Hugs don't just give you a warm-fuzzy feeling. They also may be part of the reason why men stay in monogamous relationships. According to research, the "cuddle hormone" oxytocin makes men less likely to notice other women.
In the study, 20 men in committed relationships were given whiffs of an oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo. They were then shown pictures of their partner, a woman they’ve never met or a woman they knew but weren’t dating. Turns out, men consistently rated their partner as being more attractive than other women, and that feeling was even more heightened by the oxytocin nasal spray. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
How Oxytocin Affects Men’s Brains
The study found that when men exposed to oxytocin saw their partner’s face, two areas of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward lit up. However, when the men saw a picture of other women, those same areas were suppressed. In other words, when the oxytocin is flowing, only a man’s partner can give him that warm, fuzzy feeling.
Boosting the “Cuddle Hormone”
When couples first meet, their bodies release a lot of oxytocin. But as relationships continue, and couples become less intimate, that level of bonding can begin to fade. Here’s what you can do to bring the fire back:
- Hug it out. Studies show that a 20-second hug raises oxytocin levels.
- Get it on. Sex causes a surge in the relationship-bonding hormone, especially when you reach orgasm.
- Hold hands. Touching releases a small amount of oxytocin.
- Give the look of love. Staring into each other’s eyes increases the flow of oxytocin.