Helen and Deirdre
Updated: Oct 3
Helen & Deirdre who met in 1989, are among the first couples to offer their story for We Found Love In The 80s. Twenty five years after meeting, they were finally able to marry in 2014.
Helen tells us about her path to finding love with Deirdre.
"We met at Nottingham Castle Museum where Deirdre worked in the Exhibitions team, and I was a volunteer. Neither of us were 'out' or had had a relationship with a woman before. It was all very tentative, starting with an unexpected embrace up a ladder!"
Helen and Deirdre
It was a very tentative and slow fall. We enjoyed each other’s company and found shared interests: creativity, nature, the Moomins. Deirdre liked my quirkiness and Body Shop Dewberry scent. I was impressed by Deirdre’s energy and intrigued by her gold shoes. I had very long hair which Deirdre wasn't a fan so much so I got my long plait cut in to a more fashionable bob (my hair had not been cut short since I was 4 years old).
Although we had had infatuations with women before, neither of us had had a relationship with a woman, nor identified as gay. Neither of us knew what the other was thinking or feeling and were reluctant to make a wrong move. There was a lot of reading between the lines of intense notes. Then physical affections willingly reciprocated. When getting a lift home one night after a party we leaned in to each other to kiss cheeks and Deirdre turned her head so our lips met. For both of us falling in love was with a person not a gender – very much a cerebral connection as a physical longing.
The relationship was new and so was the exploration of our own sexuality. We had to learn to feel comfortable with being in love with someone of the same sex. We literally not know what to do with each other!
In those early days, both of us were reluctant to tell people about our relationship. The shadow of Section 28 which had, the previous year, outlawed the promotion of homosexuality hung over us. We only confided in two friends who were gay, to start with and they allowed us to be safe to 'be together' in their home. I was living at home and Deirdre in a shared house.
It was before the days of mobile phones and email, which meant a lack of private communication. We wrote letters to each other and made up our own code language (in case anyone read our letters). We left notes on each others cars.
The only women I knew of who were gay were famous tennis players. It would be another 5 years before we saw lesbian characters such as Zoe and Emma on Emmerdale Farm or Beth and Margaret on the Channel 4 soap, Brookside – but even then they had ‘sad/bad ends’.
What is the secret of staying in a long term relationship?
We've been together for 31 years and during this time we've shared ups and downs in life. The art of a staying together all these years is not to stay in love with the person when you met, but to keep falling in love with the same person as they change and grow.
Hopefully you will both change and grow together. Deirdre, says "humour is vital - if you can make each other laugh and share funny moments it is a release and binds at the same time - keeping you happy and healthy.
We make a good team with different but complementary personalities and skills. We have developed a private language, have in-jokes and quirks, and ways of doing things that has become an integral part of being a couple – our own unique world. We joke that no one else would have us now!"
Their favourite song from the 80s is Enya – Watermark album: ‘On Your Shore’.