Lessons in love and marriage aim to help couples last the distance

Rev David Newton who is running a 'Staying in Love' course for couples at Gildersome Baptist Church.
Rev David Newton who is running a 'Staying in Love' course for couples at Gildersome Baptist Church.
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It may be the start of a new year, but January is the worse month for divorces. Catherine Scott reports on the most troubled time for couples.

January can be a bleak month for couples as divorce rates seem to soar.

Enquires to solicitors about separation and divorce normally double at this time of year, but the current recession seems to be adding to the problems of families already under strain.

Relate, the relationship support charity, recorded a 116 per cent increase in calls to its helpline over the last few of weeks, which is a 20 per cent increase in calls over the same period last year.

“We know that during these tough economic times families are under more pressure and this often leads to more arguments and break-ups,” says Christine Northam, a counsellor for Relate.

“Our callers tell us that arguments, affairs and problems with their sex life are the major issues leading to difficulties. We’d urge couples to talk to each other as soon as they notice a problem and seek help.”

Solicitor Alan Kaufman said: “There can also be the psychological effect of people viewing a new year as a watershed, where they reflect on their lives and resolve to make decisions about a different future for themselves.

“But anecdotally, I think we are seeing an increase in couples who, although they might like to, are unable to separate because they’ve been affected financially by the recession.

“This can make things very tough and it’s a challenge for those involved to help them through it.”

In a bid to recude the number of couples separating or divorcing in his patch, one Yorkshire priest has taken matter into his own hands.

The Rev David Newton, of the Baptist Church in Gildersome, is responding to the traditional January spike in divorces by finding the top tips from people who have been married for over forty years and sharing them with young couples who want to stay in love forever.

The course, titled “Staying in Love” attempts to answer the question, “Is it possible for two people to stay together for the whole of their lives, and still be in love?”

The five-week course, which stated last weekend, notoriously the worst weekend for relationships to fail, offers:

Practical advice on how to maintain a loving relationship and make it stronger,

How to spot and overcome difficult moments in a relationship,

Exercises that have worked for people,

Wise advice from the Bible,

Research about what people in happy relationships do that works.

There will be an opportunity to meet couples who are still in love after over forty years.

It is all the brain child of the Rev Newton, minister of the church, who mades the news last year with his £100 weddings.

“All of us believe that it is possible for two people to be together and in love for the whole of their lives,” he says.

“But we know how hard it can be.

“In this course we can help people turn that dream into reality.”

When asked what advice she would give to a couple getting married, Hilary May, who has been married for over fifty years said:“Marry the right person and pray about everything.”

Her husband Graham said, “Agree with everything your wife says!”

The Rev Newton has 30 years experience of helping couples in relationships.

He has undertaken additional training in adult learning and solution-focused counselling.

He is also behind the hundredpoundwedding.com website which encourages couples to focus on the important.

However, according to Relate, the recession could also mean more couples staying together when they would normally split up. This could leave some in the position of “living with the enemy”.

“This is a particularly hellish situation,” says Christine Northam. “Couples can feel trapped together, potentially making a tense situation even worse.”

She advises creating a plan for living and setting out personal boundaries to minimise conflict.

“You need to deal with the nitty-gritty of life as two people who are now living together but aren’t a couple,” she says.

Visit www.relate.org.ukhe nitty-gritty of life as two people who are now living together but aren’t a couple,” she says.

Visit www.relate.org.uk

Dark months for lovers

Relationship and councelling charity Relate has seen an unprecedented number of calls to its helplines from couples struggling with their relationship.

Relate recorded a 116 per cent increase in calls to its helpline since the start of 2012, which is a 20 per cent increase in calls over the same period last year.

Some of this is put down to Christmas placing increased stress on an already struggling relationship.

Another reason given is that the New Year is seen as the ideal time to make a fresh start.