Immediately after sex, men and women may find themselves intertwined and whispering sweet nothings into their partner’s ear disclosing intimate feelings that they otherwise normally wouldn’t share. These conversations that initiate in the bedroom, such as saying “I love you” for the first time after sex or regret for confessing one’s sentiments too soon, could make or break a relationship. According to a recent article, orgasms’ increase of oxytocin levels influences couples to engage in pillow talk after sex and contribute to overall relationship satisfaction.

The “love hormone” — oxytocin — is believed to be involved in bonding and social recognition as well as the formation of trust and connection. The American Psychological Association says this hormone is naturally produced in the hypothalamus and released from the pituitary gland during hugging, touching, and orgasm. Human blood concentrations of oxytocin have been reported to be higher among people who claim to be falling in love as well as when people experience an orgasm. The peak of oxytocin levels is responsible for causing couples to feel more inclined to experience feelings of trust and connection with their partner, especially after sex.

Published in the fall edition of UConn Magazine, Amanda Denes, assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut, discussed the role of pillow talk in relationships by examining couples’ hormone levels and communication decisions. Professor Denes wanted to delve into why some people were more enticed to share their innermost feelings even when they knew the relationship had not yet reached that level. Moreover, she probed at the effects that post-coital disclosures, or pillow talk, would have on relationship satisfaction.

Professor Denes recognized that physiological changes that accompany sex may be the underlying cause of pillow talk, but she “… also realized that one important variable was likely influencing this whole process — orgasm.” She believes to ignore the importance of orgasm would be to ignore a key piece of the pillow-talk puzzle.

When individuals experience an orgasm, different physiological changes occur as oxytocin floods the bodies of men and women. While both genders may experience a post-orgasm oxytocin boost, testosterone is believed to act as an antagonist to the effects of the “love hormone.” Testosterone, a steroid hormone often associated with competition and dominance, can counteract the maladaptive aspects of trust, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This could help explain why certain individuals with more testosterone, such as men, have fewer warm, fuzzy feelings after sex.

In women, orgasms were found to lead to disclosing more intimate feelings to their partner after sexual activity than women who did not orgasm. Professor Denes believes women who climax have higher levels of oxytocin in their systems, which yields feelings of trust and connection compared to women who do not climax, according to Medical Xpress. Therefore, this influences an individuals’ decision to talk about their feelings to their partners.

Dene’s research adheres to the claims of a study by psychologists at the University of Michigan who found how individuals view the benefits and risks of disclosing their feelings to their partners could help explain the relationship between orgasm and pillow talk. For individuals, the afterglow of an orgasm minimized the risk and increased the benefits for disclosing intimate feelings. The participants’ desires for emotional bonding, affection, and communication was found to be greatest when their partner fell asleep first.

“The time couples spend together after sex might be as important as what happens before it in terms of building the relationship, yet it has rarely been studied,” said Dr. Daniel Kruger, lead author of the study.

Sources: D Amanda. The Science of Pillow Talk. UConn Magazine. 2013.

Kruger DJ and Hughes SM. Variation in Reproductive Strategies Influences Post-Coital Experiences with Partners. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology. 2013.