GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - What is the secret to having a long committed relationship? It's a question many ask but few have any answers for... until now.
New research that may have identified what keeps men especially from straying in a relationship.
Love and attraction of course help but a new study finds that high levels of the hormone oxytocin increase the need for men to bond with their partners.
Finding that initial attraction and passion is the easy part, maintaining it can be a little trickier.
But Oren and Charlotte Weil have managed to do that for 68 years, "I love her just as much as when we first got married. In fact more I guess."
They were married in November 1945 after only 8 weeks of dating. Oren still remembers how he felt the first time he saw Charlotte, "That's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."
And even now, Oren can hardly stop himself from holding her hand,"Oh yeah, she's special. Yeah he still kisses me good night."
And that just might be the secret. Constant physical contact that releases the hormone oxytocin into the blood stream and creates a need to bond both physically and emotionally, "It's a hormone from the pituitary gland." Dr. Philip Tate is an Endocrinologist with Spectrum Health. He's very familiar with the latest research linking oxytocin and monogamy, "When you are with someone for with you already have a bond. A hug, just recognizing a face for instance will increase the levels of oxytocin. That affects certain parts of the brain that have a lot to do with social function."
The latest study was published in the National Academy of Sciences. It looked at 20 men in committed relationships who were either given nasal spray containing synthetic oxytocin or a placebo spray, "It makes them more forgiving. If there had been an event that was uncomfortable or hurtful in the past after exposure to this hormone people tend to be more forgiving of that hurt.", says Tate who did not take part in the study.
Dr. Michael Wolf is a neuropsychologist with B.R.A.I.N.S. in Grand Rapids. He is able to show us scans of the brain under the influence of synthetic oxytocin, "Now with the use of the synthetic oxytocin we see that the brain is lit up very actively with the use of the yellows and the reds and that tells us that brain is absorbing more of that hormone release to say wow."
Those two areas of the frontal lobe are responsible for reward and pleasure and that researchers say is the key to a man's desire to be faithful to their partner.
Researchers believe couples who maintain a higher level of intimacy maintain stronger bonds and Dr. Wolf agrees, "Even when you have two people who've been married for a long time they still have that desire for each other."
And perhaps Oren and Charlotte are the best example of that, "The longer you're married you get so attached to one another that when one person isn't around anymore that's when you really miss that person. I just hope the good lord gives us a few more years."
Oxytocin has such a strong influence over our social connections that it's been studied in children with autism.
So far it's shown that when those children are given doses of synthetic oxytocin it helps them to connect with their parents and form a bond. Unfortunately, what we don't know yet is whether or not that can be maintained long term. The research is still too new.