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Biology of Marriage: Oxytocin

October 11, 2010 · 3 Comments

Couples who have a healthy relationship experience numerous physical and emotional benefits. First, couples in healthy relationships do not engage in defensiveness, which has been shown to increase blood pressure in people with and without other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The avoidance of this behavior acts as a preventative factor against developing or worsening existing cardiovascular risks.

Most importantly, however, healthy couples are affectionate and warm with each other even during an argument. This affection helps stimulate the release of oxytocin, also called the “love hormone”. This hormone is released in high quantities during labor, right after the birth of a child (in both men and women) and during breastfeeding. However, research has also shown that this hormone is released in high quantities during affectionate conversations, moments of gentle touches (such as holding hands or hugging) and the expression and experience of warmth from a loved one, especially a significant other. Most recently, research has shown that even thinking about a significant other or loved one can release oxytocin in the brain as well!

Generally, this hormone helps us feel safe and loved in our relationships and increases the feelings of trust between the partners. Oxytocin works to regulate the arousal of our nervous system, meaning that it can calm us when we feeling strong negative emotions such as anger, anxiety or stress. With regards to relationships, it’s primary function can be to reverse the damage caused to our body from stress. Just as cortisol stimulates the fight or flight response, oxytocin relieves our bodies from that stress and calms us down, thus lowering blood pressure and countering the many other physical symptoms of relationship stress. This then acts as a feedback loop, allowing us to continue feeling warmth and reducing our stress in the future.

Intuitively, this makes sense because if you feel affectionately about the person that you are arguing with (and not feeling contempt or defensive), you will be more likely to carefully state your points and thoughts even if you are angry. or

It is important to note, however, that oxytocin is not produced if you are in an unhealthy relationship but are trying to convince yourself that the situation is not as bad as it seems. In relationships where problems are minimized, the deleterious effects of the unhealthy communication styles continue to play a large role in each partner’s physical health.

Research has been repeatedly showing that marital stress is just as significant of a factor in physical ailments and illnesses as traditional risks, so anything we can do to protect our physical and emotional health is crucial. Next time you find yourself arguing with your partner, take a break and show some affection. Any type of affeaction may help produce more oxytocin to calm you both down and have a more productive conversation about each of your complaints. While this won’t fix all of your relationship problems, it is an important first step in repairing your relationship and taking care of your physical and emotional health! with your partner and emotions starting to run high, take a moment and hold hands or hug each other. This show of affection may help produce more oxytocin to calm you both down and have a more productive conversation about each of your

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