Nearly a fifth of couples are in a ‘distressed relationship’ at risk of collapse, a report said yesterday. Almost three million people have their home lives wrecked by rows, regrets and threats of break-up, it found. The paper from the Relate counselling service said too many couples were suffering the ‘social and human cost’ of domestic strife.Charity chief Chris Sherwood said, “Families can’t go on like this. We need to make sure that Relate’s services are available to everyone, not just those who can afford them, but we cannot do so unless we get donations to subsidise the cost. It is hugely concerning that 18 percent of UK married and cohabiting couples are in distressed relationships. Broken and unhealthy relationships can lead to debt, loneliness, health problems, depression, homelessness, criminality and can have a profound effect on children’s life chances.” The analysis of distressed relationships was based on the large-scale Understanding Society database which has been following the lives of people in more than 20,000 homes. It said that relationship quality was measured on factors including how often couples argued, how frequently they consider separation, the depth of unhappiness between them and how often they say they regret getting together at all. Relate’s report said that 1.4 million families were ‘at breaking point’. However critics said the figures were flawed because they do not take into account any differences between married and live-in cohabiting couples.Government well-being surveys have consistently found that married couples are much happier than cohabitees, and marriages that end in divorce typically last more than three times longer than cohabiting relationships. Other indicators of the gap between marriage and cohabitation include the advantages enjoyed by children brought up by married couples, who are more likely to have good health and do well at school than others, and levels of abortion.Figures released last week showed that more than half of all women undergoing termination of pregnancy are cohabitees, up from less than a third a decade ago. However fewer than one in six abortions are undergone by married women.The charity published its figures as it launched its first ever public appeal for money in the cause of ‘addressing negative impacts of family breakdown and poor quality relationships’.Relate, which until 1998 was known as the Marriage Guidance Council, has seen its subsidies from the taxpayer cut by nearly 80 percent over the past five years.It said it wanted more money to spread its counselling beyond middle class couples who can afford to pay £40 or more for an hour-long session.The charity’s 2010 accounts showed that in the 2010/11 financial year it received grants worth more than £3 million from Government departments and other state sources.However, accounts for 2014/15 show that its state subsidies were down to £642,000 from the Department for Work and a further £18,000 from Doncaster council.