Sex and Glue: The Emotional Bond of a Physical Act

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When it comes to the physical act of sex, there is a tremendous amount of emotional bonding that is being created that most probably do not even think of. We can think of this bond as the glue that ties two people together. This bond can have a positive effect as well as a negative one. Let’s dive into the physiology and psychology of sex to investigate this phenomenon.

Our Brain and Psychology

When it comes to physiology and psychology, it is important to understand how our brain works. Brain? Does that sound odd to you? The brain is our command center; it sends messages to all the parts of our body so we can function. In fact, the more we learn about the brain, the more intricate we learn the brain is.

One part of the brain, the Limbic System deals with and regulates emotions, memory, and sexual arousal. When it is not working properly, you will have feelings of depression and lethargy.  The frontal lobe allows us to think, decision-make, plan, and problem solve. When it is not functioning properly, we are usually focused on one thought because it is difficult to think about anything else. In other words, we cannot shift from one though to another. If we are on a negative thought, then that thought filters down to our entire being.  Another part of the brain, the basal ganglia, affects habit formation, reward system, and skill learning. When it is not functioning properly, it can cause one to experience anxiety and or depressive symptoms.  There are many different parts and functions of the brain. Every part and function of our brain affects us, and when one part is not functioning how it is supposed to, it has implications in our everyday life. I know this is a very simplistic overview of the brain. (Henslin, 25) but I am attempting to show how our brain is involved with our emotions and later, on sex. Also, a great smart phone app that aided me on this part is called “3d Brain.”

The different parts of the brain sends neurotransmitters which help various messages and hormones go from one part of the brain to another. You can think of neurotransmitters as a taxi delivering and bringing (passengers) messages, hormones, etc. from one part of the brain to another. You can think of hormones (which are chemicals) as text messages as they are the communication to wherever they are going.

 The infamous hormone, Oxytocin

One of the hormones that these neurotransmitters send from the Deep Limbic System of the brain is oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes bonding and attachment and if all the hormones had an opportunity to vote for the “most popular” award in the hormone yearbook, its peers would vote for it every time because it makes others feel good and close when it is active.

For the Psychology student, here is the scientific description: “Oxytocin is produced mainly in the hypothalamus [which is in the Deep Limbic System part of the brain], where it is either released into blood via the pituitary gland, or to other parts of the brain and spinal cord, where it binds to oxytocin receptors to influence behavior and physiology.”  (DeAngelis)

Oxytocin has been dubbed the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it does simply that. It creates bonds, trust, and generosity in us. (DeAngelis) In fact whenever you feel comfort or security, oxytocin is involved. It is involved in every form of human bonding. (Horstman, 23)

Let’s look at some non-sexual areas in which this hormone is released and then we will investigate how this hormone affects us and sex. If you just want to skip to the sex part, scroll down to the subtitle, “Sex and Oxytocin.”

One of the forms of human bonding this hormone is involved in is childbirth. When oxytocin is released in a mom during labor it helps her body stimulate contractions, helping the birthing process go smoothly. Women who release more oxytocin have a smoother birthing process. There have been reports that midwives will place ice cubes on the nipples of a mom in labor to release more oxytocin and consequently causing more contractions, ensuring a smoother birth. The word “oxytocin” comes from the Greek word that means “swift birth.”  This hormone not only helps the contractions of a laboring mother but it also begins the bond between mother and child. (Malan)

Another example of bonding that occurs when oxytocin is released is when a mother is breast-feeding.  Breast-feeding mothers are calmer. Additionally, this hormone causes the release of breast milk for the child. One of the main responsibilities of this hormone is to aid the woman’s body in the release of breast milk for her child. As this hormone is released during the act of beast-feeding, it is aiding the mother and child in bonding in a very special way (Malan).

Oxytocin not only promotes bonding during birth and breast-feeding; it also increases trust and empathy. (Bartz) It is also released during a hug and kiss of a loved one. (DeAngelis) This hormone does it all. I could go on and on about this hormone but it is time to turn to oxytocin and sex.

Oxytocin and Sex

The other crucial time oxytocin is released is during sex. During sex this chemical is being produced in both individuals, creating a bond between them both. Released in the brain, this hormone is creating an emotional bond between the partners.

One of the prominent figures in neuropsychology is Dr. Daniel Amen. Dr. Amen does cutting edge research in neuropsychology and has helped millions of people have healthier brains, which translates to healthier lives. Dr. Daniel Amen writes in his book, Change Your Brain Change Your Life, page 41:

“Whenever a person is sexually involved with another person, neurochemical changes occur in both their brains that encourage limbic, emotional bonding. Yet limbic bonding is the reason casual sex doesn’t really work for most people on a whole mind and body level. Two people may decide to have sex ‘just for the fun of it,’ yet something is occurring on another level they might not have decided on at all: sex is enhancing an emotional bond between them whether they want it or not. One person, often the woman, is bound to form an attachment and will be hurt when a casual affair ends. One reason it is usually the women who is hurt most is that the female limbic system is larger than the male’s.”

Does this resonate with you? Have you ever felt the hurt and pain after a one night stand or breakup? Do you find yourself repeatedly playing the scenario in your mind, maybe even thinking of different outcomes? Chances are you are doing these things because of the attachment that was created between you and your partner when you were sexually involved.  The emotional attachment that is created during sex (the glue) brings two people together.

Even though casual sex is extremely common nowadays, the partners involved in the act are creating a significant bond. I would be as bold to say “casual sex” is not possible because of the bond that is created.

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54 Comments on “Sex and Glue: The Emotional Bond of a Physical Act”

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  3. One of the best articles I have ever seen on this subject. The fact that sex actually changes our body chemistry was just on NPR news last week. I wonder what else the scientists have been hiding from us? That may make another good topic for you to explore.

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  10. Great post!. It is a fact two people can began telepathic communication during the act. Safe to say it is an exchanging of inner being energy that is manifested through our biological system.

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  12. Men don’t produce oxytocin. Men do not bond. Sex is something only very special and valuable women should do. No man wants to have sex more than once with a woman unless she’s is hot shit and was loved by both parents from the day she was born. Having sex with men never made them bond with me. Most of them never wanted to do it again. This article is total horse shit; a lie contrived to make undesirable women keep handing out the sex hoping that, eventually, someone will want to be around them and have a relationship. Face it, ladies, you’re either a winner or a piece of shit. I”m a piece of shit. You probably are too if you had to google this.

    1. Did ever think that maybe they didn’t want to do it again because of the risk of catching feelings? Or maybe the sex was bad? or that they didn’t like your personality? or that they got the vibe that you seemingly don’t understand that sex doesn’t entitle you to a relationship and a one night stand won’t make anyone fall in love with you unless they are super inexperienced and don’t know how to manage their own feelings? No of course you didn’t, cause you’d rather wallow in your own jaded and biased bitterness… Pfft.

  13. Sex is a beautiful thing, and I agree – “casual sex” is anything but innocent and casual. I don’t judge people who choose this route, but I do encourage to know their value. Every time someone has sex, they give away a small (or huge) part of themselves. Who, and under what circumstance, you do that with is what makes the difference. It shouldn’t be a decision made or taken lightly. The heart needs protecting from what the world calls casual sex.

    1. Thank you for commenting! Sex is such a powerful act, and thus emerging generation needs to understand that. However, some insist on learning the difficult way. I like your thought on not judging! You seem like one others can talk to about this.

      1. I agree. Some do seem to require the heartbreak that comes along with being hurt before they realize that they need to protect themselves. It would be an honor to talk through this or other difficult topics. I have learned much of what I know through personal experience, and if some of what I’ve gone through can share hope with others – it then has purpose.

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  15. I appreciate what you have written here Bryan and enjoyed all comments.
    I’m struggling with this as we speak! Last week I met a very handsome, kind, thoughtful man. We shared a few great and memorable times together… then I slept with him. Then things got weird, as feared and predicted..
    Note: I’m a fairly religious woman, and ultimately desire to obstain from sex before marriage. Also I have a degree in the medical field, and have researched oxytocin and other neurotransmitters, having a good understanding of how they act in the body, driving us to form these attachments.
    Yet with this perspective…I still find myself falling into this trap. Its as if I’ll convince myself that things will be different each time and maybe even necessary for them to like me. When I know that’s not how a true intimate foundation should be layed. My heart and what governs my actions seems to be conflicted.
    Before the sex I felt in control, now I feel confused and want to be close to him even though I know he’s not the right person for me. I’m attached prematurely…..and I know it.
    The obvious solution is NOT to sleep with a man until I have come to know who it is I will be giving my heart to.
    Though I find myself being driven by something I’m not fully aware of…be it hormones, neurotransmitters, old schema’s, need to fill a void, lack of self love, need for validation, etc. Some thoughts I have explored.
    I would really like to find a solution to this behavioral pattern, in a desire to develop healthy relationships and avoid this pain.

    Any of your thoughts and experiences would be very much appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Audrey! Thanks for your honesty. You’re right the obvious answer is to not sleep with a man ’till marriage; however, my approach is to get to the root of the issue. Until the root problem is dealt with, the old patterns will remain. I cannot say what the root need is for you to sleep with this man; only you can answer that. Dealing with the hurts and pain within is the beginning to freedom. Getting to the root is difficult but rewarding. You can view some counselors at http://www.aacc.net

      It is also important to internalize the truth that you are created in the image of God and He loves you regardless of your choices. That doesn’t mean we can do what we want–it is just a comfort knowing that type of love is always there!

      I hope that is helpful. Let me know if there is anything else I can do.

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  20. The original question I Googled that got me here was, “how do I get over the physical bond with a man?”. This article was great, and gave more information about why I feel the way I do after recently ending a fling with a guy, however, do you know any ways to get over that physical bond quickly? I’m tired of thinking and dreaming about him all the time and longing for his lips when I find myself alone.

    Any advice will help, I suppose.

    1. Keeley, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I understand you must be hurting. I’m sorry to hear that. Going off just what I know I’ll try to offer some helpful thoughts. I’ll put them in categories.

      Practical
      1. Stop following him on social media.
      2. Erase his phone number.
      3. Have one of your friends hold you accountable so you don’t go back to him.

      Emotional
      1. Exercise (One of the best things you can do for your overall emotional and physical health is exercise. It will help you get back to where you want to be)
      2. Eat healthy (Healthy food helps you mind and body function property. I’ve read that our brain consumes like 75+% of our diet’s nutrients. Healthy brain=a healthy life.)

      Spiritual
      1. Pray (I’m not sure if you are a person of faith, but I believe when we connect with the Creator, we are living as we were designed to live. Give Jesus a try.)

      I hope that helps. Without knowing more, I’m not sure what else to write–but feel free to comment back. I wish you all the best. You can get through this. And I get the sense that you’re stronger than you realize.

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  24. Wow im truly amazing what a little sex fun can do … I think this is an Amazing Website !!!! Well i had many fun times where in involved sex but it was just for fun … the thing is lady we have the power and we can end it * i just ended my casual fling and im doing just fine *The guy who calls you up and when ever he feels like it * cus he miss you so much blah blah.. Cus you have a bond with him a connection and everytime he see other women he wana get that connection with you again

    ***with is because he wants to feel that
    connections . #BESMART Lady’s dont you see you have something sooooooo special and that jerk seek it everytime you not together * End it’s for the best

  25. Hi Bryan,

    I have been interested in this subject ‘bonding through sex’ since about half a year a so. Last summer I consciously experienced this bonding for the first time (before then I was not aware of it) and even felt it happening while having sex.

    Your story gives a great explanation of what actually happens in your brain. Still the story feels not complete for me… I experience a huge difference between having protected sex with guys (I am a girl) or having unprotected sex.
    If I have protected sex I feel somewhat more of a bond but I can still think clearly and make rational decisions considering this person. If I have unprotected sex however, I cannot. I start rationalizing irrational things, I get insecure about the relationship I have with this person, I start questioning myself, I get less opinionated and so on.

    I am very curious about your view on this matter and I look forward to receiving your respond!

    1. Luus, thank you for commenting and your honesty! I have been asked this question before and I’ve always answered that regardless of using protection or not there is still a bond that is created, because it is chemicals being released in the brain. I have not read any academic resources that address this specific issue.

      The interesting part is it seems you have had the opposite effect of what some assume happens if using protection.

      I wonder why do you think that is? Do you have any ideas/thoughts?

      1. Thank you for your quick respond!

        I do agree with you that there is definitely a bond made after having sex, whether this is protected sex or not. I understand from your reply that others experience more of a bond when having used a condom? I experience drastic behavioral changes and changes in my way of thinking after having unprotected sex.
        An example of this is that I tend to take over a guy’s opinion or interests. I do not do this when I have used a condom during sexual intercourse.

        My idea on this matter is that there is not only a chemical reaction in the brain but also a chemical reaction in the woman’s vagina. This reaction combined with how a guy’s scent and all other ways of defining who is who could make this emotional bond extra strong. Making this not only a mental bond but a physical bond as well.

        What are your thoughts on this?

        I have been trying to research this matter but I can’t seem to find website that make this distinctive difference.

        1. That’s very interesting. I misread your first post. I have heard from a number of people that they believe a stronger bond would occur without protection. Very interesting. If I come across specific articles I will be sure to pass it along.

          My question, I hope you do not mind me asking, is why so many partners?

      2. That is very interesting indeed… I have asked this question on a Dutch website about sexuality. I hope they will respond.
        So many partner because I was lost between Right and Wrong and with that lost in what I wanted and did not want. I wanted A but with A came B in my mind. I now learned this is my own decision. I needed to learn 🙂 and I did 🙂

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  27. hi bryan
    im sarah, i met a guy 8 years ago. we dated for three years and had regular sex. he got a job abroad gradually we separated. the problem is i want any guy i go out with to resemble, talk or behaviour. its so bad that i imagine he is the one when i am having sex with anyone else. once it dawns on me that person its not actually him, i end the relationship. please, its five years not a long time for one to get over a relationship? he was my first boyfriend and the only one that has ever satisfied me sexually. what is wrong with me?

    1. Sarah, I know all these experiences are worrisome for you. However, there is always healing. It sounds like there is a lot more underneath the service. Gave you considered professional counseling? I think a good counselor can help you through this. A good website with counselors all over the US is http://www.AACC.net

  28. What about people who are victims of sexual assault? Are you saying that I bonded with my rapists, and that is why I struggle to have normal sex? I feel like you can’t bond with anyone during sex if you don’t enjoy it. It gives me anxiety. I had to move far away to get away from the memories of them. And it happened more than once, with multiple men. Even when I say I don’t want sex, they force themselves on me. Why wait if the men won’t listen away?

    1. Sararen,

      First, I am so sorry to hear about the egregious acts against you. Anytime one is violated that way, it affects them in many different ways. I have two posts from a survivor of rape on my blog–The post below is a letter that a sexual abuse survivor wrote to her younger self–https://bryanasands.wordpress.com/tag/rape/

      Also this post may encourage you–It is a letter a survivor wrote to her abuser–https://bryanasands.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/a-letter-to-my-abuser-how-could-you/

      These acts should never happen! They are wrong, evil, and destructive. But let me try to encourage you–I have seen women and men heal from these acts–and are speaking out against such atrocities.

      I always encourage people to see a professional counselor. http://www.aacc.net

      I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everything better, but I cannot. My prayer is that you will continue to find healing, peace, and strength like you never thought you could have.

      God Bless,
      Bryan

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