ability to lock lips, I have learned over the years that there are some insights a kiss can reveal about a man and your feelings for him.

Yes, the intimacy of a kiss can confuse things, but if you let it, a first kiss can also offer a little insight into the relationship. You’ve got to feel it out on your own, but these little clues are worth considering as you navigate early kisses and try to discern what they mean to you—and to him.

01. It’s a Confirmation of Attraction, Not a Sign of Intention

Sounds obvious, but in their own little way, kisses are a proclamation. Sure, different cultures have varying degrees on what different kinds of kisses mean, but it’s safe to say that in the United States, a kiss on the lips shows that you are more than friends. Of course there are exceptions, but in general, it’s like saying: “I enjoy the time we’ve spent together; I enjoy you, and I definitely don’t see you as a ‘bro.’”

I always thought this part about kissing was refreshing. In a world where we’re constantly given mixed messages, and men are increasingly confused on how to act toward women (and vice versa), it’s nice to know that there’s one little litmus test reserved for more-than-just-friends. It’s equal parts thrilling and vindicating. Feminine intuition, chill out. The attraction has been confirmed. I was reading the signs correctly.

But of course, for most of us kissing veterans, this clarification can be short-lived. Just because he’s attracted to you doesn’t mean that he’s clarified what kind of relationship he’s interested in. While each situation will have its own intricacies, there are certain indicators that are worth thinking about. For instance, was it just a first kiss, or was it a first grope, too? Did you feel like he was easing into the kiss or in a rush, or was he just caught up in the moment? Be sure to ask yourself how the kiss made you feel—did you feel totally off guard or even unsafe, or did you feel complete bliss?

Anita A. Chlipala, MA, MEd, LMFT, from Relationship Reality 312, Inc., says, “Someone who wants to keep kissing you is obviously enjoying the kissing and feels some chemistry, [but] if you get a tongue in your ear and a hand creeping up your shirt, it may be he’s trying to rush or is just interested in scoring. Wait for another real date (not just hanging out), and see if he’s consistently in contact with you—not just texting you last minute, asking if you’re available to meet up.”

02. You Can Tell How Confident He Is

In this Verily article, Maggie Niemiec describes how courage is the most attractive trait in a man. And I wholeheartedly agree. My husband’s straightforwardness and courage in his initial pursuit of me swept me off my feet—and was certainly his defining characteristic as I grew to know him. Even our first kiss, although probably not movie-worthy, captured the essence of him: clear, straight to the point, and bold.

As I reflect upon my dating history, it was those nondirect and confusing first kisses that turned into the worst relationships. And while this certainly doesn’t mean all doom and gloom if your guy’s shy, how he approaches that first kiss can indicate his confidence—which can really influence how he treats you and himself.

Of course there are a million other indicators that can measure his confidence, too, but how he approaches those first kisses is something to take note of. “In terms of confidence, he just goes for it,” Chlipala says. “He doesn’t force the kiss but pays attention to your signals and has no problem deepening the kiss.” She adds that another sign of confidence is that he isn’t afraid to compliment you or address the kiss. “If he’s willing to lay his feelings on the line, he tells you,” she says.

03. See If He Is Sensitive Toward Subtleties

Kissing well involves some sensitivity—just like any human interaction. So, during those early stages, see how he reads little signs or hints, such as eye contact or the brush of a hand. How does he respond to physical cues while you’re kissing? And, most interestingly, where do these first couple of kisses happen? Are they right outside a gas station or on a hill with a nice outlook of the city? Essentially, does he know the difference between a dumpy backdrop from a romantic one?

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, these can be very minute details, but they’re interesting to note, as they can indicate how intentional he is or how sensitive he is to aesthetics and touch. “Waiting to kiss in a picturesque park in the city versus where it’s convenient can mean he’s a romantic and puts some thought into dates and important moments,” Chlipala says. “Regardless, if a guy pays attention to the subtleties, affirm it. You want to tell your guy that you notice that and appreciate his thoughtfulness.”

All of this said, remember, first kisses aren’t some incredible vehicle to read the future. While they can point to trends and little personality idiosyncrasies, it’s not the end of the world if it’s an awful kiss. “First kisses usually aren’t perfect—this is real life, not a rom-com,” shares relationship expert Laurie Davis, founder of Take note of the kiss, but don’t rule out a guy just because the first kiss was slightly awkward—kissing is an intimate thing, so it’s bound to be a little weird at first. “It’s just kind of funny how much pressure we put on ourselves with intimacy,” one woman shares with me. “Sometimes those awkward first kisses can be kind of endearing—and make a great story.”

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners