Nearly two thirds of divorced couples had still been happy just a year before their separation, according to new research.
Harry Benson of campaign group the Marriage Foundation analysed data from ongoing national study Understanding Society. No less than 60 per cent of subsequently divorced couples had said they were satisfied with their relationship a mere 12 months before they went their separate ways, he reports – and the percentage of cohabiting couples who had reported happiness just a year before separation was even higher he added: a striking 80 per cent.
The data suggested that many couples give up on their relationships too easily, Mr Benson suggested.
“A solid majority of couples are satisfied with their marriages a year before they separate. Then something happens – a big row, financial pressure, wider family tensions – and they decide to call it a day and call the lawyers.”
Such actions were representative of a “consumer, if-it’s-difficult-throw-it-out culture”, he declared. Strong relationships promoted health and happiness but required hard work.
“The advantage of making the often considerable effort is that the children do not have their lives torn apart. For the parents too, divorce is rarely the sweet release some imagine it to be. 54 per cent of divorcees regret their break up.”
Talking to Daily Telegraph about the findings, Stowe Family Law Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe agreed that most marriages fail due to a slow deterioration rather than an abrupt explosion.
“Sudden abrupt ends to a marriage, violence and arguments are less likely than slowly growing apart. It’s a more subtle form of breakdown, where the intimacy between them slowly erodes.”
An exclusive focus on the children can contribute to this gradual unravelling of the relationship and this can leave older couples with little in common once the children become adults.
“When children leave home, marriages which on the surface appear to be fine, often do end – because couples find there is nothing left.”
In the interview, with journalist Sadie Levy Gale, Mrs Stowe highlighted one telling symptom of such problems: a loss of interest in talking to your partner at the end of each day. “If you can’t be bothered to talk to your spouse because the response is likely to be negative/uninteresting/ a waste of time” spouses may start searching for more congenial company. The result? “This third party relationship can soon start to be more important and more exciting than that of the spouse.”
If you reach a stage in which talking to your spouse starts to seem completely pointless or you cease to care what he or she thinks, then the process of cutting them off has already begun, Mrs Stowe declared, a sure sign that the relationship is in serious trouble.
The Marriage Foundation was established by Sir Paul Coleridge. The former High Court Judge said the findings as “highly significant” and “myth-busting”.
Marriages and long-term relationships often do not end because they are “inconsolably miserable”, he said.
“Much more likely is that they are fed up and bored and would like change. The relationship is neglected, withers and dies over time, sex dwindles to nothing and in the end one or other party wants out. And I would confirm that this attitude largely accords with my own anecdotal experience in the Family Court over four decades.”
The children of such relationships are often left with a “skewed” impression that while marriages and long-term relationships may seem stable, “they are in fact profoundly unpredictable and this sabotages their own future prospects of a loving, committed relationship.”
Read the Telegraph story here