Love. Commitment. Trust. Honesty. These are some of the qualities that contribute to a satisfying marriage. But the real secret to a happy marriage may not be what you think. While people fall in love for a variety of reasons, including shared interests and physical attraction, the reason they stay together may be due to their DNA.
A new study led by the Yale School of Public Health published in the journal PLOS One finds that a couple’s long-term happiness may be contingent on a person’s genes.
The study involved 178 married couples aged 37 to 90 years old. Participants submitted saliva samples for genotyping and filled out surveys about marital security and satisfaction.
Researchers analyzed a genetic variation that affects the hormone oxytocin, which is integral in social bonding. Couples were significantly more satisfied and felt more secure if at least one spouse had a genetic variation known as the GG genotype within the oxytocin gene receptor. It’s believed the study is the first to analyze how the oxytocin receptor variant affects 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,” noted 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.”
Study participants with the GG genotype reported less anxious attachment in their marriage, which is an advantage in marriage. A person with anxious attachment is insecure as a result of previous relationships with close family members and partners. They often fear rejection, have little self-worth and seek approval from others, according to Monin.
A person’s GG genotype combined with their partner’s GG genotype makes up about 4 percent of the variance of marital satisfaction. It may not sound like much, but according to the study, “it is a significant influence considering other genetic and environmental factors to which couples are exposed.”
More research is necessary to examine how couples’ genotypes interact to influence a marriage over time. Monin also noted that further study could examine how the genotype interacts with particular negative and positive relationship experiences to influence relationship quality over time.
In the meantime, how can you tell if your marriage will be successful? There are several factors, according to Psychology Today. Some of them include:
- Your parents were good if imperfect, model
- You married for a positive reason, not due to pressure or loneliness
- You are physically attracted to one another
- You are open about work, money, children, etc. before you tie the knot
- You don’t keep major secrets from one another
- You learn to handle differences and conflicts
- You have a comfortable sex life
- You have realistic personal and marital expectations