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Marriage, Communication, and Oxytocin

Better communication seems to occur in less stressful marriages. But are you sure which one causes which?

Those couples who communicate better experience less stress (as measured by cortisol in their saliva) while discussing a difficult topic. But when you give randomly selected couples a squirt of oxytocin nasal spray in a relationship lab, they communicate better than the couples who don't receive it. They don't report feeling any less stressed, but their cortisol levels say they are, and that's what matter to the health of their heart and other organs.

So where can you get some of this oxytocin? You secrete it from your pituitary. It's the size of a pea and located at the base of your brain, but you don't need to stick a probe in your brain to tell it to start producing more.

When you feel a wave of warm, positive feelings, you will know you have found the switch. Alcohol is an off switch, substituting its own wave of warm, positive feelings for the one that helps communication. The on switches? Orgasm is an oxytocin releaser for both sexes. So is genital stimulation, even without orgasm. Stroking of the skin works well, too, and the more you produce, the more enjoyable touching gets.

So perhaps those happy couples who communicate so well are reaping the dual benefits of the language of touch. It's good for the heart.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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