Link between recession and marital strife revealed in new figures

Numbers seeking counselling climb dramatically as a consequence of economic crash

Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin is noted for having the relics of Saint Valentine, which were donated to the church in the 19th century by Pope Gregory XVI. Video: Ronan McGreevy


Money can’t buy you love, but the lack thereof can spark marital strife when the economy fails to fire.

New figures released from Catholic marriage care service Accord show a correlation between economic performance and numbers accessing its counselling services.

In 2007, the last year of the boom, 5,380 people received 31,726 counselling sessions.

But the numbers started rising steeply as the economy crashed, peaking at 6,462 people who received 42,191 counselling sessions in 2012.

At the same time the number of couples citing financial difficulties as a cause of problems in their marriage almost doubled from 22 per cent in 2007 to 42 per cent in 2012.

As the economy improves the numbers seeking counselling have returned almost to pre-crash levels with 5,523 couples accessing 30,666 hours of counselling in 2016. Money worries, though, remain a significant difficulty with 38 per cent of those who accessed Accord counselling services last year citing it as a factor in their marriage.

Accord counsellor Mary Johnston said financial difficulties cannot only be a stress factor in themselves, but can exasperate conflicts in a marriage over other issues such as child care, lack of communication and fertility.

She said counsellors advise couples to confront their financial problems by seeking out the help of agencies such as the Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

The economy has also had a significant impact on the numbers accessing the Accord marriage preparation courses which are themselves a barometer of the number of people getting married in Ireland. Most marriages still take place in a Catholic Church and most of those couples participate in the course before getting married.

Sharp increase

In 2008 numbers peaked at 20,457 individuals attending the course, but fell 30 per cent in just two years to 13,963. Since then the numbers have steadily climbed as the economy has improved with a sharp increase from 15,774 people accessing it in 2015 to 17,108 last year.

The Accord annual report was launched by Bishop Denis Nulty, the president of the Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service, at the shrine of St Valentine in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin city centre.

Bishop Nulty referred to the increasingly disruptive influence that the internet is having on marriages with 19 per cent of Accord clients citing internet use as a problem while 23 per cent cite mobile phone and texting as a problem.

He said the intrusive nature of social media with Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp and Instragram were not even a consideration for counsellors a few years ago. But “today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds in many counselling sessions”.

“What was said in that tweet the picture that was shared on social media; the reactive immediate response on Snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the individual themselves,” he added. He suggested that couples should commit to “technology-free evenings”.

Bishop Nulty blessed engaged couple Carol Dignam from Kilcock, Co Kildare, and Tim Boylan from Foxrock at the shrine.