Apparently a fifth of UK couples could be on the verge of breaking up

So how to we protect ourselves and any children involved?

When things start to go wrong in your relationship, it can feel pretty isolating and like you’re the only one in the world who’s unhappy with a partner.

However a new survey by the relationship and counselling charity, Relate, reveals that almost 18% of people in the UK are in ‘distressed’ relationships, with signs that counsellors call ‘clinically significant.’

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The study found that parents with children under 16 were most likely to be in a distressed relationship, and that becoming a parent for the first time was ‘one of life’s events mist likely to reduce relationship quality.’

Whilst arguing and generally being unhappy isn’t good for our health, Dr. David Marjorbanks from the charity, says that on average, it’s the children involved who will suffer more and potentially in the long term doing worse at school and even turning to crime.

‘It is not just the actual breakdown of the relationship itself, it’s specifically the conflict that surrounds that,’ Dr Marjoribanks said to the BBC.

‘It means that when relationships end, it is not deemed to inevitably harm children, far from it. ‘It is the conflict in intact relationships that can be just as damaging, as when relationships end.

‘Children who grow up with parents who have highly-conflicted relationships are much more likely to have mental and physical health problems, to not do as well at school and end up in antisocial behaviour and criminality even.’

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So when relationships are under strain, how do we protect the children involved?

According to therapist Jan Artingsall from Counselling Cheshire, couples need to make the effort to actually talk to each other, taking 10 minutes to have a conversation each day, which shares responsibility, rather than pointing fingers.

‘People have lost the art of talking about how they feel. It’s like we have gone back to being children who don’t have the language to communicate feelings,’ she told the BBC.

‘Children are very perceptive to atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be a shouting match – they can pick up on stonewalling and tense body language.

‘Children won’t say, “Are you unhappy Mummy or Daddy?” They just accept and absorb the atmosphere and feel unhappy inside.’

For more information and support, visit Relate.org.uk

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