Do you carry the Divorce Gene?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that you do not need grounds – like “mental cruelty” or “adultery” – to file for divorce. But scientists are finding that there may be fault for broken marriages, and the fault resides in our genetic code.

One gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships. The study was conducted at UC Berkeley:

An enduring mystery is, what makes one spouse so attuned to the emotional climate in a marriage, and another so oblivious?” . . . “With these new genetic findings, we now understand much more about what determines just how important emotions are for different people.”

Researchers found a link between relationship fulfillment and a gene variant, or “allele,” known as 5-HTTLPR. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant from each parent.

Study participants with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles were found to be most unhappy in their marriages when there was anger and contempt. They were most happy when there was humor and affection.

By contrast, those with one or two long alleles were far less bothered by the emotional tenor of their marriages.

“We are always trying to understand the recipe for a good relationship, and emotion keeps coming up as an important ingredient,” said Levenson, who heads up a longitudinal study that has tracked over 150 married couples for more than 20 years.

The new findings don’t mean that couples with different variations of 5-HTTLPR are incompatible, but couples with two short alleles are likelier to thrive in a good relationship and suffer in a bad one.

“Individuals with two short alleles . . . may be like hothouse flowers, blossoming in a marriage when the emotional climate is good and withering when it is bad.”

“Conversely, people with one or two long alleles are less sensitive to the emotional climate.”

Participants in the study consisted of a group of 156 middle-aged and older couples whose relationships were followed for over 20 years.

For spouses with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles (17% of the spouses studied), researchers found a strong correlation between the emotional tone of their conversations and how they felt about their marriage.

For the 83% of spouses with one or two long alleles, on the other hand, the emotional quality of their discussions bore little or no relation to their marital satisfaction over the next decade.

While we won’t argue genetic fault in divorce papers any time soon, it is interesting how the study of the human genome shows how our DNA plays a greater role in our actions than we ever thought. News about the UC Berkley study is here.