Item from the Smart Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics Collection

Richard Reeves and Sarah Ryle
Sunday January 9, 2000 The Observer - London

Brtions are marking the new millennium by divorcing in unprecedented
numbers, putting huge pressure on overstretched counselling services.

Dubbed the 'clean slate syndrome' by psychotherapists, a new determination
to question relationships or start afresh has already prompted emergency
recruitment drives by the Samaritans and Relate.
'It's chaos,' said the manager of the Relate office in Birmingham. 'The
phone hasn't stopped ringing, and we have nothing like enough counsellors
to
meet demand.'

Counsellors are blaming millennial media hype and a huge gap between
expectations and reality - especially over sex during the festive period -
for the huge upturn in numbers seeking better relationships.
'There has been so much hype, so much expectation piled onto people that
the
backlash was inevitable,' said Sandra Bourton, manager of Portsmouth and
district Relate. The office took 57 calls in the first day of the year,
more
than twice the level last year.

London Marriage Guidance is braced for a surge of calls this week when
family routine returns to normal, says manager Judy Cunnington.

Britain's largest helpline, the Samaritans, was deluged with calls between
Christmas and New Year, and figures are expected to show a substantial
increase on the record of 124,000 calls for the same period last year.

'We have spoken to callers ringing from boxes in the middle of the city,
clutching a suitcase and saying that they needed to leave right now and
that
they've done it,' said Joan, a volunteer at the Glasgow centre.

'People pack their bags and go because they don't want another year like
the
last one. I think this will go on throughout January. This year is worse
because the callers I have spoken to thought that this would be a
wonderful
time, but it wasn't as magical as they hoped.'

In London, the Soho-based centre is so stretched that it will launch a new
recruiting campaign this week. 'A lot of people have been holding out for
the millennium for a whole year and the pressure on families to be a happy
unit has been enormous,' said volunteer Lois.

'Callers have told us that they have got through the Christmas and
millennium period and stayed for someone else - the kids, their partner or
their extended family - rather than for themselves. If there were already
stresses in a relationship then this is when it breaks up. People are
emotionally as well as financially in the red.'

Julia Cole, a spokesperson for Relate, said that the beginning of a new
century had prompted a new scrutiny of relationships. Sexual problems,
always uppermost in people's minds after a holiday period, seemed
especially
widespread. 'There is an expectation that along with the perfect lunch,
the
perfect presents, the perfect New Year's Eve, there will be lovely,
perfect
sex. The contrast between the expectations and reality is often enormous.'


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