'I'm drowning in my failing marriage'

Wedding rings Image copyright PA

One in five couples in the UK argue regularly or consider separating, says a survey by the charity Relate. Beneath the statistics, there are personal stories of hope and pain.

Almost 21,000 people in relationships from 2013-15 shared their experiences for the survey. We asked people to tell us about their own relationships.

'There's no peace or joy in my life'

Sarah, who did not want us to give her real name, has been married for 12 years.

"One day you wake up and realise that the life you have is not the one you want. That the man you married is not the one you thought you were marrying. That the family life you intended to create is not what you have created.

"That the future looks very bleak. That there is no joy or fun or hope in your marriage.

"Your marriage reality is so far away from your dream, and you've nearly killed yourself to make it work.

"When we got married, he created a role at home for himself. All I'm allowed to do is work. I'm not allowed to buy so much as a new cushion or tea towel without his say- so. The home is his domain.

"And if you've tried - as we have for many years - with counselling and begging and crying, and nothing has worked and things have got worse, you have to call time.

"I'm a cancer survivor, but I'm drowning in my failing marriage."

'If there was love there in the first place, you can get it back'

Image copyright Karen Slee
Image caption Karen and David were great communicators before they were married

Karen says she ended up feeling like a single parent before realising her husband had Asperger's Syndrome.

"My husband and I have been married nearly 20 years. In 2009 we were at breaking point. The arguments, resentments and sullen silences were dreadful. He was verbally abusive towards me and never interacted with the children.

"I was desperately miserable, lonely and exhausted and couldn't understand what had happened to the charming, generous, funny and loving man I'd married.

"Then our son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome which meant he was mildly autistic. I read all I could about autism and had a light bulb moment when I recognised the signs in my husband.

"I was reading about a relationship, and you could have inserted the words "Karen" and "David" into it. It was just like us.

"It all started to make sense, especially the lack of communication and interaction. Yet when I had threatened to leave him he looked terrified and I knew he still loved me despite his behaviour. I realised that under the gruff 6'2" exterior was a bewildered boy like my son.

"I believe there are many couples out there on the verge of divorce because one has undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome.

"My husband and I are proof that if there was love there in the first place, with education and patience you can get it back. We are happier than ever now."

'The marriage itself is unhappy, unfulfilled'

Vicky, who also did not want to give her name, says she thinks it all went wrong when women wanted babies and careers.

"The financial pressures on us have been immense. Both of us have suffered wage dips through the recession.

"I was earning more when I was in my twenties than I do now in my forties, because I have to make work fit around looking after our children.

"I am not saying money is the only factor for marriage problems and divorce, but it is a big contributor. I am a strong advocate for equal rights but now I'm in my forties I am starting to believe it all went wrong when women wanted babies and careers.

"Just saying that out loud shocks me.

"There are many wives - like me - who may have gained wonderful children and become mothers but who have lost a chunk of who they were on the way, ironically, including financial independence.

"The strain on the marriage is huge and I wholly believe if I could afford - or had the head space and time - to get out of my marriage I would have done years ago.

"The relationship is now about co-parenting as best we can and keeping a roof over our heads. The marriage itself is unhappy, unfulfilled and not what we signed up for."

Compiled by Francesca Neagle

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