‘The Chemistry of Politics’ is an ongoing blog series by biological anthropologist and chief scientific advisor to Chemistry.com, Dr. Helen Fisher. Her research is based off of the Chemistry.com personality test, taken by over 10 million people worldwide.
“A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.” When Ann Romney said this at the recent Republican National Convention, I believe she was thinking of a certain kind of real marriage: a marriage between two traditional-minded Builders—two individuals who are both particularly expressive of traits linked with the serotonin system in the brain.
Builders are conventional; they are not casual about courtship, sexuality or their desire to start a family. They have clear values and they stick to them.
Indeed, as other young women were burning bras and smoking pot in the 1960s, Ann joined the highly conservative Mormon church, married Mitt at age 19, and became a stay-at-home, church-going mom while living in liberal Cambridge, Mass. But Ann is no doormat. As she said recently to a Boston journalist, “People think Mitt’s such a strong person, but I run the show.” Their children call her their “Mitt-stabilizer.”
Ann Romney has claimed that she and Mitt have never had an argument. I believe it. Duty, loyalty and service are the Builder’s strong suits. Builders are also patient, persistent and industrious, as well as willing to do thankless jobs around the house; Builders are also devoted to domestic stability. So they overlook their differences to follow the rules and make their marriage last. Indeed, in my study of romantic attraction on Chemistry.com, I found that Builders are particularly attracted to other Builders. They are also more likely to marry one another and less likely to divorce. In my 2007 study for Oprah magazine, I found that two Builders (most married more than 15 years) were also particularly happy with their spouse.
Despite the many Builder traits that Ann and Mitt Romney share, they have some dramatic differences. Mitt appears to be a Builder/Director (expressing traits not only of serotonin but also of testosterone), while Ann appears to be a Builder/Negotiator (expressing traits not only of serotonin but also of the estrogen system). For example, Ann says she depends on “intuition,” while her husband is “data-driven.” She also appears to have more verbal and people skills, while Mitt excels at numbers. Moreover, if the high testosterone Director tends to be blunt, rank-oriented, competitive, tough-minded, realistic and decisive (as Mitt appears to be), the high estrogen Negotiator tends to be socially nuanced, tenderhearted, idealistic, ruminating and egalitarian, traits characteristic of Ann. Despite their differences, if Mitt the Director and Ann the Negotiator continue to respect one another, they make a powerful match. Clearly they share this mutual admiration. As aides say of Ann, “She is his number one sounding board, and he’s always looked up to her amazingly.”
Moreover, the Romney’s (like the Obama’s) appear to be still very much in love. As Mitt puts it, “Ann is an angel. She’s a hot angel, but she’s an angel nonetheless. It’s a privilege, it’s a joy, and it’s my entire life to have Ann in my life. My sweetheart.”