More couples are seeking relationship counselling as extended Covid lockdowns take their toll on household harmony, with one psychologist reporting a 30pc increase in calls for help.
The stresses of homeschooling, working from home, job losses, financial worries and possible addictions and mental health deterioration can be devastating to even the healthiest of relationships.
“When Covid caused the first lockdown last March there was a feeling that the country was all in it together and put their shoulders to the wheel, that it would be over soon. But now nearly a year later people are tired and exhausted,” said Mary Johnston, specialist in counselling with Accord CLG.
“The strain of the negatives is outweighing the positives of being together for many. There might be money problems, difficulty working from home, difficulty from job loss, underlying anxiety that was once manageable but has now become intolerable.”
While Covid restrictions forced Accord to close many of its face-to-face counselling centres, it has found more calls coming to a telephone support line it set up, and it expects more people to seek help once it opens an online service.
“We set up a support phone line on April 9 last and have had more than 1,500 calls to it since then,” said Ms Johnston.
“I would say it was quiet just after Christmas, but in the last few weeks there are more people seeking help,” she added.
“Addictions are a problem too. They might be more problematic now – or they might be having an effect on the money coming into the house which is only being noticed now,” she added.
Seamus Sheedy, vice-chairman of the Irish Association for Counsellors and psychotherapy, and an accredited counsellor and psychotherapist in the midlands, says he has seen about a 30pc increase in the number of people seeking help since the pandemic hit.
“When people are pushed into living together more, with no other outlets, the pressure can become exasperating.
“Decisions that could be made easily before can suddenly now end up causing conflict. Working everyday things out, which was once easy, can suddenly become troublesome,” he said.
“There can be situations where the normal support structures, like children’s grandparents or hobbies, are now cut off.
"And even when a couple are living under the one roof there can be times when they don’t have actual time together because of children’s needs,” he said.
Mr Sheedy said the current lockdown seems to be resulting in more inquiries for help than the first one last March, even though there is a vaccine now being rolled out.
Asked what advice he gives generally he said he tells couples to try to approach the future in bite-sized pieces.
“Take it one week at a time and don’t look any further. Ask what you will do this week and plan out the school stuff and the work stuff, or how you will spend your time,” he said.
“Be kind to each other, and recognise that each person needs their own space. And allow yourselves time to be together, maybe when the kids are in bed and some of the pressure is off.”