If Oxytocin and Sex Deceive You, Try Gratitude to Move On

With oxytocin generated by sex, sometimes we receive the wrong message of love.

Posted Jan 18, 2018

Johntex~commonswiki- Creative Commons
Source: Johntex~commonswiki- Creative Commons

In reality, decision-making is stressful because we all want to make the right decisions. However, it is not always possible to do so. If you have already experienced holiday heartbreak, because you were in a relationship that went awry, you might be dreading Valentine's Day. While it is important to look forward towards healing, it might be helpful to understand why it hurts so much and why the break-up occurred.

After the intimate pleasure of sex, did oxytocin seduce you into believing "it's love"? Instead of chastising yourself for being in the wrong relationship, or angry with your partner for leaving you, or angry that you did not leave sooner, evaluate the relationship, express gratitude and move on.

As with love at first sight, the pain of rejection affects the same areas of the brain as cocaine. Love can bring on a cocaine-like high in a fifth of a second. Brainwave studies reported by Stephanic Ortigue, Ph.D., identified “the cortical networks associated with passionate love.” But the reaction to the break-up can last for days. In addition to emotional highs and lows, it can even include symptoms so severe that women in particular may find themselves in a hospital emergency room with symptoms mimicking a heart attack (see Broken Heart Syndrome/ PsychologyToday.com).

While bouncing back into rebound love can be helpful, even before meeting someone new, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What did I expect from the relationship?
  • Was I clear about my expectations?
  • What surprised me most about the breakup?
  • Should I have have been the one to end the relationship sooner? 
  • Did I have a nagging sense that maybe this wasn't "the one"?
  • Did I have doubts about the relationship, but just didn't want to be alone?
  • Did I stick with the relationship because the sex was good?
  • Did my friends see characteristics in my partner that were red flags?

In intimate relationships the love and trust hormone, oxtocin, can produce perplexing results.

Understand the oxytocin problem:

Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., says that oxytocin is a mingling of trust and physical touch, as well as love-making. Here is what happens with women. After making love a woman might mistake the oxytocin release for feelings that tell her, “This is your perfect partner.”

As Breuning notes, “Despite those initial feelings, it does not necessarily mean that the person is trustworthy. The perception you have at the moment is an illusion you create about the person that may or may not fit what happens next.” Oxytocin, the Love and Trust Hormone Can Be Deceptive/PsychologyToday.com.

When the relationship ends, you might be devastated. You might wish to call all of your friends to express anger or simply sob until you feel as if your heart is breaking. But you might also try forgiveness and gratitude. Here are some thoughts on how to forgive: Choose Forgiveness and Gratitude Over Gunny-Sacking/ Psychology Today.

Be grateful and forgiving:

It is easy to be grateful when the sun in shining and you are in love. But when we are in the midst of a storm or broken heart, it is much more difficult. And consider that oftentimes we need to forgive before we can embrace gratitude. 

However, Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at University of California at Davis, tells me: "Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed." Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, he pointed out:

"If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident."

How do you go through the motions of gratitude?

  • Begin and end your day with a smile. Smile at people you love, even if they have been hurtful to you. How? By recalling shared happy moments. 
  • Go to a local meeting place and smile at someone who catches your eye.  And if you two connect and decide to have coffee together, say nothing at all about your breaking heart.
  • Make an unexpected gratitude visit to someone who needs you.
  • Say "Thank you" to others, or send a thank you note to someone.

Challenge yourself to send a thank you note every day between now and Valentine's Day—and expect happiness from within. And as you move from gloom into the sunshine, you might even attract to yourself—"The One," and this time, it could be the right one. 

Copyright 2018 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

References

Bregtje Gunther Moor, Eveline A. Crone, Maurits W. van der Molen. The Heartbrake of Social Rejection: Heart Rate Deceleration in Response to Unexpected Peer Rejection. Psychological Science, 2010