May 13, 2015

Our bodies produce oxytocin, sometimes called the bonding hormone.  According to research, “The hormone oxytocin increases empathy and communication, key to sustaining a relationship between mates.”    -Luciana Gravotta; Scientific America, February 12, 2013

Women have higher baseline levels of oxytocin which seems consistent with their greater expression of empathy and desire for communication. Levels of oxytocin are the highest for men when they are engaged in any physical intimacy, with the highest levels being released after orgasm.

In the search for closeness and physical intimacy, it is helpful for couples to understand some basic physiological differences that affect their approach to each other. In general, sex heightens feelings of closeness for men. Women desire intimacy as a result of feelings of closeness. It is easy to see how this these differences can create tension in a relationship, one partner wants sex to refresh feelings of closeness and the other wants the feeling of closeness before physical intimacy!

Action Points: Because these differences can create tension in a relationship, it’s important that they be understood and embraced.  Discuss how understanding the differences in physiology can make a difference in your relationship.

        Women: Share the keys to your feelings of closeness. What enhances your relational closeness? What diminishes closeness in your relationship?

        Men: Share how physical intimacy is linked to your feelings of closeness or relational connectedness. Share what happens when physical intimacy is limited or absent

Together, decide what it would look like to actually embrace these differences.

Written by Mike Woodard

Mike Woodard

Mike is married to Karen, he is father of 4 and grandfather of 2. Backpacking is his favourite past time. Science and theology are his educational background, a biology degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in Christian Studies from Trinity Western Seminary. Mike is the Associate Director of FamilyLife Canada. For more of his story visit