20 per cent of UK Couples close to separating, say Relate

Published: 3rd June 2016

A new study by nationwide counselling charity Relate has highlighted that one in five couples in the UK are considering separation. Relate questioned married or cohabiting couples for their 'Understanding Society' survey, and the findings suggest that as many as 2.87 million people are in unhappy or 'distressed' relationships.

The study asked how frequently the couple argued, whether they were considering divorce, if they regretted entering into their relationship and to what extent they were unhappy with their relationship. According to the data, the number of relationships classed as 'distressed' peaked in 2011 and 2012 and has yet to return to pre-recession levels.

As the Evaluation and Research Officer at Relate, Dr David Marjoribanks, explained: ‘There is a pattern of relationship strain increasing during recession years - where economic strain increases, for example low income, unemployment, a build-up of debt, the strain on the relationship increases. The level of relationship distress hasn't gone back to pre-recession levels, so while we might be out of the woods in terms of recession the impact on relationships clearly doesn't seem to have completely gone.’

Data from the study also highlights that:

  • Almost 50% of couples admitted to arguing occasionally, with 6.8% describing their arguments as severe
  • Those couples with children under the age of 16 were more likely to be in an unhappy or distressed relationship (22%), and having a child for the first time is described as one of the life events ‘most likely to reduce relationship quality’
  • 10% of respondents said they sometimes regretted getting married or cohabiting with their partners and 9% said they had considered divorce or separation

Dr Marjoribanks added: ‘It is not just the actual breakdown of the relationship itself, it's specifically the conflict that surrounds that. It means that when relationships end it is not deemed to inevitably harm children, far from it. The point is, it is the conflict in intact relationships that can be just as damaging, as when relationships end.’

‘Children who grow up with parents who have highly conflicted relationships are much more likely to have mental and physical health problems, to not do as well at school and end up in antisocial behaviour and criminality even.’ Dr Marjoribanks also said that, in his experience, many couples suffer in silence for a number of years before seeking professional help, by which point it is often too late to try and salvage the relationship.

The chief executive of Relate, Chris Sherwood, described the results of the study as 'hugely concerning' and warned that families cannot go on like this for much longer. He also announced the launch of the charity’s new Breaking Point appeal, which is calling for donations to help make its services available to all families, not just to those higher income families who can affordit.

If your relationship is on the verge of breakdown and you are considering divorce or separation then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our team of family law specialists work with you to deliver practical solutions and the most positive outcome possible. For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford).

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