Money is top strain on relationships

Release Date: Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Leading relationships charities lift the lid on couple relationships in the UK

New research* by leading relationships charities Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care has revealed the top relationship strains experienced by couples in the UK today.  Money worries came top of the list - over a quarter of UK adults (26%) say this is a placing a strain on their relationships - followed by not understanding each other (20%), low libido/ differing sex drives (19%), lack of work life balance (17%) and different interests (16%).

Top relationship strains

Relate counsellor Arabella Russell said: “This report highlights that, despite the promise of economic recovery, money worries are still placing a significant strain on our relationships. We see in the counselling room every day how much conflict money can cause in relationships, so knowing how to manage your finances together is important for heading off arguments before they begin.  

“The key is to be completely open and honest with each other about your values, feelings and spending habits. Make sure you’re both clear on how you plan to share finances, pay bills and manage your spending.”

Marriage Care Counsellor and Director of Client Services Jenny Porter added: “Usually when couples argue over money, it is because both individuals have very different spending habits. For example, one person may be more risk-averse and want to put more money away for retirement, while the other person may be more focused on spending for today. Although many couples find it awkward to talk about finances, it is essential to talk things through together to ensure both partners are on the same wavelength and to prevent problems from escalating.  

“It is unsurprising financial worries are the top relationship strain experienced by couples as money affects many aspects of our lives. As in any dispute – whatever the subject – trust, compromise, flexibility and good communication are key to resolution. If couples are finding it hard to reach a positive solution together, help from an experienced relationship counsellor can and does make a difference.”

The findings are revealed in a new report out today called It takes two: the quality of the UK’s adult couple relationships, based on a survey of more than 5,000 people. Below are more findings from the report.

What people look for in a partner

The report also sheds light on what people look for in a partner. Top of the list and out in front by some distance was trust (67%), followed by communication (52%), commitment (37%), shared values (34%) and personality (28%). Women were more likely to identify trust (70%) and communication (57%) as important factors than men (of whom 62% and 48% respectively selected these).

Rows and regrets

Respondents to the survey were also asked questions about the quality of their couple relationship. It turns out that 16% of partners think about getting divorced/separated or ending their relationship at least occasionally. 

While the charities say that arguing constructively can actually be good for your relationship, arguing most of the time can be an indication that there are issues. In this survey, six per cent of people said they argue with their partner all or most of the time, and 42% argue occasionally. The research also confirmed that the longer you have been together, the more likely you are to argue. Just 34% of partners who have been together less than five years said that they argue at least occasionally, compared to 55% of those who have been together over 35 years.

Quality time together in short supply

When asked, 93% of relationship support practitioners (like counsellors and sex therapists) said that spending dedicated time together, such as a date night or taking part in an activity, is important for the relationship. The study also found that dedicated time spent together was associated with better relationship quality.  The good news is that almost a third (30%) of partners manage to spend quality time together more than once a week, and 15% do so once a week. However, 11% of partners said they never do this and a further five per cent do this once a year or less. 

Stigma and lack of knowledge about relationship support

Despite the clear pressures on couple relationships, four in 10 people surveyed said they wouldn’t know where to turn for support.  Whilst 66% of people agreed that ‘everyone could benefit from support with their relationships’, only 22% said they would get support if their own relationship was ‘under strain’. It is also telling that more than half (54%) of respondents said that ‘If I accessed professional relationship support (e.g. seeing a counsellor), I would not want anyone to know about it’.

Relate and Marriage Care provide services, which can help couples to overcome relationship pressures and improve the way they communicate.


For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Osmik on 020 7554 2895 or  For urgent out of hours enquiries call 07875 049415

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are taken from The Way We Are Now– an annual study of the relationships of over 5,000 people across the UK by Relate and Relationships Scotland. The study was carried out by YouGov. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th June and 7th July 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 16+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.   The same number of close friends question was asked in 2014 and 2015 (also in YouGov polls of over 5000 UK adults) and the responses then were 1 in 10 people had no close friends.  

The Way We Are Now is an annual report into the state of the nation’s relationships by Relate and Relationships Scotland.  This year, the report is divided into a series of mini reports covering Work, Sex, Partners, Family, Friends and Disability which will be published throughout the year.  The social relationships report is the fourth in the series to be released. For publication dates of upcoming reports, please contact the Relate media office.

Notes to editors:


  • Relate is a registered charity number 207314.

·         Relate champions the importance of strong and healthy relationships as the basis of a thriving society.

·         Relationships are under increasing pressure – breakdown costs the UK an estimated £48bn each year.

·         Relate provides impartial and non-judgmental support for people of all ages, at all stages of couple, family and social relationships. 

·         Over a million people every year access information, support and counselling from Relate but it's clear many more would benefit from Relate services.

·         Relate’s couple counselling work delivers an estimated £11.40 of benefits for every £1 spent.

·         Relate’s services extend beyond relationship counselling to family counselling, counselling for young people, sex therapy and informal courses and workshops and are offered through a network of around 1,700 counsellors across the country. 

·         Relate celebrated its 75th birthday in 2013.

·         For more information and advice visit:

Marriage Care

To arrange an interview with Jenny Porter please contact our press office at Cinnamon Letters:

01799 529790 or 01799 529791

Marriage Care is a faith-based national charity which helps couples and individuals build and sustain strong, fulfilling healthy relationships through relationship education initiatives, marriage preparation services and  relationship counselling to all, regardless of ability to pay.  It has more than 50 centres and just under 100 counselling locations and is the second largest relationship support provider in England and Wales. For more information about the national charity please contact: 020 7371 1341 or  

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