National survey also highlights challenges for many couples and families, with the public likely to seek further support

National survey also highlights challenges for many couples and families, with the public likely to seek further support

Responses to a recent YouGov survey show that although a quarter (24%) of people in a relationship (1,342 people) believe the pandemic increased stress and conflict in their relationship, two thirds of those in a relationship felt the pandemic has made them value their relationship with their partner. Furthermore, only eight per cent of respondents said they considered splitting up from their partner.

Thirteen per cent of those in a relationship reported an improvement in their sex life and, in a result which suggests that people increasingly recognise the effectiveness of couple and psychosexual therapy to address issues around sex intimacy, 34 per cent of all adults questioned (2,093) thought that couple counselling could improve their sex life.

Andrew Balfour, Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Tavistock Relationships, says: “It’s heartening to see that the experience of living through a national crisis, when family and couple relationships have been under sustained and significant stress caused by the pandemic and lockdowns, has led people to take stock of their relationships and the importance they attach to them”.

The survey also found that while some couples did see an improvement in their sex lives during the pandemic, around a third of survey respondents did not; fifteen per cent of male respondents in a relationship said the lockdowns led them to watch more internet pornography.

When asked to rank what the most important quality for a long-term relationship, nearly half (48 per cent of 2,050 people) of those questioned ranked trust as the highest quality. While 36% ranked having good communication as the most important, just four per cent ranked having strategies to reduce conflict as the most important quality, suggesting there is work to be done to raise public awareness of the damaging impact on children of sustained conflict between parents.

Research shows that sustained and unresolved couple conflict has a damaging effect on any children’s well being1, something the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Supporting Couple Relationships and Reducing Inter-parental Conflict recent has highlighted through its #SortItOut campaign.

Andrew Balfour continues: “Sadly for some, the stress of the pandemic has led to fractured relationships. Indeed, seeing your partner at breakfast, lunch, dinner, hearing them shout at the kids, and juggling work and home education, increased stress and irritability, and dampened sexual desire for many. A quarter of those people in a relationship said the pandemic increased stress and conflict in their relationship, and 12 per cent said the pandemic has caused their relationship with their partner and/or children to be at its lowest point ever. Given that this is a representative sample of families across the UK, these figures indicate a potential tsunami of families in distress.

“Research shows that couple therapy improves both the couple’s relationship, and also the psychological wellbeing and mental health of the partners in the couple. We urge people, whether they are couples still together, or separated and co-parenting their children, to seek relationship support to improve communication and better understand each other’s perspectives.

“Not all couples who have therapy stay together. Therapy can support couples to negotiate a break -up as well as possible, and to continue to co-parent their children effectively, and can help to reduce the negative impacts on children as well as on their own mental health and wellbeing.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2093 adults, of which 1,401 were in a relationship. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22 and 23 July 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Full results will be published in September 2021.

A report by couple therapy charity Tavistock Relationships into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on couples, families and children, based on this survey, will be published next month. 

For more information about couple and individual therapy, go to or call 020 7380 1960.


1. Harold G, Acquah D, Sellers R, and Chowdry H (2016) What works to enhance inter-parental relationships and improve outcomes for children? DWP ad hoc research report no. 32. London: DWP.
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Notes to Editors
Established in 1948, Tavistock Relationships is a registered charity internationally renowned for delivering and developing advanced practice, training and research in therapeutic and psycho-educational approaches to supporting couples. Over 120 professionals hold over 20,000 clinical sessions each year, helping thousands of people with their relationships. @TaviRelations