Relationships in the South West under the microscope: new study reveals our couple, family, friendships, sex and work secrets

  •  1 in 10 people don’t have a single close friend (9%)
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people never or rarely felt loved in the two weeks before the survey (18%)
  • 1 in 5 people say they are not satisfied with their sex lives (22%)
  • 3 in 10 people their bosses believe the most productive employees put work before family (30%)
  • Over 8 out of 10 people have good relationships with their partners (85%)

A new study of more than 5,000 people has lifted the lid on the state of the UK’s relationships and found that one in ten people in the South West has no close friends.

Published today by Relate, the UK’s leading relationship support organisation, and Relationships Scotland, The Way We Are Now 2014 is one of the largest studies of its kind. It provides a window into the most important areas of our lives – from couple and family life to sex, friendships and interactions with colleagues and bosses.

The study finds some concerning statistics around how close we feel to others, including one out of ten people in the South West saying they don’t have a single close friend and 1 in 5  people rarely or never feeling loved in the two weeks before the survey.

The Way We Are Now2014  also finds a strong connection between our relationships and our personal wellbeing. It seems that, even in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, relationships still act as shock absorbers when times are hard and also help us to achieve our goals. Crucially, the study finds that people who enjoy good quality relationships also have higher levels of wellbeing, whilst relationships of poor quality are detrimental to wellbeing, health and how we feel about ourselves.

Below is a summary of the study’s top findings.

The changing face of family life

  • One in four people in the South West have experienced the breakdown of their parents’ relationship (25%)
  • 60% think money worries are one of the biggest strains on a relationship

Divorce rates have risen significantly over the last 50 years, leaving generations of children, young people and adults working out how to navigate family life after separation. But families of all shapes and sizes can and do have good quality relationships – it might just take some extra effort.

A significant majority of people in the South West (60%) say that money worries are one of the biggest strains on relationships.

 Partners: enduring love

  • Over eight out of ten people in the South West have a good relationship with their partner (85%)
  • 18% of people never or rarely felt loved in the two weeks before the survey

The vast majority of us in relationships feel close to our partners, but there are also some concerning statistics in this section including 18% of people rarely or never feeling loved in the two weeks before the survey.

But being in a relationship alone isn’t enough to enjoy good wellbeing – we found that the benefits of being in a couple relationship for people’s wellbeing were lost when they were dissatisfied with how things were going.

Sex: a nation divided

  • One in five people in the South West are dissatisfied with their sex life (22%)
  • 25% of people report having had an affair

With one in five people in the South West being dissatisfied with their sex life it’s clear that, for many people, things aren’t as good as they could be.

The Way We Are Now 2014 included an additional survey carried out by Relate of 250 Relate and Relationships Scotland counsellors, who listed three factors for a happy sex life: improving communication, making time to be together and learning how to talk about sex with your partner.

Work: a delicate balancing act

  • Three in ten people in the South West say their bosses believe the most productive employees put work before family (30%)
  • 58% of people have a good relationship with their boss

 The picture painted by the work section of the study is an interesting one. Even though many of us enjoy good relationships with our bosses, it’s clear that work and family life seem to be incompatible for a significant minority. This is especially worrying in an age where the boundaries between home and work are increasingly blurred, with many of us working from home and being connected to email out of normal working hours. Trust is crucial for successful relationships at work, but this is not always easy to achieve when workplace attitudes and the practicalities of family life clash.

Friends: I’ll be there for you

  • 91% of people in the South West report having at least one close friend
  • 84% of women describe their friendships as good, compared with 69% of men

There are also some differences between men and women when it comes to friendships: women are more likely to have high quality friendships than men, and women also report that their friendships improve with age, whereas for men this remains static throughout life.

The study finds a clear link between high quality relationships and high levels of wellbeing. But simply being in a relationship doesn’t guarantee that people will feel good about themselves: single people feel better about themselves than those in average, bad or very bad relationships, suggesting it’s the quality of the relationship that has an impact on wellbeing and happiness.