The key to long-lasting love isn't trust, communication or even a hot sex life, says a new study. It's oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone that's been linked to sexual reproduction, orgasm, maternal bonding and anxiety -- it's even been dubbed the “love hormone.” Researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Israel wanted to find out how important this chemical is when it comes to matters of the (metaphorical) heart -- and their longevity. According to LiveScience, they discovered that its role may be more significant than previously thought.
The study looked at 60 couples, all in their 20s and all of whom had gotten together within the past three months. After interviewing each participant individually and in couples about the new relationship, blood samples were taken. As a control, blood samples were also taken from 43 singles, LiveScience reported. At the starting point, those in couples had double the oxytocin in their system than the singles did. The couples were then tracked over the next six months. For those who stayed together for those six months, their oxytocin levels remained at relatively the same levels as they started. The couples whose oxytocin levels had dropped off, tended to have broken up. "These findings suggest that [oxytocin] in the first months of romantic love may serve as an index of relationship duration," wrote the researchers.
However, as Glamour astutely points out, there are a few caveats to these findings -- so don't start online shopping for a case of oxytocin spray just yet. First off, because the coupled participants didn't have their oxytocin levels measured before entering relationships, there's sort of a chicken-egg scenario going on. It's possible that people with higher levels of oxytocin to begin with are more likely to end up in relationships.
It's also worth noting that how people experience love is so varied and complicated that there's probably more to it than a single hormone -- especially a hormone that has not only been linked to affectionate spooning and long-term relationships, but also to unemotional sexual encounters, cheating and ethnocentrism. So we're probably better off letting oxytocin do what it will internally and focusing on what we can do externally to keep our relationships thriving. In other words, back to trust and communication (and a hot sex life never hurts).