Bring On The Bonding…

Have you ever broken up with someone and it felt like you were physically going through withdrawl without them in your life? Well, you likely were.

In romantic love, when two people have sex, oxytocin is released during orgasm and even cuddling, which helps bond the relationship.This chemical begins creating an emotional bond — the more sex, the greater the bond. Interestingly, oxytocin is the same natural chemical that causes mother/infant bonding.

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around your partner. Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. One study confirmed that there is a positive correlation between oxytocin levels and adult romantic attachment.

While oxytocin comes in real handy in long-term relationships…it can throw a real money wrench into casual relationships. If you  start sleeping with someone before you know them very well – you can become bonded to them. This becomes very problematic if you find out things about your partner that no longer work for you, as the same chemical that can create an emotional bond with a loved one can also bond you to someone who’s not ready to bond with you. Enter heartbreak.

Both men and women feel the effects of oxytocin but to different degrees. Men’s levels of oxytocin are said to rise 3-5 times during orgasm, but women’s levels rise even more dramatically plus continues to rise during subsequent orgasms. Women’s brains also have more oxytocin neural receptors, and pregnancy may increase the number of receptors. The special connection women have with oxytocin may have wide-ranging influences. One article suggests that regret women often feel after casual sex may be tied to increased oxytocin levels but nobody to regularly cuddle with. And another study implies women may have more addictive relationship patterns because they feel love and loss in relationships more intensely due to increased oxytocin.

So, what’s the key then? It might be best to hold off a little longer before jumping into bed with a date. Let them prove that they are who they seem to be with their actions over time…then the bonding would be worthwhile. If you’re in a steady relationship, this information can also be put to good use. Resolve to hug your partner every day for at least 20 seconds. That’s about how long it takes for oxytocin to start flowing through your system, making you feel closer to your partner. Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” works to make you feel better about people you cuddle with. Especially when you’ve been with someone for a long time, cuddling can fall to the bottom of the priority list. Why not push it back up to the top?

Finally – oxytocin is a complex little hormone. There have been many studies of it in animals and in humans. And, the jury is still a bit out on understanding it in its entirety. So here’s a recent article in Psychology Today that might be an interesting read for you… and here are some other interesting facts about oxytocin.

So….have you ever bonded with someone who wasn’t good for you in the long run? Do you think that oxytocin might have played a role?

Photo credit: h3h’s Flickr photostream


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Categories: Discussion


I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better relationship at a time.

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8 Comments on “Bring On The Bonding…”

  1. January 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    After I broke up with my most recent ex, it felt like my heart was ready to come out of my chest. This post/article really helps explain the meaning of that feeling, there was a lot A LOT of oxytocin being release during our relationship.

    Another great article that can explain my actions in past relationships, so that I can learn from my mistakes and have better relationships in the future!

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      I’m glad it helps, Emmy. I think that a lot of people don’t realize this phenomenon and so the hurt they experience feels so bad that sometimes it drives a person back to the ex time and time again (to relieve that pain). The problem is that you’re not really relieving the pain…just prolonging it since the person really isn’t right for you in the first place (or you wouldn’t be so unhappy).

      Better to fight through the loss and come out the other side ready to find someone more better suited to a happy relationship for you.

  2. Anna
    January 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Yes, I was bonded to a really bad man for many years, and it took a huge effort to overcome that on my behalf.

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      I’m SO glad you overcame it, Anna! 🙂

  3. January 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    And I quote….

    In romantic love, when two people have sex, oxytocin is released during orgasm and even cuddling, which helps bond the relationship.This chemical begins creating an emotional bond — the more sex, the greater the bond. . . .oxytocin comes in real handy in long-term relationships. . .

    Okay, I belong to that catrgory suggested above and I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Now I understand. Thanks for giving me a reason to keep doing what I’m doing – which I’m not going to really talk about here.

    Love your blog. T

  4. January 19, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    I think in casual sexual situations a woman must really stay strongly “detached” mentally.

    Me personally, this time (despite temptation), I think I am going to take your good advice and hold off.
    cheers! great post.

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      Thanks! Looking forward to seeing how it goes for you!

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