A SURVEY of relationships in the UK suggests that the number of people who admit to cheating on their partner is on the rise — although most respondents said that they were happy in their relationship.
In the survey The Way We Are Now, published by the counselling service Relate and Marriage Care, 24 per cent of respondents admitted to cheating on their partner physically; and 44 per cent said that they had cheated physically or “virtually” — that is, online — or had been tempted to cheat.
Besides actual infidelity, fears about affairs are causing a lack of trust: a third of those under the age of 45 admitted to checking on their partner’s phone or social-media account without permission.
Yet 87 per cent of respondents reported that they were happy with their relationships, and getting married was still seen as an important sign of commitment.
The rise in the accessibility of internet porn, the survey report suggests, is increasing the strain on relationships, fuelling unrealistic expectations about what is a “normal” sex life. Increasing numbers of people are also finding themselves victims of “revenge porn”, it says.
The influence of technology on sex lives is also apparent in the rise of “sexting” — sending sexually explicit text messages — but, despite negative cases that have attracted media attention, nearly half of unmarried couples reported that sending suggestive messages had had a positive impact on their relationship.
The survey suggests that the sex life of the nation is generally under strain: fewer than half the respondents said that they were happy with their sex lives, and 51 per cent said that they had not had sex in the past month.
The research also concluded that one of the greatest areas of strain on a relationship was money worries; parents of young children particularly were found to feel the pressure. They were more likely to report that they argued with their partner, rarely engaged in outside interests together, and had infrequent sex. They were also more likely to admit to having no close friends.
One in six of the respondents who were disabled, or who had long-term health problems, said that they had no close friend to help them.
More than 6500 people were polled in the survey, which was carried out by YouGov for Relate, in partnership with Relationships Scotland.
The chief executive of Relate, Chris Sherwood, said that the findings “painted a pretty depressing picture”.
He said: “We are getting a very clear message from the stats: families need more help to get the balance between work and family life right. I want to see family life and relationships moving up the political agenda, and I will do all I can to ensure this happens.”
The chief executive of the Roman Catholic marriage-counselling service Marriage Care, Mark Molden, said: “As a nation, we remain understandably private about our relationships, and yet their flourishing or failure has enormous public consequences. The encouraging news is that many of us report a good relationship with our partners.
“Marriage continues to be prized as an important sign of commitment, but it’s the quality of our relationships — sharing problems, in particular — that communicates commitment more than anything else.
“This report also warns of real pressures on our relationships, which is why we must do more to strengthen and support them. Healthy, committed relationships help us flourish; they hold the potential to transform the life chances of a nation.”