‘Social media can do enormous damage to relationships’

One in five couples say technology is interfering with their relationship.

One in five couples say technology is interfering with their relationship.

Accord, the Catholic marriage counselling service, has found that the mobile phone is a major problem for 23% of couples, while 19% blame the internet.

However, for most couples, the biggest problem is communication – 60% rate ‘not listening or ignoring’ as the most significant problem in the marriage and relationships. For 37% it is finance, and for 34% it is emotional abuse. However, alcohol (18%), drugs (5%), and gambling (4%) tend to be less prevalent among couples seen by Accord last year.

Last year, Accord held 30,666 marriage and relationship counselling sessions, a fall of almost 10% on the 33,970 offered in 2015. The number of counselling sessions has fallen steadily from 42,467 delivered in 2013 — a 27% decrease over the last four years.

The president of Accord, Bishop Denis Nulty, said the demand for marriage preparation course continued to increase last year. Nationally, the demand for wedding preparation courses increased by 8%, with 17,108 people attending courses in 2016. Demand for courses in Dublin grew by 15%.

Bishop Nulty said the team making preparations for next year’s World Meeting of Families had come up with a novel and romantic idea — six gift tokens that couples can give to each other. The tokens suggest a technology-free evening; setting aside time for prayer; going for a hand-in-hand walk together; a special dinner cooked by one of the couples; loads of tender hugs, and a journey down memory lane.

Bishop Nulty noted that the theme of the very first token was “a technology-free evening to do an activity of your choice”. Sadly, he said, technology could cause enormous damage in relationships.

“Years ago the text, the tweet, the Snapchat app, Instagram, Whatsapp, were not even a consideration in counselling, but today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds in many counselling sessions,” he said.

“What was said in that tweet; the picture that was shared on social media; the immediate reactive response on Snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the individuals themselves.”

Accord was not there to judge but to gently move the relationship and conversation to a less dangerous and tense space,” he said..

Bishop Nulty also said Accord and the State must work together to provide the supports to strengthen marriage and the family — it was a social responsibility and made good economic sense.

“The voluntary nature of much of the work of Accord means that the Government grant aid provided to it can purchase a greater number of counselling sessions than if they were provided on a fully commercial basis or directly provide by the State,” said Bishop Nulty.



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