All relationships require give and take from both parties and can, in spite of good intentions, be hard work at times.

I recently attended a marriage preparation meeting with my fiancé, run by our vicar ahead of our summer wedding. It made for an interesting discussion, during which we were asked some rather probing questions including; how well we communicate; how we manage our finances; whether we want children; what common interests we hold; how much time we spend together and how we intend to manage our finances (particularly if we have children).

The questions were intrusive but necessarily so.

As a family lawyer, I work regularly with people at the start or the end of their relationship and when clients come to talk to me about separation, a number of common themes are usually discussed. Invariably, they are linked in one way or another to those matters we were encouraged to discuss at the marriage preparation meeting, including:

  • Lack of communication - most people naturally want to avoid confrontation and, therefore, when something difficult needs to be discussed, rather than facing the issue (which might be a small one) head on, parties ‘bottle it up’ and the issue then becomes a far bigger problem;
  • Finances - managing finances when one party (usually the wife but occasionally also husbands) stops working for a period of time, or entirely, to raise children can be particularly tricky. Unless you have an arrangement about which both parties are genuinely happy, it can often lead to resentment and to one party feeling like an unequal part of the partnership. This might be the case where, for example, the parties don’t have a joint account to service the family’s expenses and one spouse has to ask the other for money or an allowance.

These are just a couple of the themes we come across as triggers for marriage breakdown.

Of course, if one of the above (or other) issues affects a couple’s relationship, it does not mean that it is certain to fail. One of the things we explore with new clients at a first meeting is whether the marriage has broken down irretrievably or whether there is scope for reconciliation. There are a number of organisations we refer clients to if, instead of separation, they want to seek professional help to address difficulties such as lack of communication.