Movies ‘piling
pressure on

THE “Hollywood ideal” of relationships has been blamed for heaping pressure on couples as counselling specialists warn they are facing a surge in calls for support in the new year.

Hollywood ending? George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin

Counsellors at the Relate charity are braced for the annual rise in calls at the turn of a new year as couples and families seek advice to cope with pressures on their relationships.

Calls to Relate’s national phone line rose by 53 per cent on the first Monday of January this year compared with the first Monday of December 2013, with appointment bookings increasing by 86 per cent.

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Priscilla Sim, a relationships counsellor at Relate, said January is “a time of reflection” which many see as an opportunity for a new start.

She maintained that the “Hollywood ideal” of having a perfect relationship, a perfect family, and a perfect Christmas is “really damaging” as it causes people to question their own situations.

Ms Sim added: “I think in society, in glossy magazines, and on TV, we’re kind of expected to have this Hollywood ideal of relationships.

“So when they have an argument it’s the end of the world, when actually research shows that arguments are healthy. Obviously if you’re arguing all the time that’s difficult, but I think the ratio is one in five.

“If you’re having five positive interactions to one difficult interaction you’ve got a healthy relationship. It’s important to have arguments because that shows that you’re still two individual people,”

Ms Sim claimed sometimes people think that they “should be having sex all the time”, adding: “Unfortunately, sometimes we’re just too busy, we’re just tired, it does fall off the agenda. But that doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed.”

Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2012 was 118,140, an increase of 0.5 per cent since 2011, when there were 117,558 divorces. The number of divorces in 2012 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.

For those married in 1972, 22 per cent of marriages had ended in divorce by their 15th wedding anniversary, whereas for those married in 1997, almost a third of marriages had ended by this time, according to the ONS. In 2012, 10.8 people divorced per thousand married population, a decrease of 19 per cent compared with 13.3 in 2002.

The chief executive of Relate, Ruth Sutherland, said: “January is always very busy for Relate. Sadly many couples and families face a tough time over Christmas as people spend concentrated time together and that can bring any underlying issues bubbling to the surface.

“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.”

Caroline Watson, a divorce lawyer at Slater & Gordon, confirmed that law firms often see a rise in the number of clients as tensions or issues in a relationship are “likely to come to the forefront in the lead-up to New Year”.