Friday, January 06, 2012

in which she mandates chick flicks and cute puppy videos

So many times in my personal life and in my office I get asked some version of the eternal question, Why is he so selfish? A wife or partner of a man tells me that while she is always thinking of his needs, he seldom recicprocates.

I hear things like,

I go to his action movies but he refuses to come with me to a chick flick.


For weeks I think of the perfect present for him but he barely remembers my birthday.


After twenty years of marriage why can't he remember that I don't like mayonnaise on my BLT?

Ok, so that last complaint is mine.

The point is, women are often frustrated and hurt by the lack of compassion and understanding they get from their men. The fact that lesbian couples are also frustrated by their partners for the same reason is besides the point and will be largely ignored for the purpose of this discussion. Big wink here.  

Why, I often ask myself, are there so many of these complaints? Are men less compassionate? Or are women overly needy and overly sensitive ? (Insert lesbian examples here.)

I type this knowing my question is largely rhetorical among so many readers but I ask so that I might suggest ... what we have long suspected...

It's in the biology.

Or so says Dr. Paul Zak, PhD.

So his PhD is in Economics. He's validating my long held theory so I'll take it.

According to the research cited by Dr. Love, as he has been dubbed, testosterone inhibits the release of the  cuddling hormone, oxytocin. I will say that again.  Testosterone inhibits the release of oxytocin.

Many situations contribute to the release of the bonding hormone.  Women release oxytocin when they breastfeed and when they have sex. Especially when they have sex. When we are moved to tears, when a small child snuggles against our neck, when we see, at the end of The Way We Were, Hubbell looking wistfully at Katie as she smooths back his hair.

It's that warm, grabby, squeezy feeling in the chest.  The feeling that makes us want to get close, to hug and connect with someone (or puppy), take care of, protect, soothe their hurts.

So, says Dr. Love, in the presence of testosterone, or extra testosterone, feelings of compassion decrease.  Administering additional testosterone to men also leads to them become "more selfish."  However, men who watched videos designed to elicit compassion were found to release more oxytocin.

Ok, so what is the practical advice here?  How can we oxytocin soaked wommens get our menfolk (or women partners) to crank up their oxytocin levels?  Take them to sappy, romantic chick flicks, that's how. Expose them to sensitive, caring pictures.  Videos that make you go, awwwwww.  Give warm hugs.  Show appreciation.  Compliment them, authentically, especially for loving deeds or a job well done.  And - always good couples therapy advice - cut back on the criticisms. Way back.

Oh, and one more... have sex more often.

Not a bad exchange when there's a chick flick in the bargain.