As I listen to couples tell me about how they met, I pay attention to how each person is telling the story, and I also pay attention to how their partner is reacting to the story. If both people are able to look back fondly at their early years, this tends to be a good sign. If people talk negatively about how they met, this tends to indicate that there are some major problems within the relationship.
In fact, some research has found how people describe their past as a couple is correlated to their likelihood of staying together. People who recount their early years as a negative experience are more likely to divorce than couples who describe the early years as positive.
That doesn’t mean divorce is inevitable, of course: As their therapist, understanding how a couple sees their past helps me to understand what type of intervention they need in the present. If a couple is having conflict, but they still smile when describing their early years, it’s likely they just need help learning some new skills for communicating. The relationship hasn’t “fallen apart” too much.
Considering if I meet with a couple who criticizes their early years, I know they probably need a different type of support. Before being able to navigate conflict from a place of love and respect, these couples need support in three specific areas: negativity towards their spouse, marital disappointment, and flooding.