London - It doesn’t sound like the most romantic of activities. But every couple should apparently pull out a pen and answer ten "critical" questions before embarking on a serious relationship.
The questions, compiled by a panel of divorce experts, include whether couples have a "strong basis" of friendship and whether they ultimately want the same things in life.
They should also ask themselves whether they are a "good fit", if they have realistic expectations of their relationship, and if they can raise issues with one another and pull through in stressful times.
The list, which is part of a study by the University of Exeter, was put together by two judges and ten divorce lawyers or mediators. These included Baroness Shackleton, who is thought to be Britain’s highest-paid divorce lawyer with Prince Charles and Paul McCartney among her clients.
The panel compiled the questions based on interviews with experts and both happily married couples and separated ones.
Baroness Shackleton said: "Wearing my 'professional hat', as a divorce lawyer for over 40 years, more than 50 percent of the people consulting me about divorce have said they realised either before or very soon into their marriages that they were fundamentally incompatible.
"Wearing my 'educational hat', as a former school governor, I am acutely aware that while there is much school education on sex, drugs and alcohol, there is little or none in relation to the most important decision a person makes – namely with whom you settle down and have children."
The researchers questioned 43 couples who had married ten years ago and either stayed together or separated, as well as five couples in 15-year relationships.
Of those surveyed, couples in thriving relationships had often been friends before their romance began, talked regularly about small everyday occurrences, and found solutions in response to conflict.
The most common life pressures which made or broke couples were parenthood and financial problems, according to the study. More generally, unrealistic expectations and a lack of effort on both sides were common reasons for relationships to break down.
Professor Anne Barlow, who led the research, said: "Every relationship is different, and it is important couples build relationships that are meaningful to them, but we found thriving relationships share some fundamental qualities.
"Mostly the couple have chosen a partner with whom they are a 'good fit' and have ways of navigating stressful times."
THE 10 QUESTIONS COUPLES MUST ANSWER
- Are my partner and I a ‘good fit’?
- Do we have a strong basis of friendship?
- Do we see the best in each other?
- Are our expectations realistic?
- Do we want the same things in our relationship and out of life?
- Can we raise issues with each other?
- Do we keep our relationship vibrant?
- Are we both committed to working through hard times?
- Would we pull together to get through stressful circumstances?
- Do we each have supportive others around us?