You’ve been taught that your genes in your DNA dictate pretty much everything about you: the colour of your eyes and hair, your height, the freckles on your face, your overall body fat distribution, some of your personality traits, even your predisposition to some illnesses. But wedded bliss?
Can your predilection to have a happy marriage be possibly embedded in your own genes? Does that mean that the dice for your chances to living out a happy married life has been thrown even before you were born? Can you genes really determine how happy your marriage will be, do you have no say? It seems very clinical and potentially unfair!
According to some scientists and researchers, that may well be the case. Researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University discovered a major clue in a person’s DNA— a gene involved in the regulation of serotonin has the capability of predicting how much an individual’s emotions affect their relationships. Serotonin is the hormone that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness in a person which has an effect on a person’s happiness in marriage.
One of the questions which the research aimed to answer was what makes one spouse so attuned to the emotional climate in a marriage, and another so oblivious. The answer, they found out, lies in the link between relationship fulfilment and a gene variant called “allele” known as 5-HTTLPR. A copy of this gene is inherited from each parent. The study participants known to have short alleles were found to be the most unhappy, in their marriages when a lot of negative emotions such as anger and contempt were involved or were most happy when positive emotions such as humour and affection were experience. In contrast, those who had one or two long alleles were far less bothered by the emotional waves of their marriages.
Does this finding actually mean that couples with different variations of 5-HTTLPR are incompatible? According to the study, fortunately, no. What it may suggest though is happy couples will thrive in a good relationship but will suffer from a bad one. In fact, spouses who both have short 5-HTTLPR alleles were discovered to have a significant correlation between the emotional climate of their conversations and how they both felt about their marriage. The opposite is true with spouses who had one or two long alleles— they were less sensitive to the emotional climate of their marriages.
The older spouses had a more pronounced link between their genes, emotions, and marital satisfaction. The researchers explained that this may be due to the fact that as a person grows older, they become more susceptible to the influences of your genes.
So which variation of the gene will assure you of a happier marriage? Well, the good thing is, your genes aren’t the only one that hold authority over your marriage and your level of happiness. It is still about finding the right partner and working towards maintaining wedded bliss.
Happiness in marriage is about being connected with your true self, understanding your needs and the needs of your partner and ultimately being able to communicate effectively.
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