The 2 Hormones You Didn't Realize Were Running Your Dating Life

Written by Dawn Maslar

Photo by bne.visuals

Jennifer and Eric are heading for a divorce. They have grown apart. Jennifer doesn't feel loved anymore, and Eric feels unappreciated. When they are home together, they spend most of their time in separate rooms of the house. For their relationship to survive, they need an intervention: They need the Oxy Test.

The Oxy Test is not an actual test but rather a marker. It's shorthand for two neurotransmitters that are important in a romantic relationship: her oxytocin and his testosterone. Current research suggests that these two molecules may play a critical role in a couple's long-term stability and happiness.

Oxytocin is sometimes called the bonding hormone because it causes people to feel connected to one another. In fact, it's so important to romantic relationships that it is sometimes also called "the love hormone." A University of Oxford study found that giving couples oxytocin enhanced romantic relations and marital well-being. A study at the Medical University of Vienna linked sexual dysfunction and depression in women and found that administering intranasal oxytocin improved symptoms of both.

Oxytocin is released naturally through kissing, cuddling, and sexual activity. The problem is that while oxytocin is naturally high at the beginning of a relationship, it can taper off over time. Sometimes this can create a type of negative-feedback loop. When a woman's oxytocin drops, she can lose interest in sexual activity. Yet sexual activity is the thing that could increase the oxytocin, so the lack of interest exacerbates the condition.

Men, on the other hand, have a slightly different issue. The lack of sexual interest is usually the result of lower testosterone levels. Testosterone naturally decreases as a man enters a relationship and as he ages. So, over time, a man in a longer-term relationship may feel the effects of decreased testosterone. Those symptoms may include low sex drive, irritability, fatigue, and even depression.

Therefore, the key to a happy, healthy relationship may lie in keeping her oxytocin and his testosterone level in the "good zone." That is to say, to keep those hormones slightly elevated. Couples can help keep her oxytocin up by communicating more, cuddling, and kissing and having date nights or game nights. Studies have found that activities with other couples can also increase unity and help oxytocin. Other things a woman can do to boost her oxytocin levels include social activities, social media, volunteering, and exercising.

A man can heighten his testosterone with "wins." Watching his team win a game has been found to increase testosterone. Playing sports, hanging out with guy friends, and doing well at work all bolster testosterone. But one important booster at home is feeling appreciated. When a man gets a "win" such as hearing, "thank you," or "you are the greatest," it can make him feel like Superman inside. This in turn will make him feel amorous, which can cause her oxytocin levels to increase. That's a win-win for everyone.

The Oxy Test is a simple, straightforward method for helping partners feel more loved, appreciated, and satisfied with their significant others, simply by boosting their neurotransmitters.

Based on Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind, and Finding True Love, by Dawn Maslar (October 18, 2016).

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