Study finds you may have no control over marital happiness

Couples fall in love for many reasons, but their long-term happiness may depend on genetics.

Genes affect marital satisfaction

People fall in love for many reasons – similar interests, physical attraction, and shared values among them. But if they marry and stay together, their long-term happiness may depend on their individual genes or those of their spouse, according to a new study led by Yale School of Public Health researchers.

The study examined the role of a genetic variation that affects oxytocin, a hormone which plays a role in social bonding.

Lead author Joan Monin, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, and her team studied 178 married couples ranging in age from 37 to 90 years old.

Each participant completed a survey about their feelings of marital security and satisfaction, and also provided a saliva sample for genotyping.

The research team found that when at least one partner had a genetic variation known as the GG genotype within the oxytocin gene receptor, the couple reported significantly greater marital satisfaction and feelings of security within their marriage. Those couples had greater satisfaction compared with other couples who had different genotypes.

While the oxytocin receptor variant, OXTR rs53576, has been previously analysed and linked to personality traits such as emotional stability, empathy, and sociability, the new study is believed to be the first to examine its role in marital satisfaction.

“This study shows that how we feel in our close relationships is influenced by more than just our shared experiences with our partners over time,” said Assoc. Prof. Monin.

“In marriage, people are also influenced by their own and their partner’s genetic predispositions.”

The researchers also found that people with the GG genotype reported less anxious attachment in their marriage, which also benefitted their relationship.

Anxious attachment is a style of relationship insecurity that develops from past experiences with close family members and partners, and is associated with diminished self-worth, high rejection sensitivity, and approval-seeking behaviour, said Assoc. Prof. Monin.

The researchers said that an individual’s GG genotype and their partner’s GG genotype together account for about four per cent of the variance of marital satisfaction.

Although this percentage is small, it is a significant influence considering other genetic and environmental factors to which couples are exposed.

The study findings may lead to future studies examining how couples’ genotypes interact to influence relationship outcomes over time.

Another would be to examine how the OXTR rs53576 variant interacts with specific negative and positive relationship experiences to influence relationship quality over time in a large representative sample of married couples, said Assoc. Prof. Monin.

Do you think genetics plays a role in marital satisfaction?



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    12th Mar 2019
    I'm blessed with the best wife in the word but I wouldn't know whether genetics affects marital happiness (it's beyond my pay grade) except that it seems to me that marriage breakdown or sticking together very much depends on ones family history; if both of your parents split up, a reasonable chance you will; if they stayed happily together, good chance you will too. This may have more to do with role models than genetics.
    Our 50 years of marriage formula is selflessness; we both demand little from each other but get a lot and we try to do the that little extra to please and help each other. We both agree that the other partner works harder and contributes more so we each try to do more. We discuss and agree major issues like purchases, travel etc. before acting.
    The best thing older generations had towards successful marriages was a period of courting to get to know each other. In our case we lived geographically far apart so after many letters, phone calls and short meetings before we eventually stayed with each other's families (in separate rooms) at weekends. You soon get to know who and what you would be marrying into this way. Struggling to build a nest together without having everything given to you on a plate also creates a strong bond if that joint effort takes priority over individual personal material 'wants.' In our case I built the furniture while my wife made the furnishings, curtains and some of our clothes. What we saved helped pay for our home deposit.
    Many young people today are sleeping with each other before they know each others' family names and living together before they have a clue whether their partner is a spendthrift, heavy drinker, gambler, drug taker, abuser or whatever. Its much easier to leave somebody when you don't live with them. There is also a much higher degree of selfishness today.
    Mutual give and take and consideration for your mate is the key to a successful marriage!
    12th Mar 2019
    Thanks for sharing, if more young people took a leaf out of your book there would be less divorces and break-ups, maybe even less domestic violence.
    12th Mar 2019
    Totally agree Cosmo - my darling husband and I have been married for 57 years this year, and our marriage has been built on sharing and selflessness and togetherness. Sadly the young today are lacking in this and feel living together and 'doing there own thing' is fine. We also built our marriage on friendship too, we are still best friends.
    12th Mar 2019
    I wouldn't even think of going into a relationship without doing these calculations first. Lifetime single
    12th Mar 2019
    Sounds like yet another opportunity for outsourcing personal responsibility to me.

    Genes mean very little and may point to a predisposition but do not indicate certainty. Successful relationships take effort and engagement on both sides. They do not rely on 4% genetic variations
    12th Mar 2019
    I don’t think marriages will be happy if you have the addiction gene either be that gambling, alcohol, drugs, shopping. Add selfishness, abusiveness, meanness, narcissism and lack of compromise.
    12th Mar 2019
    Not sure if I believe this gene stuff, I think it depends on your upbringing more than anything else, but then again, it is also your environment and what opportunities you have to meet the right partner. I never had any luck in finding anyone I wanted to marry. Maybe it is a need thing and I felt I did not need it either.

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