For couples, 8:44 pm is the perfect moment

The study of 3,000 people found the average couple settles down together at 8.05pm - but it takes a further 39 minutes to unwind and forget about the stresses and strains of the working day.

The pressures of long working hours and domestic tasks also mean married couples are spending less than 75 minutes of quality time together, according to the study.

Sex and relationships, For couples, 8:44 pm is the perfect moment

Psychologists and counsellors have said that the gruelling work and domestic schedules of modern life are fuelling high divorce rates.

Professor Cary Cooper, organisational psychology and health expert at Lancaster University Management School , said the findings are not surprising.

"This is normal, I mean it's abnormal, but normal in our society, which has the longest working hours in Europe," the Scotsman quoted Cooper as saying.

"The impact of this on quality of life is poor. When do you fit in personal, disposable time to focus on your relationship?

The result is that couples are engaging in tactical talk - such as who will pick up the kids or who will have the car - and not emotional talk. This leads to separations, break-ups and divorce," he added.

The study also shows that there are distinct differences between the ways men and women wind down after work.

Six in ten women will prepare the evening meal, compared to just a third of men - and four in ten women then do the dishes or put the washing on.

Women also take more responsibility for house administration - such as arranging school dinner money, filling out forms and checking mail.

Men are more likely to help the children with homework - 17 per cent of fathers compared to 13 per cent of mothers - because women are busy with the housework.

Seven in ten women do more around the house than men, and 66 per cent of men admit they might relax earlier than their partner.

Veronica Hansmann, a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Dunblane, said working long hours and an unfair division of household chores can create tensions in relationships.

"It depends on the couple. In many cases household chores are evenly distributed between couples. What's more important is communicating," she said.

"It can depend on how you talk about the practical things. It's not always about what you talk about but how - if you really communicate with each other or if you talk like robots," she added.

Hansmann said she advises couples to spend at least one night a week doing something together.

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