I’ve been doing some reading about oxytocin recently – it’s been a few years, and there is a lot of new information. One thing that struck me is that early nurturing helps us create more oxytocin receptors – meaning we are more sensitive to the calming and bonding effects of the hormone. For better or worse, it is our mothers who are the primary source of early nurture for the vast majority of us, and it seems that when we are very young we can only really connect to one other person, so a lot of good loving from others is nice, but does not significantly help our brains develop to want and enjoy intimacy.
Those babies who receive relatively little nurturing from their mom are less equipped to give or receive love, and less able to enjoy physical touch. However, it does not stop there. It’s difficult to know which animal studies are valid for humans, but it’s likely that those who receive less nurture are more easily stressed, stress to a greater degree, and have more trouble calming down once stressed. Ability to trust is almost certainly effected. Additionally, there are no doubt sexual issues that come from a lack of early nurture – it’s possible that those who don’t get enough nurture are less able to connect sexual pleasure to another person. This would mean the man or woman may enjoy sex, but that enjoyment is not tied to their spouse the way it should be. When sex is not spouse related, it’s possible to experience low desire, or to be more open to sexuality outside of the marriage.
The good news is that our brains are not set in stone – they can and do change. We can build new receptors even as adults. If you and your bride are physically intimate, if you touch a lot, it will change both of you. My bride accuses me of turning her into a “touch junkie” and I think this is accurate – years and years of touch has changed her brain so that she now enjoys, wants, and needs touch she once did not need, want or enjoy.
If you know or suspect that her mother was not very nurturing, look for ways to gently and slowly increase the amount of non-sexual touch you give her. OTOH, if your mum was not very nurturing, seeking regular non-sexual touch with your bride can have some very positive benefits. It’s been shown that lots of “good touch” results in better health mentally and physically, and leads to longer lives.