Relate expecting post-holiday spike

Thousands of couples are likely to reassess their relationships over the festive season resulting in counsellors and divorce lawyers facing a busy start to 2014.

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Relationship support service Relate is expecting a busy start to 2014 as thousands of couples reassess their relationships over the festive season

Thousands of couples are likely to reassess their relationships over the festive season resulting in counsellors and divorce lawyers facing a busy start to 2014.

Relationship support service Relate said it experienced an 80% increase in calls from December 2012 to January 2013 - with 10,608 calls in December and 19,138 calls in January.

The organisation said this is due to people spending a lot of time together which can highlight any problems that may need addressing, as well as seeing the new year as a new start.

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of Relate, said: "January is always very busy for Relate. Sadly, many couples and families face a tough time over Christmas as it's often when people spend concentrated time together - which can bring to light any underlying issues.

"Also, New Year is a time when many of us naturally assess how life is going and this can make people think about how their relationships are faring.

"The high number of calls we receive in January suggests that many people are considering what they want from their relationships and what their next steps will be.

"Contacting Relate is a positive step - it can be the first stage in working out what's best for your relationships."

Lisa Macdonald, a senior family lawyer at Woolley & Co, in Chippenham, Wiltshire, said if a couple have been experiencing difficulties throughout the year then these problems can be exacerbated at Christmas.

She said the additional pressure of financial worries as well as alcohol at parties can make things come to a head.

"We definitely field many more calls.

"The amount of calls I would say increase by at least 25% in January," she said.

Ms Macdonald said that in comparison to this time last year, this December has also been busier.

"I don't know what other firms are experiencing at this moment in time, but in comparison to last December it's already pretty busy.

"Generally we're sort of winding down and it's getting quieter, but it's not the case. It's full on, "she said.

Ms Macdonald said a lot of couples do not realise there are "many options out there", and said the most obvious one was Relate.

Hannah Green, researcher at relationship charity OnePlusOne, said: "Christmas isn't always a happy time and can put an added strain on relationships since couples are likely to spend more time with each other and their extended families than at any other time of year.

"Sadly the pressure to put on a brave face and have fun can become unmanageable for some people and unfortunately lead some people to separate from their partners.

"When experiencing relationship difficulties, it is important for people not to keep it to themselves. Seeking relationship support is a very positive step. Although it can be difficult it is good to remember that there is help available."

The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2011 was 117,558, a decrease of 1.7% since 2010, when there were 119,589 divorces.

In 2011, 10.8 people divorced per 1,000 of the married population compared with 12.9 in 2001.

The number of divorces in 2011 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.

Based on marriage, divorce and mortality statistics for 2010, it is estimated that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce is 42%, compared with 45% in 2005.

A spokeswoman for the ONS said more up to date statistics on divorce will be published in spring 2014.

Call Relate on 0300 100 1234 or visit www.relate.org.uk for more information.