Art classes & board game nights could help bring couples closer: new study
If you're thinking that a romantic dinner, red roses or luxury gifts are the only way to your partner's heart this Valentine's Day then you might want to think again.
According to new US research, attending an art class or simply playing a board game together will release more of the "love hormone" oxytocin, which helps bring couples together.
Carried out by researchers at Baylor University, the new small-scale study recruited 20 couples age 25 to 40 and asked them to participate in one of two dates - either a board game night or a couple's art class.
Each date lasted one hour and the couples were not alone.
To measure their oxytocin levels, a hormone often dubbed the "love hormone" or "hugging hormone," the researchers took urine samples before and after the activities.
Participants were also asked to complete a survey about their communication, touch and eye contact with their partners during the dates.
The findings, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, showed that men and women in all four groups experienced an increase in the release of oxytocin during their date activities, however, the men in the art class showed the biggest increases, releasing twice as much or more as the level released by women painters and the couples playing games.
"Our big finding was that all couples release oxytocin when playing together - and that's good news for couples' relationships," said study author Karen Melton. "But men in the art class released 2 to 2.5 times more oxytocin than the other groups. This suggests that some types of activities may be more beneficial to males than females, and vice versa."
Despite the researchers predicting that the couples painting would pay more attention to the teacher and the class than to each other, the findings also showed that couples in the art class actually reported more partner-touching than couples playing board games.
"We were expecting the opposite - that couples playing the board games would interact more because they were communicating about the games and strategies, or because they were competing, and with more interaction, they would release more oxytocin," which is a hormone associated with bonding, said Melton.
"Typically, an art class is not seen as an interactive date with your partner. But sometimes couples that were painting turned the activity into a bonding time by choosing to interact - putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, 'Good job,'" Melton added.
Moreover, the couples in a novel setting released more oxytocin than those in a familiar home-like setting, which was the environment for those playing board games, suggesting that the novelty factor may also be important when planning your next date night.