Figures from the marriage guidance group, Relate, showed that last year 70,000 families sought counselling for the first time and a total of 400,000 interviews were conducted. 'Many of those were to couples whose marriages and relationships were under enormous stress because of the recession,' Zelda West-Meads, a counsellor with Relate said.
In a report for the Family Policy Studies Centre she says: 'In 1992 a quarter of a million people were made redundant. It is undoubtedly one of the most stressful experiences that anyone can encounter in their lives. Because feelings are unexpected and not understood by partners or other members of the family, this can have a very distressing effect on relationships.'
Marriages also come under stress when couples are worrying about how to pay the mortgage, rent, and bills or struggling to survive on social security.
As one man seeking help told Relate: 'If you have no money and your wife tells you the kids need new shoes, and things are already so bloody awful, you feel you can't cope any more. So you shout at her and the kids. You know it's not their fault but you can't stop yourself.'
Government statistics show that 12 million families are living on the poverty line, defined by less than half average earnings.
According to Ms West-Meads: 'People on very low incomes or benefit or who are struggling with debts often do not admit to their partners just how bad things are.
'They may try to get out of trouble by borrowing from unscrupulous loan companies at exorbitant rates of interest. Others may bet the housekeeping on the horses or bingo, which only gets them into deeper trouble.'