Men May Be Chemically Wired to Avoid Adultery with Friends' Wives

4937497680_da787d80b4_mA University of Missouri study found that the testosterone levels of men dropped when they interacted with the wife of a close friend.

What does this mean? Testosterone is the chemical of sexual desire and aggression in both men and women. Men's T-levels tend to rise when they're around a potential sex partner -- as well as when they're around the mate of their enemy. Interesting, no?

Extrapolating, the researchers think that this mechanism may have evolved to help social cooperation in villages. According to the press release, Lead researcher Mark Flinn says, "… our findings suggest that men's minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected. … Ultimately, our findings about testosterone levels illuminate how people have evolved to form alliances. Using that biological understanding of human nature, we can look for ways to solve global problems."

The study "Hormonal Mechanisms for Regulation of Aggression in Human Coalitions" was published in the journal Human Nature. Co-authors were Davide Ponzi of MU's Division of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science and Michael Muehlenbein of Indiana University.

PHOTO: Steve Roades

Online Dating and the Oxytocin Gap

3676763773_f91c2089de_mA thought-provoking and disturbing article by Dan Slater on posits that online dating sites make it so easy to meet new people that committed relationships fade away.

Slater, author of Love in the Age of Algorithms, uses anecdotes and interviews with the heads of online dating services to make the case that people won't bother to go through the hard work of forging a deep relationship when they know that they can just log on and date someone new.

In my book, The Chemistry of Connection, I discuss the differences between romance and love. Romance, fueled by dopamine and adrenaline, is an exciting but inevitably fading state that keeps us working to win a mate. Once we win him or her and begin having sex, oxytocin kicks in, leading us into the calmer state of committed love.

This progression was crucial in prehistoric times, when sex led to babies and a man and woman had to cooperate to keep their offspring alive. Nowadays, sex has been decoupled from procreation. And, unfortunately, our culture focuses on romance and teaches us that it's more important than simple mated love.

Slater quotes Greg Blatt,  CEO of’s parent company: "Relationships have been billed as ‘hard’ because, historically, commitment has been the goal. You could say online dating is simply changing people’s ideas about whether commitment itself is a life value."

Here's Niccolò Formai, the head of social-media marketing at Badoo, a meeting-and-dating app: "It’s exhilarating to connect with new people ... Over time you’ll expect that constant flow. People always said that the need for stability would keep commitment alive. But that thinking was based on a world in which you didn’t meet that many people."

Unfortunately, people still have a wired-in need for stability, in the form of trusting relationships. That doesn't need to come from a monogamous sexual relationship. But for most people, marriage of some kind is the primary oxytocin bond, along with children.

Our oxytocin bonds are what keep us healthy and reasonably sane. I worry about generations of singles bouncing from one unfulfilling relationship to another. How will they raise children who are capable of trust and love?

A Million First Dates

Photo by he(art)geek


Sarah Hrdy on the Nature of Mothering

Are human males wired to scatter their seed? Or are we meant for cooperative breeding? Why are kids today so screwed up? Can women mother well while succeeding outside the home? Read an illuminating interview between Eric Michael johnson and Sara Blaffer Hrdy on the SciAM blogg.

Charm: Art or Oxytocin?

In this Pickup Podcast, I talked with Jordan Harbinger @AJandJordan from The Art of Charm about the chemistry of attraction. I am not only fascinated by pickup, I also think it's really good information about how human beings relate socially.

Here's the link:

What do you think? Is pickup manipulative and evil?

Picking Up Girls Using Embarrassing Items

Men: Women are not as mysterious, delicate or cautious as you think. Jesse, Jason and Kong from Simple Pickup  prove that women are as interested in sex as men are.

They took to the streets of San Francisco with a box of awkward items: packages of tampons, a used tampon, anal beads, a vibrating dildo and a transexual porn magazine -- and a used condom.

"Why are you holding a porno mag? What is that?" one asks.

"To beat off to," the man responds. "Why else would I be holding it?"

Do the women they approach shriek in disgust? Do they run away? Do they pour contempt on these men? Not at all. Watch sweet young college girls laugh, stay curious and engaged, and even direct a man to the nearest restroom so he can masturbate. (Video is embedded at bottom of this post.)

They also give their phone numbers -- although @SimplePickup doesn't let us know how many of those numbers are real.

There's a lot men can learn from this:

Jesse, Jason and Kong take what I would call a wholesome approach, even as they dangle anal beads and wave porn in women's faces. They're unapologetic and make it clear they're having fun. They're not ashamed of their interest, and therefore, they give the women permission to be curious and have fun with sexual content, as well.

Given this kind of permission and invitation, women will respond with their own sense of play. That sex drive is there in women, too. So, invite it out.


The Connection Continuum

3048731033_1f1fce7744_b You may think that the pleasure of sexual climax is miracle enough. But an orgasm is even more miraculous than that. It’s an essential element of the biological and spiritual mechanism that connects us to each other and to the universe.

Jerry M. Lewis, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and author of “Reflections: On Relationships with Self and Others,” describes what he calls the Oneness Continuum. He says, “Starting with baseline reality, the continuum moves to aesthetic experiences (sunsets and symphonies) to romantic love. Next come numinous experiences (spiritual-religious), cosmic consciousness, and progressive trance states. The continuum ends with experiences of ‘absolute unity,’ which includes the obliteration of time and space.”

I like the idea of placing these experiences on a continuum, and I’d like to expand his idea to encompass even more. The experiences Dr. Lewis describes are states of connection with something outside ourselves. I call it the Connection Continuum, and I would include many more kinds of personal connection.

The Connection Continuum

In our culture, we place so much emphasis on romantic love that we forget about the myriad of other connections we make with each other. Even as we go about daily life, we can enjoy moments of connection with strangers, for example, when we exchange a smile with someone we’re passing in the street or say a kind word to the person who hands us our coffee.

Don’t ignore or dismiss these moments. Humans are social creatures who cannot thrive without contact with others. Each time we connect with someone else, it’s a gift of health and well-being, thanks to a chemical called oxytocin.

You may have heard of oxytocin’s role in mothering. It’s essential for giving birth and breastfeeding; and at the same time, it’s responsible for the love a mother feels for her baby. Or, you may have heard it be called the cuddle hormone. In fact, oxytocin seems to play an important role in every kind of positive human interaction.

At every place on the Connection Continuum, I believe, you’ll find oxytocin. Scientists have already identified its influence in money exchanges between strangers, at the lower end of the Connection Continuum.

The Real God Molecule?
It makes beautiful sense that our brains use the same chemistry for the connections at each end of the Connection Continuum, from the fleeting kindness of a stranger to the deep sense of dependence and love we may feel for our mothers. What’s more amazing is that we also use this chemistry for all the other kinds of connection—with lovers, friends, pets, people we do business with, even sports teams and actors. (Scientists haven’t confirmed that oxytocin is involved in these more abstract kinds of connection, but do these connections make as much sense to you as they do to me?)

At the Spirit or Oneness end of the Continuum, researchers have shown that people singing in a choir have elevated levels of oxytocin. Science probably won’t pursue oxytocin’s influence on religious experience, but I’m ready to nominate it as the true god molecule. I believe that oxytocin is the basis for the experience of merging not only with another person, but with Oneness, Spirit or God (as we know him or her).

There’s one real oxytocin hotspot on the Connection Continuum: orgasm. When our bodies go into orgasm, our brains release a flood of oxytocin into the bloodstream and into the brain. Oxytocin travels through the arteries to open the blood vessels, relax the smooth muscles, and create warmth and relaxation. At the same time, it sears the brain with recognition that this other person was the source of so much pleasure.

As humans evolved to be smarter and live longer, this sense of deep connection and bonding was essential for keeping a baby’s mother and father together so that they could keep their child safe and healthy. At the same time, the regular doses of oxytocin produced by the couple’s orgasms kept them healthier.

Orgasm and Connection
What if we reconsider orgasm itself? Instead of something that we need to get from someone else in order to feel good, what would change if we thought of orgasm as a miraculous method of connecting with another person—or even connecting with the universe?

I’d like to suggest that we enlarge our definition of orgasm to include any and every experience of oxytocin. Expanding this definition can expand our range of feeling, bringing more pleasure and fulfillment into everyday life. When we enhance our ability to connect this way—every day—we can live in union with each other and the universe.

This article originally appeared in Vision Magazine.

Photo by Mike Baird.

Strong Bonds with Same-Gender Parents = Healthy Grownup Love

Sarah Elizabeth Malinak of Creating Ideal Relationships wrote an interesting post about how healthy attachment to and identification with our same-sex parents early in life help us approach grown-up love relationships in a healthier, more satisfying way.

Her book, Getting Back to Love, co-written with her husband Joseph, focuses on what they call the mama's boy/daddy's girl dynamic, in which a child feels he or she has to work hard to win daddy's or mommy's approval. When they grow up, daddy's girls may be overly flirtatious or seductive; or, she may constantly look for men she can take care of.

A mama's boydidn't get the opportunity to shift from his mother's sphere of influence into his father's, nor to develop a firm male identity. He may be irresponsible, a pleaser, or angry at women.

In her blog post, she writes about the book  For Seven Lifetimes: An East-West Journey to a Spiritually Fulfilling and Sustainable Marriage by Vatsala Sperling and Ehud Sperling [Inner Traditions, 2011]. It's the story of an arranged marriage between and Indian woman (Vatsala) and an American man (Ehud).

Sarah Elizabeth says,

... there was a revealing moment when Vatsala needed Ehud to come to her rescue. She handled the situation by clearly stating her desire that he help. She didn’t cajole or manipulate. ... In return, Ehud simply acted and came to her aid. He did not resist her or judge her. She needed his help, he could freely give it, he acted, and they both came out stronger for it.

Do read the whole post for a very interesting analysis of how early mothering and fathering affects our grownup love.

Can Hate Help You Get Over Love?

I answered this question on Quora, and thought it was worthwhile posting the answer here, as well.

Q: Is it easier to get over someone you cared for once by enthusiastically hating them?

Actually, while hating is not ultimately a rewarding or useful emotion, in the short term it could be a practical way to reframe the physiological state of broken-heartedness and longing for a lost love.  Hate is related to love as a state in the body and brain.

 Unfortunately, advice to just forget about him or her doesn't work well. It's difficult to force emotions to change, and it's not emotionally healthy. When you tamp down any emotion, even a negative one, you are reducing your ability to fully feel all emotions.

FMRI studies have shown that the state of romantic love is similar to reward-seeking and competitive activities, which usually are characterized by high levels of dopamine. (Dopamine is the brain chemical of pleasure, but levels begin to drop as soon as you get the reward.) It's likely that the brain chemistry of the person dumped is also high in testosterone (lusting for the beloved) and oxytocin (being bonded to the beloved).

Now, here's the speculative connection between love and hate:

A couple of recent studies have shown that oxytocin also plays a part in aggression toward outsiders; testosterone is also a chemical of aggression; and dopamine creates high focus on its object.

Biologists define emotion as a physiological state that we then name using the prefrontal cortex. So, if our broken-hearted person already has lots of oxytocin, testosterone and dopamine circulating in his or her brain, creating these responses, it should not be too difficult to reframe the emotion as hate. "He's awful. I wouldn't want her."

If you remove the reward-seeking element, dopamine levels should drop, allowing the focus on the other person to fade away.

Sex Hormones, not Oxytocin, Influence Fidelity?

A study led by Jillian O’Connor, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University, found that people think they can predict whether a mate will cheat by listening to tone of voice.

And, they may be right.

According to the McMaster news release,

“The reason voice pitch influences perceptions of cheating is likely due to the relationship between pitch, hormones and infidelity,” explains David Feinberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour and advisor on the study.

“Men with higher testosterone levels have lower pitched voices, and women with higher estrogen levels have higher pitched voices. High levels of these hormones are associated with adulterous behaviour and our findings indicate individuals are somewhat aware of the link and may use this in their search for a romantic partner.”


Oxytocin for Couples Therapy? Why Not?

A chiropractor in Phoenix is giving patients oxytocin lozenges to help them connect better.

I've written before about studies examining whether oxytocin could make couples therapy go better by increasing empathy.

Sorry to redirect you, folks, but this other -- paying -- blog gig I have is all about the page views.

Please read my story, The Couple's Love Drug. It has links to my previous posts, as well as to a good article on and the story about the chiropractor.