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Accord’s new helpline available to couples during pandemic restrictions

By Katie Ascough - 24 April, 2020

Accord’s free and confidential Relationship Support Phone Line for marriages, families and relationships offers support to those experiencing extra pressure because of social restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The three numbers are:

          Accord CLG – 01 531 3331

          Accord Dublin – 01 905 9555

          Accord NI – 028 9568 0151 or 00353 1 531 3331

The helpline is open 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. Monday to Friday and calls with counsellors are 45 to 60 minutes in duration. 

One of the issues Accord counsellors highlight is causes of conflict. This includes pressure and stress caused by uncertainty around security of employment; the effect on domestic finances; mental health; living in a confined environment; clashes with other family members because of poor communication; regret at being unable to grieve properly following the death of a loved one; pressure on students arising from changes in exam timetables; and more.

Counsellors also discuss “pressure cooker” environments, a situation Accord counsellors have noted that people under stress at home can feel. This situation can induce a regression in behaviour, and human then interaction suffers. People suffering from a “pressure cooker” environment can overreact to situations, which in turn can cause the domestic atmosphere to deteriorate and can present as either uncomfortable silences and/or loud, explosive and noisy verbal exchanges.

Counsellors also highlight the effects of young people and children being exposed to aggressive behaviour – whether once off or on an ongoing basis – and how they can experience fear and distress, which in turn affects their personal behaviour and relationships with others. Accord notes that physical isolation at home can compound trauma.

They also discuss vulnerable relationships, that is, where a couple’s relationship had been under pressure prior to imposition of the COVID-19 restrictions. These relationships can be particularly at risk, as confinement exacerbates existing unresolved relationship issues. Being compelled to remain at home all the time, together, save for essential journeys, can magnify existing tensions and problems.

Accord counsellors are offering the following key tips to people at home at this time: 

          For individuals living in fear at home, Accord counsellors are trained in identifying and handling domestic abuse. In such situations the priority is the safety of the fearful person and their children. Accord can support an individual to develop a safety plan and can advise them of specialist crisis support contact numbers.

          In general, try to keep the lines of communication open with your spouse/partner.

          Be conscious of how you raise issues with your partner. There are productive ways and unproductive ways to raise issues.

          Talk from your own feelings first and express what is difficult for you and what you feel you need rather than blaming and being critical of your partner. Criticism usually begets defensive stonewalling or disproportionate responses.

          Be willing to look at yourself and your behaviour in addition to your partner’s shortcomings. “What is it like to be in relationship and to live with me?” is a good question to ask ourselves.

          Self-management is a very good skill to hone in these pressurised and worrying times. It might be better to raise an issue at another time so that your partner can hear the cause of concern in a calmer context and to avoid an experience of perceived criticism or attack.

Insofar as issues such as bereavement or serious illness impact the couple’s relationship, callers can discuss these issues with a counsellor on the support line. If the issue is about a specific personal bereavement and/or health issue, then referral to a specialist may be required.

If the issue relates to how the household finances are being managed or mismanaged that may be discussed by the caller. While Accord does not offer financial advice, counsellors have relevant details of national support services which address personal finance problems.

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