Does DNA hold the secret to a happy marriage?

DNA testing

What is the secret to a happy marriage? This is an age-old question, which could be answered in various ways: fairness, friendship, understanding, shared pastimes… But now researchers think that DNA has a role to play in the long-term happiness of married couples.

Professor Joan Monin and her team from Yale University studied 178 married couples with ages that ranged from 37–90 years. Participants were asked to complete a survey about marriage satisfaction and security, as well as provide a saliva sample so the team could extract their genotype. The study is published in the journal PLOS One [1].

The team found something interesting related to OXTR rs53576, a polymorphism on the oxytocin receptor gene. This has previously been linked to individual differences in social behaviors, such as emotional stability, empathy, and sociability. The researchers discovered that when at least one partner had the GG genotype variation within this receptor, they had greater overall satisfaction compared to other couples. In addition, people with the GG genotype reported less anxious attachment in their marriage. This lack of relationship insecurity is thought to likely contribute to an overall happier marriage.

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

The study is believed to be the first to examine associations between a couple’s OXTR genotype and how both spouses’ genetic polymorphisms relate to the quality of a marriage. The results suggest that having at least one spouse with an OXTR GG genotype is associated with both partners feeling satisfied and this is because spouses feel more securely attached to one another.

The team now want to know more about the impact of OXTR rs53576 and are interested to see if, and how, genetic variation influences relationship outcomes over time.

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 [1] J.K. Monin, S.O. Goktas, T. Kershaw and A. DeWan. Associations between spouses’ oxytocin receptor gene polymorphism, attachment security, and marital satisfaction. PLoS One 2019;14(2):e0213083.

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