How do you know if you are marrying the right person?
When the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries marriage ran off the rails last month after just 72 days, almost everybody I know got all snooty and superior, raising their eyebrows and making faces like they just bit into something rotten.
A-ha, we all thought. Stupid famous people.
Then we learned that, as abbreviated celebrity nuptials go, this one was nowhere near a record. Eddie Murphy had a marriage that lasted only 15 days, and Cher and Gregg Allman's union was a measly nine days - which was a day longer than Dennis Hopper's marriage to Michelle Phillips. And, of course, Britney Spears had one that fizzled after three days.
But the apparent record - among the rich and famous, at least - was actress Robin Givens and a tennis pro with an unpronounceable name that didn't get beyond seven minutes.
Obviously, some people have trouble sustaining maritable bliss beyond the point where they sober up.
It does make one stop and wonder, though: What were they thinking?
In America, I have learned (by consulting divorcerate.org), 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce.
Maybe you were wondering what that rate is for second marriages? You'd think that would be a lower number, considering it involves someone who's been through it already, maybe a little older and wiser.
The divorce rate in second marriages is 67 percent. And - get this - the failure rate of third marriages is a whopping 74 percent. For you math-impaired, that's almost exactly three out of every four.
A good number of my best friends, if you get them liquored up a little, will admit that most of them are on their second marriages. These, of course, are mostly boring old people in their 50s and 60s who appear to have found the right mate.
How does one know, in this age of 50-percent failure, if they're marrying the right person, then?
I got an interesting email recently about a woman known as 'America's Marriage Doctor,' and she actually has a checklist for people on the verge of tying the knot.
'Before you say 'I do' and turn this relationship into a lifelong commitment, first determine if you and your mate are compatible in key areas proven to foster happy, healthy marriages that go the distance,' says the notice about Jacqueline Del Rosario (doctordelrosario.com), who offers 'seven signs to help you best assess if your relationship will result in delightful wedded bliss, or if doom and gloom is the more likely outcome.'
The good doctor insists that her Marriage Compatibility Checklist 'will help you analyze the relationship hand you've been dealt so you can hold 'em or fold 'em!'
I'm not going to list all of her corroborating information here; you can do that by going to her website, but the seven signs your marriage might actually work out are:
1. You are like-minded.
2. Your temperament balances one another.
3. You are both committed to do the work.
4. You are able to speak your partner's 'love language.'
5. You are able to work together to resolve problems.
6. You are attracted to them.
7. You genuinely like who your partner is as a person.
Seems like a pretty good list to me. As I've admitted before, I was a teenage bridegroom (the first wedding I attended was my own), and my wife was a year younger than me, so the fact that we grew up after we were married 44.6 years ago and still liked each other was something of a miracle.
It's not on the checklist, but we make each other laugh, and we both think the other one is cute.
I figure it's something like that keeping James Carville and Mary Matalin going. He's a liberal Democrat and she's a conservative Republican, and both of them serve as hot-headed spokespeople for their political bases, making the rounds of the talk shows. CNN's John King once asked how they keep their marriage together when they are both so opinionated.
'I don't have a position on anything domestically,' laughed Carville. 'I would say the three ingredients to successful marriage is surrender, capitulation and retreat.'
'Spoken like a true liberal,' said Matalin. 'What a martyr. Faith, family and good wine. That's how we do it.'
Spoken like a true spouse.
But how one knows, ahead of time, if the union is going to hold up, through differences of opinion, through illness and accident, through raging hormones and temporary insanity, and through years of surprises - I have no idea.
And I don't believe they've compiled a checklist that good.
Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.