Conflict in marriage can trigger testosterone surges in men, but not women, and these divergent hormonal reactions may highlight why marital arguments can escalate and cause chronic relationship problems.
That's according to first-of-its-kind research from Florida State University's Anastasia Makhanova, a doctoral student in FSU's Department of Psychology.
The study, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, found a man typically experiences a testosterone spike when he thinks his wife is opposing him in some way, and his response can lead to continuing friction. Existing research suggests this physiological response can create a pattern of negative behaviors in all arguments that hurt the relationship over time.
"If a man argued with a spouse and he perceived her to be challenging him by blaming or rejecting him, then he was more likely in our study to experience a surge in testosterone," Makhanova said. "It was all about perceptions. Interestingly, a man's physiological response was not based on what his wife was actually doing — it was based on what he thought his wife was doing."