National Post

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October 13, 2000

Marriage centre aims to cut courtship guesswork

Pre-marital quiz predicts whether couples will stay together

Francine Dubé
National Post

Using a questionnaire that he believes can predict with 80% accuracy whether a marriage will succeed or fail, a York University professor has plans to open the first pre-marital compatibility assessment centre in Toronto.

"In the pre-marital phase there's a lot of heat, but not too much light," says Dr. Harold Minden, professor emeritus in psychology.

The evaluation sheds light on differences the couple, locked in the romance of courtship, might not be aware of.

With counselling, those differences can be addressed, making for a more successful marriage, says Dr. Minden.

The questionnaire takes between an hour and 90 minutes to complete, and is already part of the marriage counselling that is a prerequisite for Catholics seeking to marry in a church.

Dr. Minden wants to set up a non-denominational centre, for those who want the counselling without the religion.

The questions cover everything from finances to sex. "I am very satisfied with the amount of affection I receive," reads one statement.

Respondents are asked to check one of five boxes, ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree."

Others include: "My partner and I have a very close relationship; My partner has some habits I dislike; I believe household responsibilities should be shared equally; We sometimes disagree on our spiritual beliefs."

Not all differences are equal.

If a couple are far apart in their religious views, for example, but score high on flexibility, there is hope the relationship can be successful.

Dr. Minden believes even couples who are wide apart need not despair.

"I am a perpetual optimist. I just think they can be saved," he says.

He hopes to open the centre by the end of November. Rates for the service have not been set, but will be reasonable, Dr. Minden said.

The test was developed by Dr. David Olsen, professor emeritus in family social science at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Minden has also organized a conference on marriage, to be held at York University tomorrow.

He says he is alarmed at a culture that emphasizes how to deal with marriage break-ups rather than how to nurture marriages.

"In our culture today there is emphasis on independence. The highest stage of maturity is not independence, it is interdependence," says Dr. Minden.

"I see this as a protest. I'm just upset that people are accepting this 'I'll-get-married-but-it's-not-forever.' "

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