Whilst the divorce statistics continue to generate concern and there are constant articles about the causes of divorce, there is a new Open University research project called “Enduring Love?” which explores why people stay together.

Following discussions with policy makers, there is an online questionnaire, which has so far been completed by over 3,000 people and 60 couples will be selected for in-depth study and to keep diaries and emotion maps to chart how they interact with each other. .

Some of its findings so far include:

  • Forgiveness is the bedrock of enduring love
  • Small gestures on a regular basis make people feel appreciated and valued
  • Shared religion plays an important role in keeping couples together
  • Both parties need to work constantly at the relationship
  • Love is not the primary thing that keeps people together – it’s about being there for each other

Perhaps family lawyers might consider something similar – collaborating with those who are able to or developing services to themselves help preserve and prolong relationships – rather than stepping in when time has been called. No doubt there will be legal issues for those relationships that continue. And I am sure that all lawyers will have some “happy” stories to relate (anonymously of course) where those considering divorce were able to patch up their differences and reconcile at the Court doors or before.

The project has built a web site and produced a series of iTunes audio and video podcasts. The questionnaire is available at www.open.ac.uk/openminds and also at http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/enduringlove/