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    Is Your Marriage Bliss, or a Miss?

    Great Date, Great Mate?

    That first meeting

    Another big clue: When your beloved tells the story of your meeting, how much detail does he or she include? This, says Carrere, reflects the importance your partner places on the relationship. Happy partners remember minute details of their meeting. For example, she recalls a woman who remembered that her mate, at their first meeting, kissed her hand. And it's not just the happily coupled women who remember such romantic details. So do the happy men.

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    When stories of first meetings are barren of details, Carrere takes it as a bad sign. Some couples are unable to tell what attracted them to each other initially, another predictor of a flailing partnership.

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    When the University of Washington team followed 95 newlywed couples from the Seattle area for seven to nine years and paid heed to what they said about their spouses and how they referred to them, they could predict with 87% accuracy which couples would still be married four to six years later. That report was published in the spring 2000 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

    A professional's opinion

    Based on all the new science about predicting relationship success, growing numbers of therapists, including Larson, conduct premarital counseling and couples counseling. Sometimes, couples who enter this counseling decide they are not meant for each other. Short-term, it's sad, Larson says, but may save a lifetime of grief. He recalls a young couple, ages 23 and 24, who were engaged and consulted him two weeks before the wedding. The man confessed to Larson, "I don't feel much spark."

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    During the session, the couple said they focused on the fun parts of the relationship but avoided talking about serious issues. There was no real physical attraction on the man's part. When Larson gently pointed out the red flags, and all the factors that predicted failure, the couple postponed and finally canceled the wedding.

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    Recently, Larson received a wedding announcement from the young man, who had found a more compatible partner. He is hoping to hear from the man's ex-fiancée soon.

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