New statistics show West Midland’s lockdown ‘relationship realisations’

New research[i] released today by Relate, the leading relationships charity, paints a divided picture of relationships in the West Midlands and the rest of the UK as lockdown is eased.

Across couple, family and social relationships, people have had a range of ‘relationship realisations’ – many wholly positive and some more challenging. A heart-warming 60%[ii] of respondents in the West Midlands said that lockdown has made them realise relationships are the most important thing in their lives and nearly half (47%) of respondents in the region who have parents feel emotionally closer to them.[iii] Sadly, nearly a fifth (18%) of respondents living in the West Midlands who have a partner have struggled to support their partner emotionally during this time[iv] and 8% noted that lockdown has made them realise they need to break-up, divorce or separate[v].

The poll of 2,058 UK adults found that more than half (53%) of respondents in the West Midlands said their relationships with loved ones have helped them get through lockdown[vi]. As Relate launches its first ever Relationships Week (20-26 July), Relate Coventry and Warwickshire is asking people to share their #RelationshipRocks via social media – with a picture or video and a short message about how someone has been a ‘rock’ to them lately.

Tracy Murphy, CEO at Relate Coventry and Warwickshire said:

“Most of us can’t remember a sustained period of pressure on every aspect of life on such a scale. Relationships are central to health and wellbeing and we want to raise awareness of their power to protect and sustain us in the worst of times. Relationships are now in the spotlight more than ever so we want to grasp this opportunity to encourage everyone to talk about them more openly – the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s why today marks the start of our first-ever Relationships Week and we’re calling on people in Coventry and Warwickshire to join in the conversation.”

Make or break time for couples

When it came to couple relationships almost a fifth (18%) of respondents in the West Midlands who have a partner said they have struggled to support their partner emotionally during lockdown, just below the UK average of 23%. More than one-in-seven in the region (16%) were anxious about how their relationship with their partner will change when lockdown ends[vii], similar to the 17% across the rest of the UK.  Of respondents in a relationship living in the West Midlands, 12% said lockdown has made them realise they want to propose to their partner[viii], while 8% came to the conclusion during lockdown that they need to end their relationship.

Socially distanced but emotionally closer to family and friends

While we may have been practising social distancing during lockdown, many have realised their emotional bonds with loved ones have strengthened. For example, nearly half (47%) of respondents in the West Midlands who have parents said they felt ‘emotionally closer’ to them as a result of lockdown. This compared to a UK average of 43%. Despite this, over a quarter (26%) of respondents in the West Midlands who have parents have argued or had a disagreement with them during lockdown.

Looking at other relationships in the West Midlands, 39% of respondents living in this region who have a sibling felt emotionally closer to their siblings since lockdown[ix], 40% of respondents felt closer to their neighbours and 37% felt closer to their friends.

Relationship hopes post-lockdown

Lockdown has made many people experience first-hand the benefits of quality family time. More than half of respondents in the West Midlands (51%) agreed that the experience has inspired them to make more effort with loved ones in the future.[x] When asked exactly what lockdown relationship habits people would like to continue with in the future, spending more quality time with family came in top (32%), followed by family walks / spending more time outdoors together (24%) and video calls with friends (22%).

Tracy Murphy, CEO at Relate Coventry and Warwickshire concluded:

“This Relationships Week, we want to help everyone in Coventry and Warwickshire celebrate the best of their lockdown relationship realisations and address the more difficult ones. We have a unique opportunity here – the role of relationships is clearly front-of-mind for many. I’m encouraging everyone to start a conversation about their relationships this week, whether it’s to thank someone for their support during lockdown or to begin addressing issues that have been swept under the carpet in recent months.”

Relate is offering a free course on communicating more effectively; tips for dealing with social anxiety and a range of other issues as lockdown eases; and online counselling, sex therapy and mediation sessions.

Visit relate.org.uk/relationships-week.  For more information about all of our services,  please telephone 024 76225863, or email info@relatecoventry.org

Notes to editors

For all media enquiries (including interviews with a Relate counsellor) contact Jenny French, jenny.french@relatecoventry.org, 01302 380945

  • Relate is a registered charity number 207314.
  • Relate champions the importance of strong and healthy relationships for all as the basis of a thriving society.
  • Relate provides impartial and non-judgmental support for people of all ages, gender identities and sexual orientations at all stages of couple, family and social relationships.
  • Over four million people every year access information, support and counselling from Relate but it’s clear many more would benefit from support.
  • For more information visit relate.org.uk.

References

[i] The research was conducted online from 26 June- 3 July 2020 by Censuswide, with a sample of 2,058 adults (aged 16+), 177 of which were in the West Midlands. The sample was weighted to be nationally representative.
[ii] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘Lockdown has made me realise that relationships are the most important thing in my life’. Compares to a UK average of 61%.
[iii] Combining respondents who answered much more and slightly more close to ‘Do you feel more or less emotionally close to the following people since lockdown happened?’
[iv] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘I have struggled to support my partner emotionally during this time’.
[v] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘Lockdown has made me realise we need to break-up/ divorce/ separate’.
[vi] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘My relationships with loved ones has helped me get through lockdown’.
[vii] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘I’m anxious about how my relationship with my partner might change when lockdown ends’.
[viii] Combining respondents who strongly agree and somewhat agree with the statement ‘Lockdown has made me realise I want to propose to my partner’.
[ix] Combining respondents who answered much more close and slightly more close to ‘Do you feel more or less emotionally close to the following people since lockdown happened?’. UK averages:  36% of respondents who have sibling felt emotionally closer to their siblings since lockdown, 34% of those with grandparents felt closer to their grandparents, 31% of all respondents felt closer to their neighbours and 30% felt emotionally closer to their friends.
[x] Combining respondents who strongly and somewhat agree with the statement ‘This experience has inspired me to make more effort with loved ones in the future.’

How to decide who to spend Christmas with and avoid family rows

As the Christmas lights go up and the heart-warming festive TV adverts appear, anyone who hasn’t confirmed how they are spending Christmas this year may be feeling under pressure to commit.

Who to spend Christmas with sounds like such a simple question but it can actually be rather complicated and cause a lot of stress and tension within families and between the couple themselves. In fact, Relationships charities Relate Nottinghamshire and Marriage Care say that this is something which often comes up in the counselling room. The charities have therefore released top tips on how to avoid rows about who to spend Christmas with.

Relate counsellor, Alison Towner, Clinical Supervisor at Relate Nottinghamshire said the issue can be particularly apparent within blended families. She said:

“Deciding who to spend Christmas with is often a major source of tension in relationships, especially where families are trying to cover all bases. This is never truer than for step families or blended families where there might be competing agendas, especially where children are concerned.”

“At Relate, we often see people who have felt infuriated by an ex-partner having somehow ‘manipulated’ offspring into spending the big day with them instead. Of course, underneath the anger there are often feelings of sadness, abandonment and failure. That’s why if you have difficult relationship with an ex-partner, finding time to connect, talk and listen to their thoughts and feelings within a neutral environment can be a powerful way of coming to an agreement.”

In Marriage Care’s experience, newlyweds can also face issues, particularly when they find themselves having to choose which family they will spend their first Christmas with as a married couple. Bridie Collins at Marriage Care said:

“Sometimes, both sets of families assume they’ll be ‘getting you’ for your first married Christmas and will be disappointed if they don’t. If parents protest, keep in mind that this can be hard for your parents, especially if it’s your first time missing the family occasion. And it’s likely to be tough for you as well. Reassure them that you wish there was a way to spend the holiday with both families, but you have to make a choice. Perhaps you can offer to visit them on another significant holiday occasion, or decide to be with them next year.

“What is most important is that you as a couple discuss the issue and agree on any decision, compromising as necessary for the sake of your relationship. If it’s something you find you can’t agree about, don’t let it become a niggle – seek a little support!”
Tips for avoiding disagreements about how to spend Christmas
• Be realistic and understand that you can’t please everyone all of the time. Rushing around trying to fit in multiple visits on Christmas Day is likely to mean you feel stressed and don’t enjoy it.
• If you come from a blended family, bear in mind that asking a child to ‘choose’ who to spend the day with can make them feel very anxious. Consider a fairer solution such as taking it in turns each year.
• Find time to connect, talk and listen to all parties. If you have a difficult relationship with anyone, discussing things on neutral territory may provide the best outcomes.
• Share with each other what practices or traditions make this time ‘special’ and the importance to each of you of celebrating it with the extended family. You may find that it’s not such a big deal for one of you, despite family expectations
• Try to introduce change gradually so it’s all less of a shock to the system. People can often accept minor differences which before they (and you) know it, become part of a new way of doing Christmas.
• If for instance you want to go abroad this year but are worried about a friend or relative feeling lonely or left out, consider inviting them along or seeing if there’s anyone else who they would like to spend the day with.
• If you can’t see certain people on Christmas Day, arrange to see them at another point during the festive period such as Boxing Day, Christmas Eve or the weekend before.
• Recognize that it’s OK to take control of the Christmas arrangements and not stick to the same routine.
• Next year, start talking about what feels do-able sooner rather than later. This often means that more people’s opinions can be canvassed and considered before a decision is made.

Ten tips for a happy relationship

1. Talk constructively

How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticising. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything. Try our three tips for improving communication with your partner.

2. Listen to each other

Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.

3. Don’t bottle things up

If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favours by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.

4. Keep things fresh

It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around by surprising them occasionally.

5. Let go of the little stuff

Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!

6. Appreciate what you have

Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.

7. Give each other space

Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realise that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about. Try our four steps for setting healthy boundaries in your relationship.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!

9. Avoid jealousy and build trust

Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.

10. Work on it

It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.

Parenting Troubled Teens

As parents of troubled teens it’s logical that we try to look for a reason why this has happened in our family. Why us? Why me? Understandably, you may look for someone or something to blame; whose fault is it? Maybe you blame yourself, your partner, your teenager or their friends?

Blaming yourself or others will leave you feeling guilty, angry, powerless or all three. To truly take a first step you need to take a good, hard look at the problems and the situation before you can decide what to do next.

Relate have put together some questions for you to think about. Answer as honestly as you can. Every family will be different so this may leave you with even more questions. That’s ok, this is a time to think and understand. What you do about it will come next.  Follow the link below…

http://parentingtroubledteenagers.relate.org.uk/issues-topics

Official spring time – time to spring clean your relationship?

Every year we get a reminder to take our cars in for an MOT to ensure that they’re roadworthy.

But what about our relationships? Do we need a reminder to check in with our partners, or should we just carry on until the wing mirrors fall off, and we can no longer see the relationship hazards coming our way?

Follow the link for the Relationship MOT.

http://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/self-help-tools/quizzes-profilers/relationship-mot help/self-help-tools/quizzes- profilers/relationship-mot