Keeping it real and using science to explain

Til Genetics Do Us Part

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at 2015.03.05
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Newly married couple march newsletter

It’s complicated….. Whether or not a couple can weather through the storms of conflict or not depends not only upon our emotions but also according to research, what’s hard-wired in our genes.

Emotions play an extremely important role in the stability and longevity of a marriage. Let’s face it, all couples experience some conflict in their marriage. Some may only disagree once in a blue moon. Others experience full blown power struggles, disagreements, anger, and perhaps frustration. Once the honey-moon stage is over the rose-colored glasses may slip off for some or perhaps not at all for others.

A psychologist from UC Berkeley, Dr. Robert Levenson along with 9 other researchers, published a 13 year longitudinal study of how genetics and emotions can help shape the stability of the marriage relationship.

The researchers found that certain genes allow some of us to be affected by a negative emotional climate in a marriage while other genes tell us to instead overlook the negativity. The researchers also found that some couples may become hugely satisfied in their relationship when exposed to positive emotions, while another couple may remain largely unaffected. Interestingly, Levenson also found that genetic influence on emotions actually strengthened increasingly as people got older and could eventually affect relationship outcomes.

The results centered around 5-HTTLPR, a serotonin- transporter gene that keeps our moods in check and plays an important role in whether or not over time, positive or negative emotions will affect marriage satisfaction.

The genes came in either short of long lengths. Those people who had long lengths of 5-HTTLPR were less likely to be affected by either negative or positive emotions in the marriage. Those with short lengths of the gene showed much less tolerance of negative emotions and also expressed a much stronger response of elation when things were going very well in the marriage.

So what should we do with this information? What if a simple blood test was available to check for the long or short lengths of the serotonin-transporter?

Would it be wise to screen a potential significant other? Like I said, “Til Genetics Do Us Part.”

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