Relationship watchdogs have identified emigration as a major new factor contributing to marriage breakdowns across Ireland.

Experts believe thousands of long-distance relationships - in which the unemployed breadwinner has recently been forced to move abroad to find work and leave his family at home - have reached breaking point.

Relationships Ireland said over the past 12 months they've noted a surge in the number of women whose unemployed husbands have migrated turning to them in a bid to save their crumbling marriages.

Tony Moore, a therapist with the leading charity, said that couples who are forced to live apart tend to become more estranged, while in some cases the lack of contact can often trigger an extramarital affair.

Mr. Moore said: "This is a huge transformation taking place at the moment in terms of partners being forced to live in different countries because of the dire economic situation at home.

"More and more men are either emigrating or working abroad on short-term counteracts to try and earn an income for their families back home in Ireland.

"These trends are definitely leading to more break-ups because of the lack of contact between the couples.

"And then there's problem of affairs, because partners who spend a long time apart from each other will become more lonely and are likely to be more tempted to be unfaithful.

"The family dynamic also changes, because if a husband has been away for a long time and then comes back home, he can often be more estranged from his wife and kids."

Mr. Moore said the numbers of married women in long-distance relationships turning to him over the past year for help has shot up by 10 per cent.

But he said he believes tens of thousands of such couples are fighting to save their marriages.

"It's a seismic change that's happening right now across the country and the ones I've dealt with are literally the tip of the iceberg," he stressed.

However, Mr. Moore said advised couples who are forced to live apart because of the recession to maintain regular contact, insisting it could be the key to saving their relationships.

He added: "I'd say that a couple should contact each other every day or every other day, preferably by Skype or something like that. It's not perfect, but at least you can see the person you're talking to.

"But the brutal truth of it is that many couples are now living in different countries and those people have to work harder to make their relationships work."