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"If you want very badly to have a different and better relationship than the ones you grew up with, you can accomplish that if you go about it very consciously." Swenson offers these pointers: • Don't jump in.

"Ideally you should date for a couple of years before engagement -- and not just long distance," she says.

Make a commitment to her so she grows up knowing she is important, a priority, worthy of support and attention.Her husband, James, 31, resembles her dad and has a similar "hard-working, calm, kind" quality. "He grew up in a family who didn't do a lot of hugs and kisses and 'I love you's, and that does bother me," says Ney, a freelance journalist in Boise, Idaho."I think there could be some truth in the idea that I'm working through my history in my marriage." Breaking the chain Despite evidence that suggests some of us are attracted to mates who resemble our parents, it's not a foregone conclusion, says therapist Barbara Swenson, director of the Couple Center in Sherman Oaks, California.A Hungarian researcher studied the facial features of 52 families and found a significant correlation between the appearance of men and their fathers-in-law and those of women and their mothers-in-law.And in a survey of approximately 2,700 "high-achieving" men -- those in the top 10 percent of their age income bracket and/or with an advanced degree -- a University of Iowa researcher found they are likely to marry women with education levels and careers that mirror those of their moms. Gordon's wife, Rebecca, 27, has the same career as his mom -- teaching gifted elementary-schoolers -- and the women share a love of cooking and talking on the phone.

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