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Why A Little Stress Might Be Just What Your Marriage Needs

This week in rat neuroscience, which may or may not be applicable to humans, researchers at Stanford and Berkeley unveiled compelling evidence that a little stress might be pretty good for your relationship with your spouse.

The study set out to learn how moderate stress affects cohabitating male rats. In this case, “moderate” means “immobilized for 3 hours” — so, for your purposes, think of it like an argument over who’s staying home to care for a sick kid. After the rats were exposed to moderate stress, they showed increased levels of the so-called “love drug” oxytocin; they huddled and touched more and were more likely to share water with their bro rats. If the rats were put under more intense stress — immobilized and exposed to the smell of fox piss (so, for your purposes, call it learning about an affair) — the positive effects of oxytocin were wiped out. Instead, the rats exhibited PTSD-like symptoms: they stopped cuddling, fought over water, and sat in the corner by themselves.


Elizabeth Kirby, the study’s lead author, summed up the findings thusly: Stress should be seen less as a trial to survive and more as a stimulus for greater social bonding. Which is to say, your marriage doesn’t survive and even thrive in spite of all the stress you and your partner go through every day, but because of it.

So, there you have it: Go stress your spouse out — you might get laid.

[H/T] Berkeley News