Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

Break-up Risk Highest for ‘early 40s couple with parallel lives’


Couples in their forties should undergo a “relationship MoT” to prevent their marriage falling apart as the strain of midlife takes its toll, the head of Relate has said.

Baroness Tyler, who has run the country’s biggest relationship counselling service for five years, said that couples aged between 40 and 45 are the most at risk of breaking up, often living “parallel lives and spending what little free time they have doing their own thing.”

In an interview with The Times, she urged these couples to consider relationship counselling before they reach crisis point. “The group that worries me are couples between 40 and 45,” she said. “They are in middle life, probably working long hours and typically with young children and may have elderly parents too. They spend little time together and often lead parallel lives. A typical evening would see one of them on their laptop and the other watching TV and sending a few texts. They find it harder and harder to relate to one another.

“Communication becomes difficult. In terms of divorce, that is the group we need to think about.”

Her concern may be justified, according to the latest statistics. The divorce rate had been falling since 2002, but the most up-to-date figures, published last December, showed a surprise 4.9 per cent increase, with the sharpest rise among couples aged 40 to 45.

Lady Tyler, who is leaving Relate to become chairman of Cafcass, the service that represents children in the family courts, said that couples should not feel embarrassed about seeking help, even if their troubles seemed minor. “I would encourage them to seek help early and not to wait until they hit crisis point. There is still a stigma about seeking relationship counselling or a fear that it is the beginning of the end. But in other areas of life we think it is perfectly natural to get help early. We have health checks and dental check-ups. Even our cars get MoTs. We should be prepared to invest in our relationship, our emotional lives, in a similar way.”

There were ways to have counselling that did not involve having to turn up to a Relate office, she said, such as online and telephone counselling.

Rosemary Bennett
Social Affairs Correspondent


If you're reading this, you've already taken an important step. You already know that you have questions that need answering, a curiosity to satisfy, difficulties to confront, maybe even a crisis to deal with.

With over 20 years' experience as a psychotherapist, executive business coach and counsellor, Sonia Manning leads a team of holistic therapists who can help you to overcome your difficulties and turn a crisis point into a turning point.

Break-up Risk Highest for ‘early 40s couple with parallel lives'

In our society this stage in an individual’s life is often referred to as the ‘mid-life crisis’ and it is, indeed, a very real stage that both men and women pass through. For some it is experienced as only a minor set of events, whilst for others it can be a deeply disturbing, or excruciatingly painful process, which can extend over a long period of time. It is a stage of existential dilemmas, of wondering about the life you haven’t lived as well as the one you have.

We fully recognise and understand the complexities of this life stage and have many ways in which we can support the individual – from various talking therapies to hands-on treatments and interventions. Our approach will be as individual as you are. We will free people to rediscover their authentic self after possibly years of adapting themselves to fit in with their parents, partners, family, friends or society’s expectations. The bigger the gap between the authentic self and the adapted self, the bigger the potential for crisis.

This is a period of life where big dilemmas very often come up and in order to resolve them, people need the desire to gain consciousness; with consciousness comes awareness; and once the awareness is there, it is the individual’s responsibility to find the will to act upon it.

In the psychological and academic world, man’s life stages have been thoroughly investigated, observed and written about and as a result there are many different interpretations, explanations and models connected to this concept. Below is one popular interpretation. In reality, it is not this neat and tidy, as stages overlap and people move back and forth between them. However, the mid-life crisis is a recognised stage and is a natural review point in people’s lives. It is also at this point that unresolved issues from other stages – especially stages 2 and 5 below – will have a renewed impact.

Table 1: Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Human Development1

Associated Reading:
Times Article – Sex, Drugs, Drink and the City Slicker
The Times Article – Mood Swings, Stress, Insomnia? It Could be the Manopause