A happy marriage is something most people try to chase after. They develop their personalities, amp up their communication skills, stabilize their careers, and the list goes on.
Now, a new paper suggests that the secret to a happy marriage may actually entail no effort because it really is in the genes.
The study by Yale School of Public Health focuses on a hormone called oxytocin, and how the genetic variations affecting this substance can influence social relationships.
A Look At Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brain, known to control emotional and social behaviors. High levels of oxytocin in the blood is said to play a role in relationships such as maternal bonding, trust, social connections and attachment. Recent studies on this hormone also show unique differences in psychosocial inclinations on a genetic level. These differences are influenced by a single genetic marker called OXTR rs53576, found in the oxytocin receptor gene. Having a certain gene encoded as G and A signals differences in social and emotional behavioral traits.
OXTR rs53576 is already known to have an effect in empathy, sociability, and emotional strength, as well as trust and fairness in relationships, however, this is the first study to look into how this gene plays a role in marital fulfillment.
Methods Of The Study
The study looks into two main points: marital satisfaction and attachment security. The target population are middle-aged and older adult married couples. The team uses survey results from two existing research with different samples.
The first survey focuses on the effect of giving emotional assistance to a spouse experiencing long-term pain on heart health, and the emotional reactivity to seeing a spouse do a household chore. The second survey looks into how support for health issues, given or not, affects each spouse's heart health and emotional reactivity.
The first survey consists of 77 couples, wherein one in each couple is experiencing long-term pain. The second survey is made up 101 couples with no long-term illness or restrictive health status. The total number of participants is 178, with ages ranging from 37 to 90 years old.
Aside from the survey answers, the researchers also look into saliva samples provided by the participants for genotyping.
Results Of The Study
The experiment shows that at least one of each couple who reported marital contentment and feeling of security has a genetic variation GG genotype in their oxytocin gateways. These couples also have a higher level of satisfaction compared to those who have different genotypes.
Participants who have this GG genotype also report less anxiety in marital attachment, which is beneficial to their overall marriage. Anxious attachment is an insecurity type that cultivates from past experiences with ex-partners and close relatives. This condition is linked to decreased self-worth, high sensitivity to rejection, and approval-seeking behaviors.
Lead author and Yale professor Joan Monin thinks this study shows that tight-knit relationships are more than just memories shared together over time.
"In marriage, people are also influenced by their own and their partner's genetic predispositions," she says.
More Happy Marriages Ahead
The study may pave the way for investigating how genotypes interact to impact relationship consequences over time. Also, it may be valuable to see in future research how the OXTR rs53576 interacts with certain good and bad experiences of couples to influence the quality of relationships over time in a broad range of sample participants.
A happy marriage may seem elusive in the present time, considering the change of times and the social haywire we have in this world, but science seems to say there is hope. Love may be truly blind then, for it is not with the eyes that we can know, it is in the genes.