A new coupled mode formulation for parallel dielectric waveguides is described. The results apply to any guided modes (TE, TM, or hybrid) in waveguides of arbitrary cross-section, dissimilar index, and nonidentical shape. Additional index perturbations not included within the waveguides are encompassed by the theory. Propagation constants and mode patterns for the coupled modes computed according to this theory are shown to agree very well with numerical solutions for the system modes when the latter can be determined. Moreover, the new results are more accurate than those obtained from prior coupled mode formulations. It is shown that even for lossless guides the coupling coefficients from waveguide “b” to “a” and from “a” to “b,” described by Kab and Kba, respectively, are not related by their complex conjugates if the guides are not identical.