Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

One in five UK couples are at risk of break-up, report finds


One in five couples are in "distressed" relationships and regularly consider separation or divorce, according to a study carried out by the charity Relate.

The study, based on a survey of 20,980 people in relationships from 2013-15, suggested that as many as 2.87 million people (around 18% of married or cohabiting couples) could be in a relationship on the verge of breaking-up.

Almost half of respondents (49%) admitted to bickering, while 6.8% reported severe levels of arguing within the relationship. Meanwhile, one in 10 partners admitted at least occasionally regretting getting married or living together, while 9% said they at least occasionally considered divorce or separation.

The pressure of jobs, finances and childcare were found to be flash points which caused the most arguments.

Those with children under 16 were slightly more likely to be in distressed relationships, and the report found that becoming a first-time parent was "one of life's events most likely to reduce relationship quality."

Money worries

Interestingly, the study also revealed that while money could make marriages more stable, it could also make couples more likely to get divorced; the study found that the number of people in troubled relationships peaked around the time of the last recession but has since fallen, suggesting that financial instability was putting a strain on relationships.

However, the number of respondents considering divorce or separation increased following the recession, pointing to the conclusion that couples were more likely to consider ending a relationship if there finances were more secure.

Fighting couple

Dr David Marjoribanks, senior policy officer at Relate, said: "There is a pattern of relationship strain increasing during recession years, and that is very much what we would expect.

"Where economic strain increases, for example low income, unemployment, a build up of debt, the strain on the relationship increases.

"But 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."

He also warned that many couples suffered in silence for years and only sought help when it was too late to salvage their relationship.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive at Relate, called the report's findings "hugely concerning", and warned that "families can't go on like this".

Following the report, Relate is launching Breaking Point, a national appeal to raise money through donations to help make its services available to all couples, regardless of their financial position.

Want more? Check out the five relationship habits that jeopardise long-term love and five words and phrases that have been shown to trigger conflict in a relationship.


break up.jpg

Friends with your ex? Apparently you’re a psychopath


Can your friendships survive The Baby Years?

happy couple dating app.jpg

Depressing or useful? ‘Dating’ app encourages couples to communicate

gwyneth paltrow.jpg

Gwyneth Paltrow opens up about her separation from Chris Martin


This is how much sex you need to be happy, according to science

woman park bench short four day week.jpg

Why a shorter working week would make us happier, and healthier


Married people are the most satisfied with their lives

heartbreak 3.jpg

How to heal a broken heart through comics


The Stylist wedding blog: why does planning bring out the worst in us?



Must-watch Christmas TV: tune in for Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Just in time for Christmas

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Oct 2016

Bake Off fans, the BBC has already found a replacement show for GBBO

And it's set to hit our televisions very soon...

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Costa’s fancy new menu includes avocado toast and Prosecco

You may want to dress up for the world’s poshest Costa…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Real-life victims of revenge porn share their stories

“Within a week, everyone had seen them… I tried to kill myself shortly after”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

People diagnosed with a terminal illness share powerful life lessons

“You only get one life – and we need to live it”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

This gin is officially the best in Europe – and it's from the UK

Gin drinkers, take note…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Amazing tasting menus from top UK restaurants for under £50

Total steals from Michelin-starred spots

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2016

9 hilarious tips for making it in a male-dominated workplace

"Never say anything that sounds like a question, even questions."

by Harriet Hall
20 Oct 2016

Easy hack makes cheap wine taste just as good as the expensive stuff

We’ll raise a glass to that…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Oct 2016

Revealed: the 10 most talked-about foods on social media

Snap these yummy treats to boost your Instagram following…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Oct 2016