Why Women Feel More Attached after Sex than Men

Many of us have been in a relationship with someone who was all wrong for us, yet we stayed because we "felt a connection." It can be tough to figure out what's going through our heads when this happens, but what if it was actually beyond our control?

There is a little-talked-about hormone, oxytocin-nicknamed the "cuddle hormone"-which is released during sex and could be effecting our relationships and sex lives in ways we've never thought of.

What is oxytocin?
Basically, it's one of our many hormones. Both men and women have it, and while its exact purpose is still unclear, it increases in our systems during orgasm (for men and women) and during childbirth (it's what bonds mothers to their babies). It's released into our bloodstreams in response to breast or vaginal stimulation as well says Dr. Beverly Whipple, Secretary General of the World Association for Sexual Health.

Is it him or the oxytocin that I'm attracted to?
Oxytocin has been found to increase our levels of trust and make us feel more connected with people. But what if that oxytocin released during sex makes us feel connected with someone who's wrong for us?

"A year ago, a friend flipped for a guy whom, when I met him, I didn't quite 'get.' He wasn't all that nice. Just what did she see in him, I wondered. But I started to understand, because whenever his name came up in conversation, so did great sex ... with him," says blogger Kat Wilder. She adds: "I wouldn't doubt all that lovin' triggers that oxytocin bonding."

"Oxytocin bonding" doesn't only occur in flawed relationships though, sometimes it can emphasize feelings you have out of bed as well.

"Sometimes you just look at [your partner], and think, he makes me so happy. With [my boyfriend], it's more like that after [sex]. It feels like a level of elation, but to a greater extreme-all I want to do is tell him how much I love him," Tara* says.

While we'd like to think that this post-coital love surge is simply how we feel, the truth is it may have more to do with the orgasm-induced rush of oxytocin.

Why is this happening?

Susan Kuchinskas, who writes a blog about oxytocin and has a book, Love Chemistry: How Oxytocin Lets us Trust, Love and Mate, offers some insight:

"Oxytocin seems to have been 'designed' by nature to make a man and woman feel bonded after sex, so they would stay together and raise children," she says. "Today, the physiology of men and women still plays out according to this pattern. But estrogen seems to increase the calming and bonding effects of oxytocin, while testosterone seems to mute them. That's why women tend to feel more attached after sex than men do."

The website oxytocin.org sites a study that found oxytocin can also be released in response to intense emotions. In the study, women were asked to recall positive and negative relationship memories.

Most had only small increases or decreases in their oxytocin levels, but women whose levels rose significantly while remembering a positive relationship also reported having healthier relationships in general. Women whose levels fell dramatically while remembering a negative relationship also reported anxiety in their relationships. More research needs to be done, but this could indicate that oxytocin plays a part in whether we form healthy relationships or not.

Should we second-guess our relationships?
Yes and no. While we should always take a step back and make sure we're with a person for the right reasons, we shouldn't assume that just because we're enjoying our sex lives that that is the only reason we're with him.

"The oxytocin response is unconscious; it takes place within the autonomic nervous system, so it's hard to change it. But we definitely should be aware of what's going on when we feel this. Say you sleep with a man who's a jerk but a great lover. The next morning, part of you is going, 'This guy is a prick.' But another part of you says, 'Oh, I feel this incredible connection with him.' Well, that incredible connection is just your oxytocin talking. Remind yourself, he's not really The One-and keep looking until you find someone who's nice out of bed, too," Kuchinskas says.

*Some names have been changed to protect their identity.

More on Love & Sex from Savvy Miss

The Truth About Sex Addiction
How Normal Is Your Orgasm?
Are You in a Fake Relationship?
How to Tell if It's Like or Love