Oxytocin: the reason why we feel "in love"

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Oxytocin is commonly known as the love hormone. The "in love" feeling is experienced when oxytocin is released in the brain. Both males and females have the ability to produce oxytocin. For females, it is produced released by the pituitary glands, brain, during childbirth and after stimulation of the nipples. Oxytocin helps in the bonding in human beings (and other mammals), including mother and child and also between man and woman.

You can't take a pill to obtain these benefits because oxytocin would breakdown in your stomach. An attempt to artificially administer oxytocin may cause hemorrhage in the brain and uterus, increased blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output, uterine contractions. Besides, the body rids itself of oxytocin so quickly that it won't be worth the effort to inject it into your body. Even if you use an IV drip to keep oxytocin levels in your blood up, it can't reach your brain and would therefore have no effect on how you feel.

For men and women to stay "in love" with their partners, the brain needs to continue to produce oxytocin. In the initial part (the first few months) of a relationship, oxytocin production in the brain is almost effortless. Oxytocin aids in the bonding - this is why people can feel very intensely attracted to someone whom they've just met. After a while, the production of oxytocin does not happen so effortlessly anymore. If no effort is put in at all, the oxytocin level in the brain would drop and the bonds can erode.

I've experienced such feelings too: feeling so "in love" with a guy, in my eyes he's perfect in every way, I enjoy being with him, I yearn to be with him all the time, I love receiving his calls and sms, I can't wait to kiss him and get naked with him, I think I can give up everything to be with him, etc... but after some weeks or months have passed, I start to feel less and less excited about seeing him or hearing from him... eventually I ask myself what in the world I ever saw in him!

"I love you but I'm not in love with you."
This is a common feeling among couples who have been together for a long time. Some of them continue to be together because they still feel connected to their partners even though the initial feeling of intense excitement is no longer felt. Others seek to find someone new in attempt to fall "in love" again.

The feeling of being "in love" is so irresistibly intense, sweet and enjoyable that many people would give up everything they have for it - be it money, reputation, their jobs, their spouse, or their children.

I consciously remind myself to consider whether the man is right for me or it's just oxytocin doing its job. I avoid making any commitments, e.g. agreeing to be his girlfriend or booking holidays in advance, within (to borrow an insurance term) the "free look period" of 3 months. If the man is serious about me, he can wait 3 months.

7 comments:

David said...

Yu-Kym,

An interesting post. Digression here; what is your science or biology background?

Did you know thtat Oxytocin has plenty of other functions, of course, among them triggering milk secretion during breastfeeding, and helping the cervix to dilate during labour.

Other experiments have suggested that oxytocin could underlie trust. Subjects who inhaled oxytocin in a nasal spray were more likely to hand over cash to strangers, knowing that they might not get it back.

You base your conclusions loosely on known scienctific knowledge. Which as have ofte pointed out to me maybe or may not be proven otherwise in the future. BTW, what is the qualitative and quantitative measurement that one is truly in love?

Consider that a predisposition towards loving each other to bits can also be genetically pre-programmed. This capacity can become innate. Empathetic bliss needn't be a drug-induced aberration.

Some caution here as to not to get too carried away. Researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel found that volunteers who inhaled oxytocin before playing a competitive game felt more envy when they lost and more schadenfreude when they won.

So while it's tempting to romanticise oxytocin, we would do well to remember that the "love hormone" isn't always a fomenter of happy relationships.

How many men you choose to "test drive' is up to you. There comes a point where one takes a risk, a chance that this person who love you will be that partner. A person to share all aspects of life with you, and to be more than just a friend. That of course takes two people willing to committ to the other.

David

Anonymous said...

I think after this Oxytoxin or whatever you called it wears off, the hormone "boRtoxin" is produced that causes boredom to set in. lol

The simultaneous production of both "xins" is the reason why sometimes there is a mixed or unsure feeling if you still love someone.

And if either of these "xins" fade away, it is because of the production of "nonsensetoxins"...this is when you dont even think of that someone anymore. He is no more in your senses. lol You think what i say is nonsense? lol

So Yu-Kym,

you are saying if you are attracted to someone, you would give yourselves a 3-mth probation period before you jump into a committment with him?

Does this equate with not jumping into bed with him until after this probation period?

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

David, I know the other functions of oxytocin. Certainly it's not the oxytocin alone that forms long-lasting relationships but the actions of the couple that determine it.

curious cat, yes at the moment the 3-month probation includes not having sex with the person. I usually experience "boRtoxin" within the 3-month period.

Anonymous said...

Yu-Kym,

So it wasn't the case before "this moment"? keke

haha lol Gosh the guy that can prevent your "boRtoxin" from being secreted is certainly prime material! lol

I suppose too there were innumerable cases where the effects of "boRtoxin" set in within the first 5 minutes of meeting? lol We are so much alike..you scare me! lol

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

Some guys, I don't even need to meet them and I'm bored already. Unlike oxytocin, boroxin (I changed the name) can travel through the phone and internet.

Anonymous said...

Hahahah Absolutely! lol Very funny Yu-Kym!

Except that if it can travel through phone or internet it's no longer a hormone but a virus or virulent program that corrupts your mind!

Or it's like an infection that causes meningitis or an influenza virus like H1N1. But only in this case its your very own virus...the "B1D1" "Boring One Dont Want! lol

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

B1D1 is good! I might use that term ;)