Your Genes Affect Your Marriage, Reveals New Study

Novel research has found that the Oxytocin Receptor gene plays a vital role in how satisfied spouses feel in their marriage.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Marriage is beautiful but also complicated. It is a well-known fact that it does not always work out. 

Now, new research is saying that it could have something to do with our genes. More specifically, the study points to the Oxytocin Receptor gene.


The love hormone

You likely have heard about Oxytocin before. It is often called the love hormone or cuddle hormone as it is released when people bond socially or show affection.

A research team led by Binghamton University Associate Professor of Psychology Richard Mattson has found that the Oxytocin Receptor gene, responsible for Oxytocin release, impacts how married couples support one another.

"Prior research has hinted that marital quality is, at least partially, impacted by genetic factors, and that oxytocin may be relevant to social support -- a critical aspect of intimate partnerships," said Mattson. 

"However, we are the first to provide evidence that variation on specific genes related to oxytocin functioning impact overall marital quality, in part, because they are relevant to how partners provide and receive support from each other."

The research saw 79 couples evaluated on their ability to support each other regarding one of their biggest problems. The couples were asked to discuss it for 10 minutes and then undertook surveys to rate their spouses' support. 

The researchers also collected saliva samples for genotyping. What they found was that specific genes could have been influencing essential elements related to relational processes.

"We found that variation at two particular locations on OXTR impacted the observed behaviors of both husbands and wives, and that differences in behavior across couples had small but cumulative effects on overall evaluations of support, and thus marital quality in general," said Mattson.

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"However, what emerged as most relevant to overall marital quality for both partners was genotypic variation among husbands at a specific location on OXTR. Husbands with a particular genotype, which other researchers associated with signs of social deficits, were less satisfied with the support they were provided. Being less satisfied with the support they got from their wives was also associated with being less satisfied with their marriage."

More research required

More research still needs to be done in the study of OXTR and its role in making a marriage work. The researchers hope their study will serve a foundation to inspire more work on the topic.

"Genes matter when it comes to the quality of marriage, because genes are relevant to who we are as individuals, and characteristics of the individual can impact the marriage," said Mattson. 

"Our findings were the first to describe a set of genetic and behavioral mechanisms for one possible route of the genetic influence on marriage. In addition, we added to the increasing awareness that the expression of genotypic variation differs greatly depending on context."

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