DUBLIN, Ireland – The world of cyberspace is causing real-world problems for a growing number of married couples, according to research conducted by ACCORD, the Irish bishops’ agency providing care and support for marriage.
For the past three years, ACCORD studied how often high levels of Internet usage were cited among the sources of marital conflict.
John Farrelly, ACCORD’s director of counseling services, said the issue is now “statistically significant,” with 7 percent of ACCORD clients seen in the first half of 2009 reporting it as their primary problem.
“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,” Farrelly said in a statement. He said he believes lack of online gambling regulation makes 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 counseling room is of a marriage scourged by addiction, mistrust and major financial loss,” he said.
ACCORD’s half-year statistics showed a growing number of Irish couples seeking marriage counseling because of financial pressures.
In 2007, about 4 percent of clients were unemployed. This figure rose in the first half of 2009 to 8.5 percent, and the unemployment rate among males nearly tripled from 2007 to the first half of 2009.
The percentage of clients identifying finances as a marital problem increased from 20 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in the first half of 2009.
“The recession continues to affect marriage and family, as people feel they are beginning to lose control of their lives,” Farrelly said. “In the counseling 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.”
The statistics have been compiled from data on more than 25,000 clients who attended ACCORD counseling services in 2007, 2008 and the first half of 2009. Other problems cited by clients during the counseling sessions were communication and conflict, sexual and intimacy issues, depression, infidelity, problems with extended family, dissatisfaction with task-sharing in the home, and alcohol and drug abuse.