Oxytocin and testosterone – the bonding agents of human relationships

Dr. John Gray was recently a guest on the Zo What Morning Show (where I co-host as “whiteylocks”) and offered some fascinating information about what increases testosterone in men (that underlies their feeling aggressive and masculine) and what increases oxytocin in women (that underlies their feeling close and intimate and feminine).

Praise increases and probably criticism decreases testosterone in men

When a woman appreciates and acknowledges competence in a man by saying such things as: “That’s a great idea!” “Wow! That’s very smart” “Boy you really worked hard on that” it increases his testosterone. Gray didn’t get into whether alternatively criticizing, belittling or picking at a man lessens his testosterone, but I’m guessing it does. I’m also guessing that when a woman criticizes a man and he feels aggressive at her for doing so, but has to put a lid on that because of his male need to protect her from harm (in this case the harm he might do), it wouldn’t surprise me if doing that also lessens testosterone.

Listening attentively to a woman increases whereas giving advice decreases her oxytocin

Alternatively when a man listens to and hears a woman out and not only understands her but causes her to “feel felt” and cared about (something covered extensively in my book, “Just Listen”) that increases her oxytocin and feelings of closeness towards him. Then on the other hand, when a man instead offers advice (as if he’s talking down to her as stupid) or a solution (as if she’s a problem to be solved vs. a person to be related to) that she doesn’t want, that no doubt lessens her oxytocin and might explain why it causes her to feel cold.

What happens when this knowledge is applied to dating and relationships?

This becomes even more interesting when applied to dating and relationships and may explain the phenomenon where a man will often promise marriage and future, etc. early on in a relationship only to become resentful when the woman begins to ask him whatever became of that promise later on. When testosterone is running the show, men go from: see → want → commit (to getting her) → sex → next (wanting to repeat the challenge that increases testosterone). And then when the woman he is seeing gets fed up with his broken promises and threatens to break up, that re-triggers a challenge in him (+ the fear of losing her) to then recapture her only to start the cycle all over. This might explain why men give love (i.e. wax and wane poetic over marriage, love, future, etc) to get sex. When oxytocin is in charge, women go from: see → want → commit (to getting him) → bond → build (family, nest, etc). This might explain why women give sex in order to get love. Since women seem to be more often frustrated by a man’s flip flopping in his commitment, saying that he is waiting for it to feel right (although he had proclaimed his love and desire to marry her earlier), here is a strategy (a.k.a. game) that might help her to gain his commitment. It involves reversing the table on him in order to keep him challenged, in pursuit and wanting to commit. To do it, she should do as follows: see → want → sex → push him away (before he gets to his “next” step). In beating him to the punch by being a tease or coy, he continues to feel challenged which continues to trigger testosterone. I remember years ago a very touching scene when a woman was by the bed of her dying husband after being married for sixty years. In an unforgettable moment she whispered to him, “I’ve been lying to you for over sixty years.” Half conscious he looked confused and said, “What?” whereupon she said, “Yes, for our entire life together, I’ve been mad about you and sexually crazy about you, but I never told you, because I knew you liked the chase.” At that point he reached over to her and smiled weakly and said, “That’s one of the things I loved you for.” Was she a game player or was she a very wise woman who knew how to keep her husband’s testosterone flowing all the way to the end until death they did part?

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Mark Goulston, M.D. is a business advisor, consultant, speaker, trainer and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist who honed his skills as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer who increases people’s ability to get through to anyone. He is Co- Founder of Heartfelt Leadership whose Mission is: Daring to Care and Go Positive Now and is the Resident Big Brother at Business Women Rising and serves on the Board of Advisers of American Women Veterans and Dr. Oz’ foundation, Health Corps. He is the author of international best selling book, “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95) which has reached #1 at amazon kindle in six business categories, #1 in China and Germany , #1 in audible audiobooks and has been translated into fourteen languages. Dr. Goulston and his book was also a PBS special entitled “Just Listen with Dr. Mark Goulston.” His next book, REAL INFLUENCE: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, co-authored with Dr. John Ullment will be the lead book for the American Management Association in January, 2013 and will focus on influencing people in a post-selling world. Dr. Goulston’s development of those skills started with his education: a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.D. from Boston University, post graduate residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He went on to be a professor at UCLA’s internationally renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute for more than twenty years, become a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists for 2004-2005 and again in 2009 and 2011 by Washington, D.C. based Consumers’ Research Council of America. A partial list of companies, organizations and universities he has trained, spoken to, provided executive coaching to or consulted with include: GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, Astra Zenica, British Airways, Sodexo, ESPN, Kodak, Federal Express, YPO, YPOWPO India, Association for Corporate Growth, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw, UCLA Anderson School of Management, USC, Pepperdine University. He is or has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and is the best selling author of four prior books including the international best seller, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior (Perigee, $13.95) Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…and Help Others Do the Same (Perigee, $14.95), is a contributor to Harvard Business, blogs for the Huffington Post, Business Insider writes the Tribune media syndicated column, Solve Anything with Dr. Mark, column on leadership for FAST COMPANY, Directors Monthly. He is frequently called upon to share his expertise with regard to contemporary business, national and world news by television, radio and print media including: Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, Los Angeles Times, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/CNN/BBC News, Oprah, Today. Dr. Goulston lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.