... even though couples may not feel its effects, according to a new study.
Oxytocin keeps a lid on marital spats, letting couples work out problems without getting enraged. In a double-blind study at Emory University, 50 couples were given either an oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo spray, and then asked to revisit a sore point in the relationship.
Their mock arguments were videotaped, and researchers measured the heart rate and the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the couples' saliva. Cortisol levels were significantly lower in the oxytocin group.
Interestingly, people in the oxytocin group didn't feel any less stressed than the control group. After arguing for ten minutes, everyone rated their own stress levels, and both groups felt about the same amount of tension.
But psychologists who scored the couples' interactions based on body language, verbal expression and tone of voice said the oxytocin group handled the interaction better: They were able to verbalize both negative and positive feelings better, and they opened up more than the other group.
Being able to handle conflict without tweaking makes it easier to collaborate with your mate, and it also has long-term health benefits.
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