According to some recent research I read, the number of divorces in the UK last year was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44. I mention this because this afternoon, I had one of those depressing kinds of conversations that I seem to be having more often as I get older! I was chatting to an old friend via Skype and asked how things were at home. “Not great,” he admitted, “we’re going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, if I’m honest.” This is one of those strange semi-fixed expressions in English that can be said in four or five different ways, all of which mean basically the same thing, so if you hear someone say they’re going through a rough / rocky / bad / sticky / difficult patch at the moment, you can be sure that they’re experiencing a lot of problems and almost certainly having relationship problems.
Couples who are going through a rough patch may find they’ve been at each other’s throats a lot recently – they’ve been arguing in an angry way a lot. They may find that they’ve started to drift apart. They can remember how close they used to be in the early days of their relationship, but now feel they’re moving in different circles and that their lives are taking them in different directions.
Sometimes one partner in the relationship may find out that the other one has been cheating on them; they’ve been seeing someone else behind their back. They may feel that this is the last straw – that enough is enough – and decide to call it a day and end the relationship. Alternatively, they may try a trial separation – one of them may move out and they each try and live on their own for a while, to see how that feels. They may then decide to give it another go and get back together again – or they might feel that they like their newfound freedom and would rather go it alone from now on.
It can be hard to know what to say when friends tell you things like this, of course. I asked what the problem was, listened carefully when my friend mentioned they’d decided to try relationship counselling and that they were determined to make a go of it. I then said I really hoped that things would work out OK and said to keep in touch. What else can you do?
- Do you know any couples that have been going through a rough patch recently? Do you know why?
- Is the divorce rate high or low in your country? Why?
- What do you think the main reasons are for relationships ending?