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'One in five relationships in distress', report finds

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According to a survey by Relate, almost one in five (18 per cent) UK couples regularly argue or consider separating.

The poll suggests that 2.87 million people are living in ‘distressed’ relationships; defined as when a relationship is under strains considered to be ‘clinically significant’ by counsellors.

As well as regularly having arguments with their partner and considering separation, those in ‘distressed relationships’ also expressed regret at entering into the relationship and said they felt unhappy. This, in turn, could lead to depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure and heightened risk of heart attacks, the study concludes.

Families with children under-16 were found to be most at risk of ‘relationship distress’, with 22 per cent of those reporting significant issues in their relationship - approximately 1.4 million UK families in total.

While these findings were at the extreme end of the spectrum, Relate’s study also revealed that nearly half of partners reported quarrelling on occasion, while one in ten said that they at least occasionally regretted getting married or living together.

To many, therefore, the prospect of separation or divorce can be seen as a much needed relief. In practice, however, the enormity of this decision is often underestimated.

Divorce is – for many – a long, difficult and draining process and proper planning and preparation is needed. To add to the strain, there are significant financial costs to consider. The petition fee for divorce has recently risen from £410 to £500, with a further rise to £750 expected sooner rather than later.

At the heart of the study was that when communication breaks down, so to do relationships. Experts have said that the findings point to the ‘lost art of communication’, that in the modern age of digital platforms, social media, mobile phones and a plethora of ways in which to amuse and distract ourselves, we have lost that most basic of skills – to talk to one another.

Sadly, no amount of communication can fix a relationship that is beyond repair, but adopting the same, open, communicative approach - putting aside grievances, feelings of anger or frustration – can help ease the process of separation.

Throughout the process, avoiding conflict and finding compromises is key. Keeping things in proportion, including weighing up the true value of disagreements – including the financial and emotional cost – will help promote goodwill, keep lines of communication open and save time and money long-term. There will doubtless be a lot of hurt, but concentrating on positive, meaningful steps can help keep your focus on the future.

Equally, good legal advice is a must – even if it just the one meeting. Choose your solicitor carefully, based on reputation, specialisms and experience. A good family/divorce solicitor should be a member of the SRA Family Law Panel and/or are members of Resolution.

For more information about our divorce services, or to talk to one of our specialist solicitors, call Stephensons on 01616 966 229