Almost one in five (18%) couples in the UK argue regularly or consider separating, a study suggests.
The report, carried out by charity Relate and based on a survey of 20,980 people in relationships from 2013-15, suggested 2.87 million people were in “distressed” relationships.
Dr David Marjoribanks, from Relate, said constant bickering could have a “far-reaching” impact on children.
On average they did worse in school and could even fall into crime, he said.
“It is not just the actual breakdown of the relationship itself, it’s specifically the conflict that surrounds that,” Dr Marjoribanks said.
“It means that when relationships end, it is not deemed to inevitably harm children, far from it.
“It is the conflict in intact relationships that can be just as damaging, as when relationships end,” he added.
“Children who grow up with parents who have highly-conflicted relationships are much more likely to have mental and physical health problems, to not do as well at school and end up in antisocial behaviour and criminality even.”
‘Nothing will change’: Case study of a broken marriage
It may have seemed a small thing but Sophie*, 28, knew her marriage was over when she came home from work to have lunch with her out-of-work husband and he expected her to make it.
Things had not been right for some time. There had been arguments about money, jobs and housework shortly after the wedding, often in front of their young son. But soon communication shut down almost entirely as both felt the arguments were always the same and nothing would ever change.
Days would go by with neither of them talking to each other.
They tried counselling but it came at a cost and they found themselves forced to choose between a counselling session or buying food for the week.
In January last year, after three years of marriage, Sophie told her husband, 41, it was over.
“As soon as we separated I immediately felt lighter. I did not have to do all this stuff for someone who did not do anything,” she said.
Both are now in new relationships, and Sophie, who lives in West Yorkshire, says she now tries to make time to talk about things as soon as they come up and to be more open about money.