Science

Destined To Be Happily Married?

Are you genetically inclined to be stable and happy forever or doomed to rocky relationships? There’s no doubt that your genetic code influences a lot about you, from your physical appearance to basic personality traits. Now more and more subtle things seem to be stemming from that little double helix in your cells; most recently your capacity to have a happy, long term relationship.

You get your DNA from your parents, about 50% from each. The way this happens means you end up with two of every gene, called alleles. This means if your mum is blonde and your dad is brunette you may well have a different allele for each, but whichever is dominant is the one that you show. This is also why you could have ‘recessive’ genes such as the one for red hair.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University have been focussing on one gene; the 5-HTTPLR which is a gene involved in serotonin signalling, which is very important for emotions. The study looked at two specific alleles for this gene, long and short, and how they affected relationship fulfilment.

They found people with at least one copy of the long allele were able to disconnect their fulfilment with their relationship from their moods towards other things in their lives. This meant that big life problems, such as losing jobs or illness, didn’t impact their relationships very much. These people were able to have stable, fulfilled relationships no matter what was going on emotionally outside of the relationship.

They found people with at least one copy of the long allele were able to have stable, fulfilled relationships

People who had two copies of the short allele were less able to do this. If they were sad at work, they were sad in their relationship. However this does mean that when their lives were fantastic, their relationships were equally positive. Basically these people had higher highs and much lower lows. It meant that they were more likely to lose relationships if something else in their life wasn’t working.

The two short allele people made up about 17% of the study, which means there’s roughly a 1 in 5 chance you could be predisposed to troublesome relationships, so try to enjoy the high highs when they come.

You may be able to recognise these traits in people you know, and that’s great given that 28% of people supposedly find their life partner whilst at university. Look out for those long-alleled people.

Sian Lyons

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