Oxytocin: The Love and Trust Hormone Can Be Deceptive
The connection between love and trust.
And new research tells us that oxytocin can even help us to become more accepting of others. “Oxytocin increases the ability to recognize differences between self and others and increases positive evaluation of others. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that impaired oxytocin signaling may be involved in the development and manifestation of human psychopathologies in which self-recognition is altered.” Oxytocin sharpens self-other perceptual boundary proven by psychoneuroendocrinology.
We can always expect new reseach when it comes to love. Despite Internet claims of Love Portion No. 9 to enhance attraction through chemical oxytocin and pheromones, Dr. Breuning, professor emerita at California State University, and docent at the Oakland Zoo, where she gives tours on mammalian social behavior says:
“Trust is the authentic feeling you have in the presence of a person whom your body senses is safe. That is a good feeling that stimulates oxytocin. When trust is not authentic, your body might give you a message to be careful around that person.
“The expression, ‘got your back’ is overused but it rightly describes a person with whom you can relax your guard because they treat you well or help protect you from a third party,” she said. “With chimpanzees you will see them grooming one another and there is reciprocal trust. If they don’t feel trust, or if a rival or intruder comes too close, that chimpanzee risks having fingers or toes bitten off — even noses or ears.”
Falling for the bad boys
Sometimes, however, grooming is a matter of trust and protection in which the animal appears to be thinking, “If I groom a bigger, stronger monkey, even though it may not be reciprocal, if I’m attacked by a lion, the bigger monkey will protect me.”
Does the protection aspect sound familiar? In relationships, the good girl-bad boy syndrome results in many broken hearts. Women are often attracted to the bad boys because the primal instinct is very strong. They feel that bad boys protect them.
Dr. Breuning says, “A guy with confidence seems powerful. He has that self-important look that women find attractive.”
Another way that oxytocin is stimulated is through love-making, but herein lies a bit of deception. “The oxytocin released through orgasm creates a lot of trust, but only for a short period of time,” she said. “In nature most animals are bachelors, so in the act of love-making they generate an opportunity for trust.
“As with animals, humans enjoy the reward that comes from feeling good after sex. In nature — and sometimes in the world of humans — after receiving their ‘feel good dose’ the males go back to being themselves,” she said, adding, “The female view is very different with this oxytocin release.”
Here is what happens with women. After making love a woman might mistake the oxytocin release for feelings that tell her, “This is your perfect partner.” As Breuning notes, “Despite those initial feelings, it does not necessarily mean that the person is trustworthy. The perception you have at the moment is an illusion you create about the person that may or may not fit what happens next.”
Falling into cynicism, however, is not going to be productive.
Disappoionted in love or in life?
According to Dr. Breuning, writing in Getting Past the Stress of Feeling Slighted:
You can build a new neural pathway in six weeks. You can give the electricity in your brain an alternative place to flow. Every time you find yourself pondering a social disappointment, just shift your attention to another thought. A new pathway will build if you do this every day without fail for six weeks. Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity
In the world of less than positive feelings, for those who really expect that oxytocin can improve their love life, might first take a look at attitude. It seems as if there is an interplay here in terms of love, gratitude, and all the positive feelings that intermingle to create harmonious relationships.
These are things to remember when you want to get married. I know you’re saying “not me” It’s taken a while to admit it. Saying it out loud, even in your mind feels kind of desperate, kind of unfeminist, kind of definitely not you, or at least not any you that you recognize. Because you’re hardly like those girls on TLC saying yes to the dress and you would never compete for a man like those poor actress-wannabes on The Bachelor.
You’ve never dreamt of an aqua-blue or red with gold framing ring box.
Then, something happened. Another birthday, maybe a breakup. Your brother’s wedding. His wife-elect asked you to be a bridesmaid, and suddenly there you were, wondering how in hell you came to be 36-years-old, walking down the aisle wearing something halfway decent from J. Crew that you could totally repurpose with a cute pair of boots and a jean jacket. You started to hate the bride she was so effing happy and for the first time ever you began to have feelings about the fact that you’re not married. You never really cared that much before. But suddenly (it was so sudden) you found yourself wondering… Deep, deep breath… Why you’re not married.
Well, I know why.
How? It basically comes down to this: I’ve been married a few times. Yes, more than once or twice. To a very nice Neuro-Surgeon; a very nice college entrepreneur (and pregnant); and at 42, to a very nice liar and cheater who was just like my dad, if my dad had gone to Harvard instead of deciding to walk away.
I was, for some reason, born knowing how to get married. Growing up in foster care is a big part of it. The need for security made me look for very specific traits in the men I dated, traits it turns out lead to marriage a surprisingly high percentage of the time. Without really trying to, I’ve become a sort of life experience expert of relationships, someone who’s had to do so much work on her own case that I can now help you with yours.
I won’t lie. The problem is not men, it’s you. Sure, there are less than quality men out there, but they’re not really standing in your way. Because the fact is if whatever you’re doing right now was going to get you married, you’d already have a ring on. So without further ado, let’s look at the top six reasons why you’re not married.
1. You’re a Bitch.
Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off.
The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them and appreciates them. I am the aunt of a 15-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here’s what my nephew wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn’t think so. You’ve seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married, and surprisingly, it’s perfect, since working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife.
2. You’re Shallow.
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit.
Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what Manalo Blanik shoes are. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.
3. You’re a Slut.
Hooking up with some guy in a hot tub on a rooftop is fine for the ladies of Jersey Shore but they’re not trying to get married. You are. Which means, unfortunately, that if you’re having sex outside committed relationships, you will have to stop. Why? Because past a certain age, casual sex is like recreational heroin it doesn’t stay recreational for long.
That’s due in part to this thing called oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released when a woman a) nurses her baby and b) has an orgasm, that will totally mess up your casual-sex game. It’s why you can be friends with benefits with some dude who isn’t even all that great and the next thing you know, you’re totally strung out on him and you have no idea how it happened. Oxytocin, that’s how it happened. And since nature can’t discriminate between marriage material and Charlie Sheen, you’re going to have to start being way more selective than you are right now.
4. You’re a Liar.
It usually goes something like this: you meet a guy who is cute and likes you, but he’s not really available for a relationship. He has some condition that absolutely precludes his availability, like he’s married, or he gets around town on a skateboard. Or maybe he just comes right out and says something cryptic and open to interpretation like, “I’m not really available for a relationship right now.”
You know if you tell him the truth that you’re ready for marriage he will stop calling. Usually that day. And you don’t want that. So you just tell him how perfect this is because you only want to have sex for fun! You love having fun sex! And you don’t want to get in a relationship at all! You swear!
About ten minutes later, the oxytocin kicks in. You start wanting more. But you don’t tell him that. That’s your secret just between you and 22,000 of your closest girlfriends. Instead, you hang around, having sex with him, waiting for him to figure out that he can’t live without you. I have a news flash: he will never “figure” this out. He already knows he can live without you just fine. And so do you. Or you wouldn’t be lying to him in the first place.
5. You’re Selfish.
If you’re not married, chances are you think a lot about you. You think about your thighs, your outfits, your naso-labial folds. You think about your career, or if you don’t have one, you think about doing yoga teacher training. Sometimes you think about how marrying a wealthy guy or at least a guy with a really, really good job would solve all your problems.
However, a good wife, even a halfway decent one, does not spend most of her day thinking about herself. She has too much to do, especially after having kids. This is why you see a lot of celebrity women getting husbands after they adopt. The kids put the woman on notice: Bitch, hello! It’s not all about you anymore! After a year or two of thinking about someone other than herself, suddenly, Brad Pitt or Harrison Ford comes along and decides to significantly other her. Which is also to say if what you really want is a baby, go get you one. Your husband will be along shortly. Motherhood has a way of weeding out the lotharios.
6. You’re Not Good Enough.
Oh, I don’t think that. You do. I can tell because you’re not looking for a partner who is your equal. No, you want someone better than you are: better looking, better family, better job.
Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won’t love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this.
I see this at my nephews artsy, progressive school. Of 182 kids, maybe six have moms who are as cute as you’re trying to be. They’re attractive, sure. They’re just not objects. Their husbands (wisely) chose them for their character, not their cup size.
Alright, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that I believe every woman who wants to can find a great partner. You’re just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry.
Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something it’s about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession, a free-agent penis, and for us, it’s the culmination of a princess fantasy so universal, Disneyland built a world around it.
The bottom line is that marriage is just a long-term opportunity to practice loving someone even when they don’t deserve it. Because most of the time, your messy, farting, macaroni-and-cheese eating man will not be doing what you want him to. But as you give him love anyway because you have made up your mind to transform yourself into a person who is practicing being kind, deep, virtuous, truthful, giving, and most of all, accepting of your own dear self you will find that you will experience the very thing you wanted all along:
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