What's ahead for our relationship: looking together at ageing

Ageing isn't for the fainthearted! We can feel very confronted by the physical, cognitive and other changes that accompany getting older. For many people, health issues may intensify or become harder to resolve. 

Ageing, like any life stage, also brings with it unique challenges for couples. Sexual intimacy continues to be very important, but can become more difficult due to physical limitations in both women and men. We may need to modify our expectations of what sex is about to accommodate what we can actually manage, and find alternative ways to give and receive sexual pleasure.

What perhaps we don't so readily think about is the recurrance of issues associated with dependence, that we may not have had to grapple with since we were children. My partner becomes sick and roles change - I have to take on some of the roles or tasks that s/he has always looked after. For the person who can no longer fulfil the role s/he used to take in the relationship, they may struggle with coming to terms with being dependent on their partner for things they have always done themselves. If this isn't honestly and openly talked about, it can play havoc with feeling intimate and connected with each other.

Fear of dying is perhaps not always talked about directly, but can often play on people's minds. If my partner dies first, how will I cope - emotionally, socially, practically? If I die first, how will my partner manage if I have always looked after the finances/housework/home maintenance/social get-togethers? What will it be like for me/my partner to go through the process of dying? How will we navigate that as a couple (and as a family)?

If these issues are not talked about directly, they can sit underneath what can feel like hard-to-understand arguments or conflict that seems to have no resolution. It may be important to sit down and work through some of these systematically. If this feels too overwhelming to think about, or it's hard to make sense of why your relationship is struggling, counselling may help you to work out what particular issues are underneath in your relationship, so you can tackle them together.

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