A RISE in the number of 'office affairs' is fuelling a dramatic increase in marriage breakdowns this year.
The number of Irish couples who've sought professional help to save their marriages since Christmas has more than doubled from the same period last year.
Marriage counsellors have noted the biggest post-festive season surge in years from couples who have turned to counsellors in a bid to rescue their crumbling relationships.
Leading charity Relationships Ireland said they were now actively recruiting new therapists to meet the growing demand, which is up 31 per cent on last month and is twice the figure from the corresponding period last year.
Bernadette Ryan, a psychotherapist with the organisation, said the increase in demand shows that the Christmas holiday period proved to be the breaking point for many couples.
And she said office party flings and the discovery of a secret affair were partly to blame for the surge in numbers turning to the nationwide charity for help.
She said: "Christmas can be a time for awareness of how much people have in their lives or it can be a stark realisation of what is missing.
"Couples also can become aware of the cracks that may be growing in the relationship and with the onset of a new year feel like it is time for a change."
She added: "Alcohol and drugs are clearly playing a part in the human misery that can be heaped on families.
"Childline reported an unprecedented number of calls on Christmas Day. Substance abuse can exacerbate domestic abuse.
"I have also noted an increase in couples seeking counselling as a result of infidelity, perhaps after the office Christmas party or the discovery of an ongoing affair."
Ms Ryan said she's also noted an increase in troubled long-term relationships and in older couples – including some in their sixties – seeking their services.
She also said that financial difficulties were continuing to be a major issue in the majority of marital disputes.
"Financial distress in itself is difficult and can be compounded by pre-existing cracks in the relationship," Ms Ryan said.
"Problems in the relationship can mean that instead of working together towards a resolution to their financial problems, the couple pull against each other and make things worse.
"It's like being in a boat with a leak and continuing to argue about the rights and wrongs of the situation, rather than working together to stay afloat."
But she added: "Counselling can help to bring awareness to many unquestioned assumptions and provide an opportunity for a changed approach to how they see their relationship and their role in it.
"A strong, caring relationship can be a couple's biggest asset in times of strife."