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?