Almost 3 million people in the UK are living in a "distressed" relationship, according to a new study - with many regularly arguing or considering breaking up.
The figures, released by UK relationship charity Relate, suggest that nearly one in five (18%) married or cohabiting couples, equating to 1.4 million families, are in an unhappy relationship.
This, in turn, is said to greatly affect the nation's physical and mental wellbeing, as many are unable to access the support they need.
That's why the charity has launched its first national campaign, Breaking Point, calling for donations to help subsidise vital services to support families whose relationships and finances are under intense pressure.
The statistics are taken from Relate’s report, Relationship Distress Monitor, which is published on Wednesday and is based on new analysis of data from the UK household longitudinal study, Understanding Society. The research, which had a sample size of more than 20,000 people, looked at key questions from a validated scale to measure relationship quality.
These included how often couples argued, how frequently they considered separation or divorce, the extent of unhappiness in their relationship and how often they regretted being in their relationship.
Relate counsellor, Arabella Russell, said: “Through my work I see countless couples in distressed relationships. Often the couples I see are arguing constantly with pressures such as jobs, finances and childcare putting their relationships under real strain. It’s a very painful place to be and the impact it can have on the family is huge.”
The coincide with the launch the charity has launched an emotional video. urging parents not to let their children get in the middle of their arguments.
The short video features a teenage girl attempting to play her violin, while her parents can be heard having a heated argument in the background. The girl is unable to concentrate on her music and, as the argument intensifies, the girl starts to play her violin furiously.
At the end of the video, her father bursts through her bedroom door demanding that she pick between him and her mother.
The video ends by urging parents to seek professional help, to protect children from witnessing such distressing scenes. The final frame reads: "Put us in the middle. Not her."
Julia Darbyshire, a 47-year-old mother-of-four, attended Relate with her husband, Andy, 47, when their relationship reached breaking point.
“We went to Relate when the pressures of work and childcare started to impact on our relationship. We were arguing a lot and our eldest son was noticing that we were at logger heads. We had hit a real rocky patch but with the support of our counsellor, we were able to turn things around," she said in a statement.
“Speaking to somebody objective was really helpful. Since attending the counselling sessions, things have really improved and we've gone on to have another two children together. We now feel we communicate more effectively and have the tools we need to address any issues that come up.”
According to Relate, relationship breakdown currently costs the UK economy £48 billion a year. Relate highlights that as well as the economic cost, there is also a profound social and human cost of poor quality relationships.
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive at Relate said: “It is hugely concerning that 18% of UK married and cohabiting couples are in distressed relationships. Broken and unhealthy relationships can lead to debt, loneliness, health problems, depression, homelessness, criminality and can have a profound effect on children’s life chances.
“Families can’t go on like this. We need to make sure that Relate’s services are available to everyone, not just those who can afford them, but we can’t do so unless we get donations to subsidise the cost.
"That is why we are launching our Breaking Point appeal today, calling on people to donate to us to help families find the answer that’s right for them, as with Relate’s support a breaking point can become a turning point.”
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