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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - October 2011 

It could be you ....

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


My best friend's husband is keeping her awake at night

Dear Maggi,

 My best friend’s husband is keeping her awake at night, and not for any enjoyable experience she says. He has to get up several times a night to go to the loo. I suggested she tells him to get to the doctor for a check-up but she says he hates going, especially for anything needing an exam that is a bit ’close up and personal’.

She is really worried that if there is anything wrong he’ll leave it until it is too late to sort out. She never says it but I know she’s terrified that he might end up getting cancer.

I’ve had a talk with my husband and he says it is none of our business and it is up to the husband if he does nothing.

As she’s my closest friend I’m worrying about her as well. What can I do that might move things on a bit? Should I have a word with her husband myself? I know I probably shouldn’t but I see them often and can see them both getting more tired and grouchy with one another. I’d hate this to make them permanently miserable.


Maggi replies

You are a good friend, I can see that in the way you write of your own worry, but this is one area where you can only act as back-up and support for her, not as her advocate with her husband. He is already embarrassed enough to put off seeing his doctor for a check-up so he isn’t going to take your direct intervention very easily.

First let’s look at what those symptoms might be telling us all. As we age our muscles weaken, eyesight or hearing can deteriorate and some of us will experience problems with one or other of our internal organs. All pretty depressing if we dwell on the negative side of aging. But moving into the later part of our lives often means our lifestyles are changing too, and we can find ways of getting around a lot of the problems we encounter so long as we don’t deny their existence. As we approach retirement or have retired, we can adjust to having more exercise – if we had a sedentary job, or more rest – if work has been physically demanding. Our lives can undergo quite a large shift in emphasis and we needs to be aware of how we are changing.

Urinary frequency (the need to pee more often) is common to many people of both sexes as they age. There are all kinds of reasons for it as well as the weakening musculature already mentioned. For women it can indicate a prolapse of the uterus (womb) or the bladder. A prolapse is when the organ has shifted or dropped from its usual place, often pressing on another. This can be corrected either by physiotherapy if treated early, or surgery. 

The best thing for men over 50 is to have a regular prostate health check-up. Men suffering bladder problems, which can be to do with frequency or with uneven flow, where it is hard to get started, empty the bladder enough, or problems with erection or ejaculation, need to have this checked by their GP . Sometimes the problem might be traced directly to the bladder, or, after an examination (not painful), the doctor could find the prostate gland is enlarging and therefore pressing on the bladder and causing frequency. This will happen to a greater or lesser degree in all men as they get older. If thought necessary further tests can check on the health of the prostate gland and any treatment is planned from there.

Your friend’s anxiety, and most likely her husband’s, will be that there is a risk of cancer in the bladder or in the prostate gland. True, there is. All the more reason to have the problem checked early than leave it until the fear becomes a reality! In fact, many urinary problems, either caused directly by bladder changes or by prostate changes, are benign (not cancerous), and can be treated or managed perfectly well and never go on to be cancer. Even when that happens, if caught early, many men go on to live active normal lives and eventually die of other causes not due to their prostate. 

If on the other hand your friend’s husband if hanging back from seeing his GP because of fear of the exam or of the possibility of further treatment, she can point out to him that temporary mild discomfort or embarrassment is much better to the alternative.

Now to your own worries over your friend and her situation. The best thing you can do is to go on listening to her and supporting her with your understanding. She is unhappy for a series of linked reasons. She is worried about the future, she is tired due to the broken nights - which we don’t deal with as well as we could in decades past, and she is feeling shut out by her husband. If there are problems for him in getting an erection it is possible he will be feeling worried about that and, going by his reluctance to face his bladder problem, he might just be turning his back on her instead of talking about it. Unless it is addressed this is guaranteed to leave him feeling a failure and her feeling unwanted. In your conversations with her informed reassurance, rather than the sort that’s based on blind hope, is best. 

Encourage her to research the possible reasons for his discomfort and discuss things as openly as she feels able, but don’t push for more information than she is comfortable with. There is so much information on the net theses days that you’ll both need to be vigilant and a little circumspect. Much is very technical or hard to understand – don’t bother with it. Much is now outdated and therefore misleading and some of it is downright inaccurate. Stick with the information offered on the main information sites for the country you live in and read the most up-to-date books.

You could even find that by becoming better informed yourself you will be prepared if anything similar should crop up in your own family.

Prostate Cancer: The Essential Guide

David Loshak 
Need – 2 – Know Books.

Although prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in British men, those most at risk still know little about it. This book helps them to know more but also shows they need not be unduly scared of it. Women too – wives partners, girlfriends, mothers – are as much concerned as the men they love and care for. This book shows what prostate cancer and other prostate problems means for the affected man and also for them.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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