When Evelyn, 79 years old and Geoffrey, 78 years old, gained the help of counselling charity, Relate, their 55 yearlong marriage was going strong, with two sons and six grandchildren. But the romance had grounded to a halt. Evelyn suffers from balance problems, weakness along the right side, together with urinary incontinence as well as having had several strokes in the past. Geoffrey now took up the role of a full time carer for his wife, leaving romance at the bottom of the list of priorities. Coming from a generation that did not readily talk about sex, the couple had accepted that the intimacy lost because of Evelyn’s conditions was gone forever. This is where the Relate counsellor changed their relationship back to the way it was when they were young.
In their first meeting, Evelyn said very little. Geoffrey spoke of how, throughout their marriage, sex had always been important to both of them, however as his role of being Evelyn’s carer grew, she had stopped wanting to get intimate. Evelyn said how she was sad she did not feel sexy anymore, and her eyes filled with tears as she reminisced about the old times, recalling a lovely gold silk nightie Geoffrey had bought her for their 50th wedding anniversary. Now she slept only in pyjamas, alone in a single bed which could be adjusted for her comfort.
Relate helped both Evelyn and Geoffrey to realise that Evelyn’s health problems did not mean a stop to romance and intimacy in their relationship. The counsellor asked if they had a spare room they could make into a special place with some music, low lighting and special things from their years together including, of course, the gold silk nightie. This could be a place they visited whenever they wanted to spend time on the bed cuddling and feeling the connection they have always had.
A few weeks later, Geoffrey and Evelyn returned to the counsellor with amazing news. They had turned their spare room into a nest of intimacy and physical love. Geoffrey had helped Evelyn into her nightie, and they described how it felt like they were looking at each other with ageless eyes. The memories of other times helped them to create new memories of two people who shared much and could still excite each other.
Relate’s role is to help carers enjoy a more positive future with a life outside their caring role, whilst continuing to care. Relate recently received a £2,500 grant from the Marit and Hans Rausing and our Arthur and Doreen Green Funds to deliver 100 counselling sessions to meet current local demand from carers around the Brighton area. Geoffrey and Evelyn are just one of the many instances where Relate has helped relieve the carer, Geoffrey in this case, of the worries and pressure that come along with this role. Their relationship is now better than ever before, as they signalled in a card they sent to their counsellor several moths later.