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Happy new year, reader– we hope 2016 is a peaceful one for you and your family. We’ve been pleased to see that there hasn’t been too much of the ‘divorce day, huge spike in calls to family lawyers’ media nonsense as everyone returns to work and school this year. Perhaps this is in part because of Resolution’s refusal to engage this time round, preferring to focus instead on what can be done to assist those struggling with relationship difficulties.

In that vein, this is a blog about what you can do to help yourself, or someone you know, if there are problems with a family relationship. We’ve collected together some of the best resources we use and like to provide what we hope is a good starting point for making things easier, and making the right decisions for you and your family in 2016.

Relationship help

It’s often the case that relationships fall into difficulties because of a lack of communication, or patterns of communication that are not constructive. Many psychologists and organisations have done good work in this area by identifying common issues and sharing suggestions on how to deal with them. Andrew G Marshall is a British psychologist who wrote the seminal ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ in 2006, and is about to release a new updated edition of his book. The book explains what tends to happen when companionship takes the place of passion in a relationship – when couples don’t hate, but they don’t love enough either – and provides practical strategies for moving forward together, rather than apart. Andrew G Marshall has also written a number of other successful books about the psychology of relationships, including some that offer suggestions for getting over a partner’s infidelity, starting to work together on common issues, and moving on from a relationship if that doesn’t work.

Relate is best known as the in-person counselling service for couples in difficulty, but it also publishes some very useful books. You may find these helpful for when you are making choices about what to do next in your relationship, addressing particular issues, or learning to adapt to new circumstances. Each book in the series is written by an experienced therapist and author, and are widely available, including at libraries.

For those who prefer not to have books lying around, the Couple Connection is a great online resource aimed at helping people connect better in relationships. It offers lots of practical advice and suggestions, mainly aimed at improving communication, including a free online course on how to argue better. There’s a relationship forum where people can share their thoughts, and plenty of quizzes and short courses that are light while being thought-provoking, and can help with specific issues. Run by the relationship charity One Plus One, it is free to use and worth a look. Its sister site, the Parent Connection, is fabulous for parenting issues too, whether you are parenting together or apart.

If it seems that all else has failed, sometimes an independent, non-judgmental third party can help to shine a light that makes things better. Relate is excellent – they have been the relationship therapy specialists for decades – but it is not the only option. There are plenty of local, independent counsellors trained and experienced in helping couples through difficult patches or difficult decisions. A good place to start your search is the BACP website’s find a therapist tool, by inputting your postcode. To some people, this may feel less intimidating an idea than ‘going to Relate’. And if your partner won’t accompany you at first, all is not lost – you can see a counsellor by yourself to talk about your relationship, and you may find this might help.

Money help

Money problems can put significant pressure on relationships, and the post-Christmas period is a difficult one for many. If you need to get a grip on your finances, the government’s Money Advice Service is very helpful and even has a ‘survive January’ plan to download. More than that, it can help with basic budgeting, economizing on household spending, financial planning, and point you in the right direction for help with debt.

Debt is a big problem for many of us. Stepchange, the debt charity, can help you with information, advice, support and a personal plan.

For those looking simply to be more organized about their finances, there are plenty of websites that can help you to get a grip: Moneywise, the Motley Fool and Which can give you plenty to think about. We’d also suggest taking proper advice from a licensed and independent financial adviser: you can find one of these local to you by perusing the list generated at Unbiased, where all financial advisers are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. A meeting with a financial adviser can help the two of you weigh up the options and decide on financial priorities together, and most advisers offer a free initial consultation.

Legal help

It benefits some people to have an idea of what might lie in store if it is not possible to ‘fix’ a relationship. Certainly we see a number of clients who are surprised by the workings of the English legal system when a relationship breaks down, particularly if they are not married to their partner. There may be unrealistic expectations of the sort of life one might be able to lead as a single person, whether this relates to financial and property arrangements or arrangements for children. When considering the future of an important family relationship, it is sensible to have a pragmatic view of what might lie on the other side of a pivotal decision.

We happen to think the best source of information about the family law system in England and Wales is this website: we’ve been blogging about family law topics every week for over four years now, and there’s also a huge amount of knowledge in our information pages, to which you can find links at the top of this page. These contain downloadable factsheets to help you understand the way the system works.  We also recommend the Resolution website, which contains plenty of information, with a particular focus on parenting during the breakdown of an adult relationship, and ways of resolving disputes about the future without having to go to court.

It can be a good investment to spend an hour with an experienced family law solicitor who can give you an idea of where you stand and help you consider all your options. If you’d like to make an appointment to see any of us please give us a call on 01223 443333, and Adam, Tricia, Gail, Sue or Simon will be pleased to help. We hope that if you find yourself unsure of what the future holds this January, these resources are useful – please let us know in the comments if there is anything else you’d like to see on our website in the future.