All work and no play make love drift away, study finds

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People were also more likely to work nine until eight than nine to five and then spend at least two hours in separate rooms when they do have a rare evening in, the study's author, Dr Roger Henderson, said.

A change in habits was crucial for healthy relationships, Dr Henderson added. "It is absolutely vital for people to recapture the early evening and create a calm hour at home with their partner before dinner.

"It could be the difference between turning an existence into a life and, for some, it could even be a relationship lifesaver."

The survey, for the At Home Society, found 21 per cent of people were too busy to see their partner during the week. Quality time in the early evening for couples was rare, with 8.6 million people - 30 per cent of the UK's workforce - work longer than nine to five.

But Dr Henderson said even those who did have an evening together did not make the most of their time, with 46 per cent of couples spending two hours each night in separate rooms.

The study found that the first "critical" hour after work was more likely to be filled with household chores, talking on the phone or looking after children than catching up with partners.

Many couples were also too exhausted to do anything but slump in front of the television at night. Some 42 per cent of those questioned preferred to watch TV after work.

The pressures of life are now so intense that although 65 per cent of couples acknowledged that more time in the evenings would help their relationship, only 24 per cent said they got home to see their partners each week.

"We are living in a world where the pace of life gets faster and faster," Dr Henderson said. "Many of us seem to have forgotten that the home is not simply a place to rush around and do tasks in. The home should also be a nest; a place to unwind and relax in."

Other tips to reclaiming your evening include changing out of work clothes when you get home, ignoring the dusting and stopping work "polluting" your life out of office hours.

Paula Hall, a psychotherapist for Relate, the UK's largest provider of relationship counselling, said: "It is, sadly, a reality of the way we live our lives. Most people focus on what is urgent rather than the important things. A lot of couples do not see each other all week due to their jobs. One of the most common difficulties for couples is how they wind down after a day at work. Some people need to be on their own and some need to chat.

"I would advise working couples to set aside time each week to spend together. It is easier to allocate this time than wait until the weekend or the end of the month. You have got to be able to recognise that your relationship needs time where you are with your partner. Without spending time together, relationships do tend to drift apart."

'We have to plan time together'

Justine Hendry, 32, and Kevin Knott, 35

Justine Hendry, 32, lives near Wimbledon in south-west London. She is a company director for a marketing firm. She has been with Kevin Knott, 35, who works from home as an IT consultant, for eight years:

JUSTINE:

"I'm definitely guilty of letting work take over at times particularly when there are big projects and deadlines.

"When I get home in the evening we are both doing things including the gym, seeing friends, catching up with family, or work..

"On top of that, I have at least an hour travelling to and from work and, at the end of the day, the priority for the first hour at home is to get food.

"We have to plan time together which can take the spontaneity out of the relationship and if you are caught late at work it can add even more pressure.

"We keep in contact throughout the day with SMS text messages and by emailing as well as phoning each other twice a day.

"But, when I get home, one of us cooks and the other usually watches the television while that's happening. I don't have kids but I don't know how people who do have any time to spend time together.

KEVIN:

"People burn out working long hours in London and it has a detrimental effect on the relationship.

"I don't like seeing Justine so stressed with work and would like to spend more time with her.

"We've considered moving out of London or even abroad for a better quality of life which would only improve the relationship. You have to keep on top of the relationship and we are always addressing it otherwise it can be very detrimental. Having holidays and breaks away together from city life is also essential."

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