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Brits Struggling With Love & Lasting Relationships

2nd February 2007 Print
New research reveals that one in five British couples are on the verge of a break-up – are you one of them? Nearly one in five marriages (19%) – that’s half a million people – are on shaky ground and could be heading for the divorce courts, according to research* by new website

Key findings from the report, which takes an in-depth look at modern love and the social, economic, sexual and psychological ups and downs that make and break Britain’s relationships, include:

• Sex, infidelity, falling out of love and abuse are the primary reason for divorce in Britain.
• One in five women cite a serious incident of abuse as the reason for relationship breakdown.
• One in three men are currently bored with their wife and marriage.
• The average length of marriage before it hits the rocks is seven years, three months.
• The worst role models for divorce are Lady Heather Mills- McCartney and Sir Paul McCartney while the best are Fergie (the Duchess of York) and Prince Andrew.

Opps, there goes my sex life

Nearly half (44%) of married people surveyed say that their sex lives have decreased while a further one in ten married couples are having no sex at all. These figures are particularly worrying for men, with “lack of sex” being cited as the single biggest factor in relationship breakdown. Tellingly, 36 per cent of men and 44 per cent of women said a partner’s affair was a key problem in their marriage.

Faye Rowe Editor of says: “These findings paint a bleak picture of the British institution of marriage and suggest that divorce rates will not be falling dramatically in the future. It is worrying that sex – not having it or having it with someone other than your partner – is the main catalyst for divorce. It suggests that we are no longer satisified with having one partner for life.”

A divorce lawyer on speed dial

Over one in four divorced or separated people surveyed (27%) said that discovering their partner was having an affair was the defining moment that signalled the end of their marriage. In terms of how they discovered their partner’s infidelity: over half of people (54%) discovered the affair themselves, while one in five confessed, and four per cent were told by the ‘other woman/man’. One in every 100 simply got a text or letter.

One in five divorcees (22%) said falling out of love was what lead to the breakdown of their relationship, while a staggering one in six (15.9%) women and six per cent of men said a serious incident of abuse is what pushed them over the edge. What’s worse is that forty per cent of women claim physical and mental abuse was a problem during their marriage and one in four females (24.5%) say that they have encountered drug and alcohol abuse in their relationship before its end.

Paula Hall, a relationship psychotherapist at Relate says: "Relationship breakdown is complex and the damage has often been done over many years of either unresolved conflict or distance. With the exception of abuse, the reasons cited in this report are common symptoms of a relationship in jeopardy. But, if couples have sufficient motivation and commitment to focus on the good things that got them together in the first place, these problems (bar abuse) need not be insurmountable.”

Top ten reasons for relationship meltdown

1. My partner had an affair
2. Abuse (physical and/or mental)
3. Boredom
4. Lack of sex
5. Financial disagreements
6. Alcohol/drug abuse
7. Debt
8. My career took priority
9. Hobbies (e.g. football)
10. I had an affair

What to do, where to go

The research found that many people are unsure about where or who to turn to for help and advice post-split. While over half (58%) of people said the first person they turned to when considering divorce was a friend or family member (usually their mother), one third went straight to a solicitor, but 35 per cent said there simply wasn’t enough independent advice available to help them through the process.

But despite the fall out – 45 per cent of people were poorer, 23 per cent fell off the property ladder, 14 per cent suffered a major illness and 13 per cent said their career suffered post divorce ¬ it hasn’t put people off marriage: seventy per cent of divorced people still believe that there is a perfect man or woman out there.

James Stewart, a divorce lawyer at Manches LLP says if you’re getting married second (or third, or forth) time around, that it’s worth thinking about getting a pre-nup – just 1 per cent of divorcees had one in place and, with hindsight, 21% said they regretted not getting one. “Whilst not strictly binding in England and Wales, pre-nups have huge evidential value,” says James. “They are now normal in large asset cases and are slowly percolating downwards. In my view they should on the wedding “to-do” list, right under buying the ring and booking the honeymoon.” editor, Faye Rowe says: “With so many British couples struggling to make their marriage work or currently going through a divorce, we believe the time is right to launch this website. With experts on hand to offer advice on everything from legal issues, finance, property, children and your emotions, our aim is to help people save a troubled relationship or, if that’s not possible, help them get the best out of the divorce process and make a fresh start.”

QUIZ: Is your relationship on the rocks?

One in five married people said their relationship was in trouble, according to research by But how can you tell the difference between a temporary blip on the radar and a genuine sinking sensation? Take our test to find out…

1. You find yourself thinking about what life would be like if you’d never married:
a) Every day
b) More than you used to
c) From time to time

2. Spending weekends with your spouse and family feels like:
a) A prison sentence, you are unable to be yourself
b) Hard work at times, it’s a relief to get back to work
c) A chance to relax and remember what life’s really all about

3. Your arguments are over:
a) Issues which are not open to compromise, such as religious faith; whether to have a child; where to live
b) Things that are important, but can be negotiated, such as how much you see the in-laws; how you discipline your children or how tidy you are
c) When you make a cup of tea, whether you put the milk in first or second

4. The level of respect in your marriage is:
a) I don’t respect my partner and he or she does not respect me
b) I don’t like to think about it
c) I’m married to one of the people I respect most in the world

5. Thinking about affairs within your marriage:
a) My partner had an affair, and all the trust has gone out of our relationship
b) I had an affair and I don’t think I’ll ever rediscover any happiness within my marriage
c) I can see how people are tempted, but it doesn’t look worth it

6. Doing this quiz makes you feel:
a) Like you want to cry, it’s putting into words feelings that you’ve been trying to avoid
b) Not very helpful, it’s pretty obvious how you’re supposed to answer
c) A bit of a laugh, if anything were seriously wrong you’d know

So, is your relationship heading for disaster?

Mostly A’s: Relationship red alert. Even if you only answered A to one question, you should pay attention. Marriages do not generally break up over one thing, but a gradual erosion of trust or a feeling of not being valued can build up over time until you feel so lonely within the relationship that it’s hard to imagine feeling worse. Counselling organisations such as Relate can help you decide whether there is enough left in the relationship to rebuild, or alternatively can help you manage a separation process for yourself and your children.

Mostly B’s: Stick at it. You have probably tried talking to your partner, but it is worth trying again – with outside help if necessary. Remind yourself that a good relationship is worth fighting for, even if that feels like a long way off at the moment. When you talk, try to be specific. Say, “when you came home late last night I felt as if your mates were more important to you than I am”, rather than “you are so selfish, you never think about me”.

Mostly C’s: Still going strong. You’ve probably stopped reading, but if you’re still here perhaps you could do something kind to show your spouse how much you appreciate them right now.

*An independent research report, Marriage and Divorce in 2007 Britain, commissioned to coincide with the launch of the UK’s most comprehensive divorce website questioned over 2,000 married, divorced and separated people living in the UK. A separate report questioned 350 children. The research was carried out online by during December 2006 amongst a nationally representative sample of 341 children.