Could The Secret to a Happy Marriage Be In Your Genes?

Happy married couple

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The brains at UC Berkley think so. They noticed what we all notice: some people seem hard-wired for wedded bliss and can coast over any rough patches in the relationship, while others seem to enjoy a stormy romance. In a recent study published in scientific journal Emotion (yes, that's a real thing—scientists are working day and night to find out why puppy videos make you cry) researchers observed 150 married couples over 20 years, and found that their genes played a big part in how happy they were after tying the knot.

The gene they studied, 5-HTTLPR, affects mood hormones in the brain, and researchers found that those who have a "short" version of this gene "may be like hothouse flowers, blossoming in a marriage when the emotional climate is good, and withering when it is bad," says Claudia M. Haase, the lead author of the study. If such a couple is arguing over housekeeping or when to go out with friends, it may seem as though the end is near. This certainly seems obvious—people who fight are probably unhappy with their marriage. Indeed, it's those with the "long" gene that sail smoothly through their relationship, even when emotional turbulence abounds. So how do you know which you are? Think about the last time you were in a fight: Were you open to compromise? That is a sign of the "long" gene. Did you feel unable to take a deep breath and move on? You may have the "short" gene.

So what does this mean for "short"-gened newlyweds and those engaged? Are you destined to be unhappy in marriage? Not at all! As Haase says, "Neither of these genetic variants is inherently good or bad. Each has its advantages and disadvantages." For instance, a bride with the "long" gene can may be able to coast easily over a rough spot in a relationship (say, that messy argument about seating charts and table numbers), while one with a "short" gene might just need to step back and remind herself of all the good times. In short: don't cancel the wedding because of your DNA!

—Caitlin Van Horn

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