November 14, 2018

SEX ON THURSDAY | Your Brain on Cuddling

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There’s nothing like that rush, the warm feeling all over, the euphoria. I’m hooked on Oxytocin, the cuddling drug. The love hormone.

Oxytocin is the footy pajama, heart-eye emoji, Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” hormone. It’s a hormone of bonding — between lovers, between mothers and their babies, and even between humans and dogs. The bedroom, and the love that happens in the bedroom, is where my oxy magic happens. Science and my extensive cuddling session research can confirm that physical contact is the best way to get an oxytocin fix— cuddling, hugging, hand-holding, and the classic: sex. After a session of cuddling or sex, my brain floods with oxytocin, and I feel calm and close. Oxytocin is the reason so many people are ride-or-die cuddlers, and understanding oxytocin helped me understand myself as a sexual being.

Here’s my little secret: Chest-to-chest contact. Chest-to-chest contact is like cuddle kush. It’s like taking a tequila shot of rainbows, puppies, and long weekends. Undoubtedly, chest-to-chest contact is my #1 guilty pleasure. I find myself pulling my lovers in for long hugs and curling up like a cat on their chest. One of the best ways to foster a dynamite bond with your partner is hella chest-to-chest.

Men don’t produce the same high levels of oxytocin as women do. But men tend to “mood match” their partners, so if their lady is feeling a rush of that good good, their oxytocin will spike. Hold a man close to you, and he will take in some of your hormonal happy rush. Fun fact: In a study, men with elevated levels of the hormone sloshing around their brains stood farther away from attractive women. Oxytocin seems to be fidelity booster for guys who have boned and bonded with a woman.

Oxytocin seems perfect. It makes women zen, men loyal, and everyone oh so fulfilled.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Oxytocin isn’t always black and white; there are fifty shades of oxytocin grey. Post-sex cuddling does not come with warning labels and caution signs, so here I am, stepping in as the carrier of bad news, the grim reaper of cuddling gloom and doom.

In a healthy, stable relationship, basking in the afterglow of sex is not just fun, but also essential for cultivating love. Here’s the catch: women are more affected by oxytocin than men. A sexual release of oxytocin may create misplaced and unwanted feelings of love and connection. Let’s face it, in our hook-up culture, we don’t want to hear wedding bells with everyone we bone. Yet oxytocin makes everything #complicated. When spooning after a one night stand, ladies are more likely to feel like they had a #realconnection, while men are more likely to just feel #blessed for boning a #hotchick #onetime. Mismatched feelings lead to disappointment and confusion; oxytocin is to blame. Being conscientious of your cuddling post-love-making can keep unwanted feelings in check.

There’s another much darker side to oxytocin. Oxytocin is related to emotional pain and is likely the reason why a hard breakup, a tragic childhood, or a sustained separation can lead to long-lasting reverberations of anxiety and fear.  This is because oxytocin strengthens social memory; so if a social experience (your first girlfriend, the first time you were rejected, a sexual assault) is negative or stressful, an oxytocin “rich” brain will intensify the painful memory. On a small scale, for me, after spending a loving night of cuddles, the next day I often feel gloomy and forlorn, distant from my lover, disconnected, lost and yearning.

Be warned of this two-headed monster. For me, oxytocin is my BFFL. Sex and cuddling make me happy happy happy. Understanding how oxytocin enslaves my brain is illuminating and refreshing.

Go get your fix.