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Oof, It Looks Like There's a "Happy Marriage" Gene
Some people might be genetically predisposed to have good relationships.
BY KATE HAKALA
Just when we thought we could sequester genetic predisposition to the realm of horrific diseases or clubfoot, science has proclaimed there might actually be a gene linked to our marital satisfaction. A study done by researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University, and released on Monday in the journal Emotion, found that humans have a gene that can predict how much emotions affect our relationships. Ever wonder why some people let their bad mood seep into their relationships and some rock-solid marriages seem completely uninfluenced by the natural ups and downs of life? It turns out some people are just born that way.
Researchers found a link between relationship fulfillment and the gene variant 5-HTTLPR. Those with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles (about 17% of those studied) were more likely to judge their relationships by the emotional swings of their life—if the couple was going through a terrible emotion, they'd rate their relationship poorly and if their life was spectacular, they'd rate their relationship as highly successful. On the other hand, those with at least one long 5-HTTLPR allele were pretty unwavering in their relationship fulfillment regardless of the emotional quality of their conversations over time, even after ten years.
The research was part of a longitudinal study headed by Robert W. Levenson of 150 married couples over 20 years. Researchers stressed that this study doesn't indicate that any two people are genetically incompatible due to the gene variant or that any gene is really a "good" or "bad" one, because even if those with shorter 5-HTTLPR genes have higher highs, they still have lower lows. (Which, thank god, because we didn't want this to spawn crazy mate selection a la Designer Babies). What it does indicate is that we can separate people into two genetic relationship factions now: mercurial and steady. Those who will begrudge a partner because their job, family life, or internet connection is sub par and those who see their partner the same through the haze. It might be something we already knew about people deep down, but didn't realize it was encoded in our DNA.
So, in summary, if you want a happy marriage: Have Short 5HTTLPR+ Insanely Good Moods or Long HTTLPR + Consistent Pleasantness. Got that?
Maybe it's time to finally shell out for that 23 and me test all those young professionals have been bragging about and find out just how miserable/marvelous the last few decades could be. Or maybe it's time to start fishing through our college alumni pages on Facebook, because college is apparently where about 28% of us are finding our lifetime partners, science also declared this week.