There are few areas of our lives to which we devote more time and attention than our relationships. In poems, songs, pictures, photographs and films, we struggle to capture both the agony and the ecstasy of our intimate connections with others.
Research shows that people in long-term relationships are less vulnerable to burnout and are more likely to live longer. Yet in a modern world characterised by instant access and easy disposability, we appear to be finding it increasingly difficult to find and maintain enduring and satisfying relationships.
Recent government figures have revealed that two in five homes in England will be occupied by only one person within the next 20 years. At the same time, however, online dating websites are reporting growth in membership of as much as 250 percent in the last year.
So somewhere along the line, we're not quite finding what we're looking for. And even when we do, it appears that the magic can prove fragile. Relate, for instance, Britain's largest provider of relationship counselling, has seen a sharp rise in demand for its services since the start of the recession.
This may all sound rather gloomy, but consider also the fact that official figures last year put the divorce rate in Britain at a 26-year-low. So despite all the obstacles and challenges, people continue to make their relationships work, and so can you.