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Situation

I have recently found myself in a position where someone I am attracted to has tried to kiss me. The only problem I really have with this— their braces.

I quickly brushed them off before they could get close enough and managed to change the subject. I could tell it upset them though, and I felt bad. They didn’t bring it up again, but in the future I wish I could somehow communicate my reasoning for this.

The reason for refusal wasn’t because I don’t find romantic interest or have a boundary issue. It’s because braces really kill the mood for me. I’ve had them before when I was younger and know how grimy they can get. This event happened after we had eaten something too and I knew their braces weren’t exactly going to be clean.

Beyond that though, I’m worried I might accidentally cut my tongue or lips if it leads toward that direction; this is the long term concern.

Goal

I certainly don’t want to tell them they’re gross after a meal and that they’ll hurt me. I want to somehow communicate with them that it concerns me too much and I’m currently uncomfortable with kissing.

The issue is they can’t really change the fact they have braces. It can take years to finally get them off and that could affect the development of the physical side of the relationship. This is something I’m willing to compromise; I’m not sure about them though.

I really, in the future, don’t want to hurt their feelings, strain the development of the relationship, or find myself having to give in when I don’t desire.

Summary

How can I avoid being kissed by my ‘crush’ and communicate my reasoning with them, all the while avoiding any negative responses?

Edit: I have since added that my reasoning goes beyond just hygiene. I’m a pretty playful kisser and I’m especially worried I might cut my tongue or lips accidentally within the moment. I know they’d feel awful if they accidentally hurt me, so this is something else to consider.

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. (cc @AaronF) – Arwen Undómiel Jan 27 at 8:58
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In your goals you say "I really don’t want to hurt their feelings, strain the development of the relationship, or find myself having to give in when I don’t desire".

By brushing off their attempt you likely hurt their feelings. For a lot of people, making the move to kiss someone for the first time is very nerve-wracking, especially when you're young and have little experience.

By changing the subject and not bringing it up again, you're straining the development of the relationship. You mention that your friend didn't bring it up again. I wouldn't expect them to, because their fear of rejection has been realised, and they probably feel as if they misread and messed up the situation.

This part - "find myself having to give in when I don’t desire" - concerns me. This shouldn't ever be a conceivable option. If you don't want to do something then don't do it. Sure, you might not want to hurt someone's feelings, but "giving in" is not an acceptable length to go to.


I think that you might be able to salvage the situation:

You can speak to your friend, alone and face-to-face, and apologise for the way you brushed them off that day, that you wanted to say something at the time but were embarrassed or didn't quite know what to say.

In these situations, plain simple honesty is preferable. Don't use euphemisms or avoid saying how you feel.

If you imagine that the situation was reversed, that you had mustered up the courage to kiss someone whom you thought liked you, but they brushed off your attempt; what would you be thinking? Maybe that you had misjudged the situation, that you had misread the signs, or that maybe there's something wrong with you? It's easy to let such paranoid thoughts grow and take hold in the absence of any evidence to the opposite.

So, you can tell them that you do really like them, and that you did want to kiss them, but that you have a problem with braces.

Yes, I know it sounds silly, but when I see braces I suddenly can't stop thinking about them, and I completely lose the desire to kiss

This way, you will hopefully be able to re-frame the issue to be an issue that you have with braces, rather than being an issue you have with your friend.


You might want to examine your goals and adjust them slightly.

Specifically this "The issue is they can’t really change the fact they have braces. It can take years to finally get them off and that could be detrimental on the development of the physical side of a relationship. This is something I’m willing to give up; I’m not sure about them though."

It seems a little unfair to expect them to wait around for years on the promise of a future kiss from you.

Also it's not going to do wonders for their self-esteem for the years that they're wearing braces, not if their only reference is someone (you) who has a mental block regarding braces and kissing.

If you can't get over your problem with their braces, then they're going to be happier with someone who can.

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    I like the reverse angle POV, and, as OP said they didn't like having braces, it may be used to explain their attitude too? Kind of : "when I had this myself, I hated it, and fear it would bother someone else." And put the blame on you, then apologize? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? – OldPadawan Jan 27 at 11:31
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    @LaAnilla in my experience, people don't leave relationships due to momentary issues; they leave due to long-term or unresolveable issues. Something temporary, like your example of a yeast infection preventing penetrative sex, or a cold sore preventing kissing and oral sex, to give another example, is going to go away pretty quickly and won't affect the relationship. Personally speaking, the best relationships are when you get on well personally and both like the same things sexually. Sure, you can try and make a sexually-incompatible relationship work, but in my experience it's not worth it. – Aaron F Jan 28 at 12:09
  • It feels like the OP is anxious to bring up their feelings about their experience having braces, but I think explaining that past experience and how traumatic it was in every way that it was traumatic is probably useful in salvaging the situation. I've known a couple of couples who were in basically this exact situation and open communication helped them get through their braces ordeal. – Ed Grimm Feb 4 at 4:45
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On one hand, I kind of get this. You wouldn't kiss someone you were in a relationship with if they hadn't brushed their teeth properly, and you have raised a possible hygiene issue with braces. But on the other hand, that could be easily rectified. You'd go tell your SO to brush, floss, mouthwash, and then you'd get to business.

I'm not a dental expert but I doubt very much that braces, which are implemented by dental hygiene experts, are impossible to clean and keep hygienic. You say you had them once, and you seem pretty fixated on dental hygiene, so I'm sure you found a way to keep on top of it. Can't you trust that your crush can do that too? And if for some reason they weren't aware of how to clean them properly, can't you trust that they could put that right?

You said that braces "kill the mood" for you. Really, anything that takes your mind or concentration away from the moment is a "mood killer". A partner who is overly self-conscious kills the mood. When you just want to lose yourself in that moment but they are worried about something else, such as how they look, or smell, the mood goes, because that moment is meant to be about forgetting everything except the other person. Ok, so I certainly don't want to be with a smelly person, but we're not always 100% at our best when a "moment" comes along. Have you considered that your being excessively concerned with their braces and dental hygiene could kill the mood too? It might be something you need to relax about, because when we have unresolved issues in relationships we tend to carry them over to the next one. If things don't work out with this crush your next one may not have braces but you may still be overly concerned about things like that and you could be the one to ruin it.

Try and meet in the middle. Tell your crush that you used to have braces, and show that you understand how it feels to the one with them. Tell them that you want to kiss them, but you just need to know they are keeping on top of cleaning them properly. If they want to kiss you more than they want to be offended by this question then they'll do what is necessary. But once you have mentioned this and got an answer, don't keep going on about it. This is where you meet in the middle - by relaxing a little and trusting the person you say you want to be with. Because a relationship is more than kissing - it is about trust, respect, and treating them as an equal. If it was you with the braces, you'd want the benefit of the doubt that you were cleaning them properly, right? So give them the same.

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They have made their move and it didn't work for whatever reason. Now they are probably confused and upset. Since you are the one stifling that move, it's probably your turn if you want the game of love to continue. Take initiative. Get closer to them and make your move in the way you feel comfortable about it. Unless you too manage to find their weird spot, you will probably get a positive response. And don't be dismayed even if it doesn't work. Remember that their move didn't work and it doesn't mean that you're not interested.

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