THE biggest threat to marital harmony is not sex, money or children - but home décor.

Nearly half of British couples admit they have been at loggerheads with their partner over the design and decoration of rooms in their home, a new survey has revealed.

Incredibly, almost half - 46 per cent - of arguments are caused by paint colours.

I can believe this - our dining room has at least 20 different coloured squares covering the walls. Many a time have I tried to pass it off as a large Piet Mondrian original, but it doesn’t seem to wash with friends.

For months my husband and I have been experimenting with colours, but we can’t agree. It’s only a tiny room, so it needs careful consideration. Some colours look great by daylight, yet terrible under artificial light, others he likes but I don’t and vice versa, and then there are those lovely Farrow & Ball shades with names like dead salmon and elephant’s breath, which look nothing like the shade on the extremely expensive matchpot.

About a year ago it got to the stage where we grew tired of looking and abandoned the project. Now, just looking at it causes a surge in blood pressure. “Just do what you want,” were my last words to my husband on the matter.

Wallpaper and flooring are flashpoints for around a third of arguments while lighting and wall tiles are other frequent causes of fallouts.

We have argued on many occasions over home decoration.

In our last house my husband spent a day tiling our bathroom, only for me to decide, while in the bath, that the multi-coloured tiles were not condusive to relaxation and had to come off. He was understandably annoyed, but did, in the end, agree. In fact, neither of us could fathom how we could have selected them in the first place.

I remember my parents having a similar moment of madness and decorating our kitchen with wallpaper of a bold concentric ring design that looked like a hallucinogenic nightmare. It came off far more quickly than it went on.

You only have to watch property programmes on TV to see how readily couples clash over home décor. Perhaps predictably, it is the women who tend to get their own way, but it seems to always end harmoniously.

That’s not always the case. Decorating is clearly a serious business: incredibly, more than one in eight people surveyed - 13 per cent - said they had split up with a partner after a clash over styles for home renovations.

I can understand how easily things can escalate. We have even argued over where to hang pictures and which books to put on bookshelves. For the past couple of years we have been squabbling over a small window blind.

Two out of five people interviewed admitted to lying to their partners that they like their taste in design for the sake of domestic harmony. Almost a quarter accept that they will never agree on the subject, while 41 per cent claim their taste in interior design is superior to their partner’s.

I know for a fact that my husband believes he has the more refined taste, but, despite the rows, what we have done to improve our home - and it is very little considering we have lived there for 15 years - has been arrived at jointly.

Some 22 per cent of Britons claim they are totally in tune with their partner on every issue except interior design and home renovation.

That certainly does not apply to us - we clash on most things, home décor is the tip of the iceberg.

*Avoiding sex does not improve athletic performance, scientists have claimed.

The boxer Muhammad Ali used to abstain from sex before his fights and players on England's 2010 World Cup side were banned from sleeping with their wives.

But these rituals may have no scientific basis, according to a small study comparing men's fitness after sex or no sex.

Researchers led by Georgia State University tested the physical performance of eight people, one of them a woman, to work out whether sex affected them, reaching the above conclusion.

Surely it depends on how long you spend, to use a rather crude phrase, at it. If any sportsman is awake half the night romping with his partner then that is bound to leave him exhausted, whereas a ‘quickie’ would have relatively no effect. I wonder if they factored that in?

*Family time used to be spent at the dinner table discussing the day’s events.

But now family members spend almost 40 per cent of shared time checking phones and tablets, a survey by the University of Warwick revealed.

Parents, rather than children, are the worst culprits, being most likely to look at their devices during time together.

I can believe that. My husband and I recently sat opposite a couple in a restaurant, who both spent the entire meal scrolling down messages on their phones. Aged in their mid-thirties, they appeared to pay no attention to their surroundings, the meal or each other.

What a waste of money, we thought. They might as well have been at home eating beans and toast.