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Ireland: internet a new cause of marital stress

New statistics released by ACCORD, the Catholic Marriage Care Service, an agency of  the Irish Bishops' Conference,  show that time spent on the internet is cited by a growing number of couples as a source of marital conflict.  While this issue has been recorded by ACCORD for the past three years, it has now become statistically significant, with 7% of clients seen in the first half of 2009 citing it as their primary problem in the first half of 2009.

Commenting on the increase, John Farrelly, Director of Counselling with ACCORD, said: "The key areas which are causing conflict are internet gambling, infidelity and one partner spending too much time online rather than with their spouse and family."

He further commented that "the seeming lack of regulation, particularly in terms of gambling on the internet, can make it easy for vulnerable people to become addicted.

"The media image created by the gambling industry is that internet gambling is engaged in by smart, competent card sharks who pit their wits against each other; however the reality in the counselling room is of a marriages scourged by addiction, mistrust and major financial loss."

The half yearly statistics from ACCORD, the Catholic Marriage Care Service, also evidenced the continuing increasing trend in the number of couples attending marriage counselling as a result of financial pressures.

In 2007, 3.96% of ACCORD clients were unemployed, with the rate among men at 4.4% and among women 3.4%.  In 2008 the rate rose to 5.5% amongst clients; 7.5% in men and 4% in women.  In the first half of 2009 the general rate rose to 8.5%;12.5% in men and 5.23% in women.

In 2007, 20% of clients identified finances as a problem for their marriage and in 2008 this rose to 25%.  For the first half of 2009, this figure has risen to 31% of clients.

John Farrelly,  said: "The recession continues to affect marriage and family, as people feel they are beginning to lose control of their lives.  In the counselling rooms couples are coming to understand that their ability to care for each other and their family is the most important thing in their lives."

Mr Farrelly concluded: "Other common problems cited by clients during ACCORD counselling sessions are:

- communication and conflict 47%
- sexual and intimacy issues 26%
- depression 16%
- infidelity 15%
- problems with extended family 14%
- dissatisfaction with task sharing in the home particularly childcare
and housework 11%
- alcohol and drugs 10%."

ACCORD is the most geographically widespread provider of services in support of marriage and family in Ireland. The agency  has 57 centres countrywide.  All services are confidential and provided by professionally qualified and accredited counsellors based on clients needs, not ability to pay. In 2008 ACCORD provided over 30,000 counselling sessions throughout Ireland.

Source: Irish Catholic Media Office