In a successful marriage, what's love got to do with it?

Liz Gooch

Have you and your partner been happily married for between 10 and 52 years? Are neither of you currently undergoing psychiatric counselling and would you be prepared to lay your relationship bare to strangers?

If the answer is yes, you're just who the University of Hong Kong is looking for.

It may sound more like the criteria for a reality television show but the university is seeking 30 'mentor couples' who fit this description as part of a student assignment on the secrets of a successful marriage.

The interviews with the couples are part of a general education undergraduate course called 'Love, Marriage, Sex and Family', which attracts more than 100 students a year.

One of the conveners, associate professor Benny Tai, from HKU's law faculty, said the course was designed to give students an insight into marriage before they tied the knot.

Volunteer couples would be required to meet with small groups of students for at least two hours during the next two months, to talk openly about their marriage and answer students' queries.

In the past the assignment required students to find a happily married couple on their own, but with Hong Kong's divorce rate rising to about 40 per cent of marriages, Professor Tai said some students struggled to find a couple who matched this criteria.

Ten couples had so far volunteered to take part but Professor Tai said the university was hoping to attract 30 couples.

The university gave students a list of suggested questions to ask the couples such as how they met, why they chose to marry and how they solved marital problems.

For those wary of having to reveal every intimate detail, Professor Tai said they could rest easy. 'It depends on the couple how much they share,' he said.

The course, which attracted students from a range of disciplines, covered marriage, family and sex issues from legal, medical and psychological perspectives.

Issues such as dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and relationship problems were among those discussed, but Professor Tai said the academics did not express their personal views: 'The university's role is not to indoctrinate but to create opportunities for students to consider or reflect on social values.'

Couples can e-mail [email protected]