What’s the secret to Susan and Neil Carter’s relationship?
“We’ve always had an electric connection, me and Neil, and over time that’s developed into an understanding that’s become more...profound.”
The words of Susan Carter on her and Neil’s 35th wedding anniversary. But it's a union that could nearly not have been. When 19-year-old Susan Horrobin was first keen on Young Farmer Neil Carter had interest from other women – one of them was Shula.
But when Susan told Neil she was pregnant, Neil immediately proposed and a month later they were married on 24 February 1984.
Neil was twitchy as he waited for Susan to arrive at the church. Later she explained that her taxi was late and she had contemplated making her way there on foot.
The reception was a little rough round the edges with Susan’s dad, Bert Horrobin, drinking too much and Best Man, Eddie Grundy, getting into a fight. But as the newlyweds headed off into the sunset it was clear their connection was solid. When Susan said, “I will try to make you happy”, Neil replied, “you already have”.
Chilli Nights In
Susan and Neil’s “electric connection” has maintained its spark over the years thanks to chilli con carne. We’ve come to understand that when Susan says she’s making chilli that a night of passion is in store for the Carters.
In 2015, not only was chilli on the menu but Neil joined Susan in a relaxing avocado facemask treatment.
With the chilli still cooking, things began to warm up between the couple and Neil suggested they "reverse the usual order of play". However, the mood was suddenly killed by the ringing of the doorbell.
Convinced it was their daughter Emma, Susan headed to the front door with Neil not far behind. To their surprise, it was someone else on the doorstep!
When the going gets tough
The Carters have had their fair share of tough times. In 1993, Susan was sent to prison for harbouring an escaped prisoner - her younger brother Clive Horrobin. Susan and Neil called out to one another as Susan was taken down after the sentencing.
In his wife’s absence, a friendly Mo Travis encouraged Neil to rely on her for support and comfort. It quickly transpired that Mo wanted to be more than friends. Neil staunchly resisted.
Neil and Susan's children have tested the strength of their marriage too. Susan experienced postnatal depression after the birth of their son, Chris. And once an adult, and a fully qualified farrier, Chris sustained life-threatening injuries after being kicked by a horse.
Back in 2001, Susan and Neil watched over their teenage daughter Emma while she lay unconscious in hospital. Emma had been in a car crash. Ed Grundy (now Emma's husband) had been behind the wheel. During a break from Emma’s bedside, Neil vented his fury at Ed's carelessness while also blaming himself for what had happened. Susan listened and reminded him that they both needed to stay strong for Emma.
Charlotte Martin, who plays Susan, and is also a research psychologist, thinks the success of Neil and Susan’s marriage is “fundamentally based on mutual respect”.
“They are two sides of the same coin, Susan talks, Neil listens, Susan intervenes, Neil observes, and it is through this mirroring that they complement one another beautifully", says Charlotte.
"Neil knows that Susan can often come over as pushy and insensitive but knows that these traits are deeply embedded in insecurity and he provides the security she craves.
And he is confident that she always has her family’s interests at heart, whatever others may think. They may clash on occasion but their commitment to one another and their family is undisputed.”
Brian Hewlett, who plays Neil, says the success of the Carters' relationship is down to its basis of "friendship, understanding, tolerance, and love". He adds, "Also, working with Charlotte is always a great pleasure for me, and I think our easy working relationship has coloured our characters' relationship so well that the writers have taken pleasure in writing the pleasures and pains of the Carters' domestic life together."