Cupid’s arrow might just come in the form of a nasal spray. That’s the idea that researchers from the University of Oxford are exploring in a review of research that suggests a spray containing the hormone oxytocin may be the answer to living happily ever after.
In “Could Intranasal Oxytocin Be Used to Enhance Relationships?,” set to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry, the researchers discuss the possible effects on health and relationships if, in fact, the claims that administering the hormone oxytocin to couples may improve their marriage are true.
The “love hormone,” oxytocin, plays roles in sexual reproduction, as well as aiding in social recognition and bonding – causing some to speculate that, when paired with marriage counseling, it could improve the overall well-being and closeness of married partners.
“The chemical modulation of love- and bonding-related neural systems, under the guidance of trained professionals such as clinicians or marriage therapists, could be used to overcome, at least partially, the evolved limitations of marital well-being,” the review article states. “These neurochemical enhancers would be used in conjunction with counseling and/or other controlled activities to facilitate communication and the pursuit of joint goals and ideals between couples experiencing conflict.”
But ABC News’ senior medical contributor, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, says it might take more than nasal spray to save a marriage.
“I wouldn’t go out looking for a prescription for oxytocin nasal spray, at this point, if your marriage is in trouble,” Ashton said. “But it’ll definitely be an area of ongoing research.”
Some studies have found that oxytocin levels increase when couples cuddle, but many San Francisco couples ABC News talked to have differing opinions on whether or not this love potion could actually save a marriage.
“Sounds too good to be true,” said Kathleen Francis. “If they prove that it’s going to work or there was a high percentage that it would be work, than I might [buy it].”
But John Vicino disagrees.
“No, that’s weird,” he said. “No way.”
The review estimates at least 20 percent of husbands and 10 percent of wives commit adultery, and half or more marriages end in divorce.
“Well-functioning romantic relationships are important for long-term health and well-being, but they are often difficult to sustain,” the preview states. “This difficulty arises [in part] because of an underlying tension between our psychobiological natures, culture/environment, and modern love and relationship goals.”
Other than using oxytocin, which has been called nature’s love glue or cuddle wonder drug, the review suggests couples should also focus “on the positive aspects of the relationship, nurturing commitment, and prioritizing sex and intimacy.”