Is the recipe for a happy marriage in your genes?
The secret to marital bliss may be in your DNA, a new US study has found. (sima Zoran Simin/shutterstock)
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013 11:29AM EDT
Enjoying marital bliss? If so, you can thank your DNA, at least according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley. Researchers have found a gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships.
"An enduring mystery is, what makes one spouse so attuned to the emotional climate in a marriage and another so oblivious?" said senior author and psychologist Robert W. Levenson. "With these new genetic findings, we now understand much more about what determines just how important emotions are for different people."
The team found a link between relationship fulfillment and a gene variant, or "allele," known as 5-HTTLPR. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant from each parent, they said.
Study participants with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles were found to be most unhappy in their marriages when there was a lot of negative emotion, such as anger and contempt, and most happy when there was positive emotion, such as humor and affection. By contrast, those with one or two long alleles were far less bothered by the emotional tenor of their marriages. The study involved 100 married subjects, with researchers studying their genotytpes and observing the subjects with their partners over a period of 13 years.
"We are always trying to understand the recipe for a good relationship, and emotion keeps coming up as an important ingredient," said Levenson.
The new findings don't mean that couples with different variations of 5-HTTLPR are incompatible, the researchers note. Instead, they suggest that those with two short alleles are likelier to thrive in a good relationship and suffer in a bad one.
"Individuals with two short alleles of the gene variant may be like hothouse flowers, blossoming in a marriage when the emotional climate is good and withering when it is bad," said researcher Claudia M. Haase. "Conversely, people with one or two long alleles are less sensitive to the emotional climate."
Findings were published October 7 in the journal Emotion.