A couple’s long-term happiness may be influenced by their genes, according to a new study led by Yale School of Public Health researchers.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reveal the impact of a certain genetic variation, known as the GG genotype, on relationship satisfaction. The GG genotype affects oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding.
The study involved 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 this particular genetic variation 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 studied 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 lead author Joan Monin, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “In marriage, people are also influenced by their own and their partner’s genetic predispositions.”
The results also reveal that people with the GG genotype reported less anxious attachment in their marriage, which also benefited their relationship. Anxious attachment is a style of relationship insecurity that tends to develop from past experiences with close family members and partners over the life course. It is also associated with diminished self-worth, high rejection sensitivity, and approval-seeking behavior, said Monin.
The researchers said that a person’s GG genotype and their partner’s GG genotype together account for about 4% of the variance of marital satisfaction. Although this percentage seems small, it is a significant influence considering other genetic and environmental factors to which couples are exposed.
The new findings may lead to future studies that will look at how couples’ genotypes interact to influence relationship outcomes over time. Future research may also examine how the genetic variant interacts with specific negative and positive relationship experiences to influence relationship quality over time, said Monin.
Source: Yale University