A new piece of research has given an interesting insight into the most common reasons why marriages or cohabiting relationships breakdown.
The study, by researchers at University College London, analysed data from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). It found that communication problems and growing apart are the most commonly given reasons to explain the demise of a relationship. These reasons were followed by arguments and unfaithfulness.
“The frequency that communication and deterioration in the relationship quality are mentioned suggest that there is a place for promoting better communication and conflict resolution skills in relationship counselling - including in the context of young people’s sex and relationship education,” commented Dr Kirsten Gravningen (University Hospital of Northern Norway), who carried out the research while working at UCL.
“This recommendation tallies with other data from Natsal-3 which showed that young people desire more information on communication within relationships, and not just the physical aspects of sex,” she added.
Natsal is conducted every ten years, and covers a representative sample of males and females between the ages of 16 and 74. The latest survey was conducted between 2012 and 2012.
UCL researchers analysed the responses given to the survey by gender, and found similar results for many of the reasons given for the end of a relationship. Growing apart was mentioned by 39% of men and 36% of women. The gender split for arguments was 27% male and 30% female, and having different interests/nothing in common was mentioned by 13% of men and 16% of women.
Slightly more women than men reported unfaithfulness as the reason for their relationship breakdown – 24% compared to 18%.
Researchers also looked at the length of relationships, and found that marriages on average lasted longer than cohabiting relationships.
On average, men’s marriages lasted for 14 years, while for women the figure was 15 years. However, men’s cohabiting relationships only lasted for 3.5 years on average, and 4.2 years for women.
Altogether, 1.9% of men’s and 3.5% of women’s ended live-in partnerships had been with a same-sex partner.
Relationship support charity Relate commented on the findings of the study.
“Good communication is a fundamental ingredient for a strong, healthy and happy relationship,” said Relate counsellor, Gurpreet Singh. “It’s also an essential life skill, although until now it hasn’t been taught in schools. Now that Relationships and Sex Education has been made compulsory in schools there’s a real opportunity to teach young people what good communication in relationships looks like.”
“Relationship counselling can support couples to address common communication problems such as using blaming language, not being open and honest and not listening to one another,” he added. “Good relationships don’t just happen, you need to invest in them. In Relate’s experience, by keeping the channels of communication open and putting in the effort to spend time together, you can help to reduce the risk of growing apart.”