You’ve met your perfect match. Someone who makes you laugh, shares your dreams and hopes, interests and goals...someone who could possibly be a potential partner in future. And yet, when it comes to making a long-term commitment, you back off and run without looking back.
If this is a pattern in your life too, then you probably have the singleton gene to blame. Is it possible that your interest in socialising with a person of the opposite sex, and your ability to commit to a relationship is determined by genes? Experts have debated this topic extensively. “Yes, to a certain extent, our social behaviour and interest in socialising is determined by our genes. Human temperamental factors, like our need to seek new or novel things, and our dependence on rewards, actually motivate people to form relationships and maintain them. And these, research has proved, are determined by your genes. People with certain psychiatric conditions like schizoid personality and borderline personality disorder are known to have frequent relationship problems, and these disorders are known to have a genetic basis,” says one expert.
But, to claim that one’s DNA or genes are solely responsible for our relationship status would not be accurate, feels Dr Sonera Jhaveri. “Socio-cultural and psycho-emotional elements play a very important role in informing one’s sense of self and others,” she says. There are other factors such as developmental trauma, and individual attachment styles that influence one's connections to others. “But if a person has schizoid and narcissistic features, chances of the person developing or sustaining a long-term relationship are low,” she admits.
So, eventually, it boils down to the age-old conundrum of Nature Vs Nurture—the subject of intense research across the globe. “Some studies suggest certain behaviours like novelty-seeking have around 9-10 percent inheritability, while certain eccentricities associated with schizophrenia have around 40-50 per cent chances of being inherited by future generations,” points out yet another expert. This means, genes do play an important role in determining at least your desire to be in a relationship. “However, evolution is a very complex phenomenon and is not driven solely by the genetic factor. So, one should be careful not to take a biologically reductive approach in understanding human behaviour,” says Dr Sonera Jhaveri.
For instance, your upbringing, social and family circle, relationships of people around you, the kind of childhood you had, your dreams and aspirations, long term goals, all of these play an important role, in addition to your genes, in determining whether you will remain eternally single, or will go forth and find your mate.
But, before you begin to despair and wonder if you are a ‘carrier’ of the eternally ‘singleton’ gene, here’s some good news. Psychiatrists aver that it’s possible for all individuals to have healthy social relationships. Modern psychiatry has done a lot of progress over the years, and today there are newer and better psychotherapies, counselling techniques and newer medicines, which change pathological behaviour and decrease the commitment phobia, helping individuals with a problem to form healthy and long-lasting relationships.
Agrees Dr Sonera Jhaveri, “Yes, it is possible for people with whatever attachment style or genetic makeup to be able to get over their fear of intimacy. Of course, this does not happen automatically. Individuals who are commitment-shy are often very defensive and also sometimes lacking in interpersonal skills, and may therefore need therapeutic attention. “A healing relationship with a professional psychiatrist/confidant can help the individual let go of the defenses that block intimacy and connection. Often, children who were brought up in abusive households have issues with bonding as they don't feel safe in intimate situations. This is because their trust was broken by an abusive parent, who was actually supposed to be caring for them,” says Dr Sonera Jhaveri.
While the debate and the controversy rage on as far as the existence of the 'singleton gene' is concerned, it is a fact that a combination of genetic makeup and outside factors does affect an individual’s personality, which in turn determines whether they will pursue and commit to a relationship or not. So, if you are single, blame the singleton gene, but at the same time, delve into your mind, try to find out the kinks in your personality and surroundings that make you wary of relationships. Eliminate them and you will find your soul mate waiting just around the corner.