We all know that one in three marriages fails, but divorce is declining in Oxfordshire and a new survey reveals more than half the people who split up regret it. Jaine Blackman reports
The wedding season is coming to an end, and so too, at some point, will many of those now seemingly perfect, happy marriages.
Yes, we all know the divorce statistics are undeniably depressing but there does seem to be some grounds for optimism.
It was recently revealed that the divorce rate in Oxfordshire has fallen by almost a fifth since 2011and a new survey, commissioned for the DVD release of The Love Punch, claimed that 54 per cent of divorcees said they regretted ending their marriage.
That seems rather high – and if they are right that’s a lot of people living with the poisonous burden of regret – but there’s no doubt that there are those who wish they had tried a bit harder to make things work.
It also means that for all the inevitable trials, tribulations and unpicked-up-wet-towels of marriage, it may be worth battling through and that the grass is not always greener on the post-divorce side.
There appears to be a growing realism along with the romance too.
“I think young people are looking at relationships that have broken down in the past and want to understand how to make it work,” says Catherine MacFarlane, who runs the Oxford branch of national marriage preparation charity Marriage Care.
“The number of people coming on our courses has grown enormously; nowadays we are always oversubscribed.”
Marriage Care’s one-day course teaches couples the importance of “healthy argument”.
“Marriage grows stronger if there is a healthy conflict,” says the 67-year-old married mum-of-three.
“A well-managed argument can be a much healthier way of working through a problem because it is not being buried.”
That’s a good tip but what else can be done to help relationships stand the test of time?
Everyone likes to be right, but there’s a time and a place to admit that, sometimes, you’re wrong.
And a marriage is it. Research from Baylor University, Texas, earlier this year found that one of the keys to a successful relationship is relinquishing some of the power in the relationship to the other person, namely being willing to compromise.
Those who play together stay together: those sayings which become cliches, generally become cliches for a reason. A study of 1,000 married Americans listed having three shared hobbies and interests as one of the top requirements for romantic bliss.
The Love Punch survey showed that not everyone who approached divorce actually went through with it, and 94 per cent of those believed the time apart during their break-up helped to save their relationship. Just because you’re married to each other doesn’t mean you have to become each other. While spending time together is clearly very important, it’s just as important to ensure you spend time on your own, with your own friends, pursuing your own interests.
DON’T FORGET THE SMALL STUFF
Whatever the films might try to tell us, most of us aren’t that fussed by grand, sweeping gestures of love. We like little ones instead. In fact, according to an Open University study, the everyday acts of kindness – think making a cup of tea or sacrificing the crispiest roast potato – are more important to a lasting marriage than the acts of romantic largesse, such as overpriced dinners or expensive handbags (though they can be nice sometimes, too!).
NEVER GO TO SLEEP ON A ROW
A recent survey by Two Together Railcard, proved that saying “I love you” before bed was the second most important secret to happiness in a relationship. Not convinced by a train survey giving tips on love? Perhaps you’ll be more convinced by Wilfred and Ivy Turberville, the longest-married couple in Britain, who recently revealed “never going to bed on a quarrel” was why they’d remained together for 80 years.
MOVE TO WORCESTER
Worcester is the most loved-up spot in the country, apparently (we’re back on the slightly tenuous rail romance survey), with 100 per cent of those questioned saying they had at least one date night a month. Don’t fancy relocating to the West Midlands? That’s fine, you can still heed their advice, and make sure you and your husband/wife have regular date nights. They don’t have to be fancy, they don’t have to be expensive; they just have to be the two of you, taking time to reconnect and remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.
MAKE IT WORK
Sara Davison, divorce coach at saradavison.com, has this advice for making things work, and when to give up: “Divorce is often stated to be the second most traumatic experience in life after the loss of a loved one. So even when your marriage seems unbearable, divorce has to be your last option.
“I always suggest my clients take three months to do everything they can to save their marriage. It means that if they then do make the decision to separate, there are no regrets, as they know they did all they could to save it.
”Obviously, there will be pain and heartache as with any relationship break-up, however, it’s important to be clear on what went wrong and why, so you don’t repeat mistakes in future relationships. A common trap is to see the relationship through rose-tinted glasses when it’s ended, which can lead to regrets.”
For more on the charity visit marriagecare.org.uk or call 0800 389 3801
There were 1,266 divorces in Oxfordshire last year compared to 1,430 in 2012/13 and 1,533 in 2011/12, Office for National Statistics figures show. Marriage figures dropped too. In 2013/14, there were 2,300 marriages in Oxfordshire, down from 2,481 the year before and 2,409 in 2011/12.
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