Linda: When Joyce and Barry were both twenty-five, something happened that Joyce was completely unprepared for. Barry had an affair with her best friend. Neither of them could lie nor conceal the truth, so she found out about the affair because Barry told her about it immediately after it happened. But what was worse for Joyce than hearing about the affair was hearing Barry say that he wanted a new lifestyle of having sex with other women. Joyce was so hurt and enraged that a very large “NO!” rose from deep within her, accompanied by murderous rage. It felt like her very instincts were rising to the surface to very clearly let her know that such an arrangement would never work for her. Joyce had never felt so angry about anything before and it terrified her. She felt like she could physically harm him, so she locked herself in the bathroom and stayed there all night. Early the next morning, Joyce took their dog and left. She didn’t think their dilema was resolvable.
Barry was in a state of shock because he never thought Joyce would leave him. When the full impact of the situation hit him, he began to think what life would be without her. The pain of the implications felt overwhelming. Barry saw more clearly how his actions had impacted Joyce, and also felt the depth of his love for her. More importantly, he saw how much he needed her love. Prior to the episode, Barry had not been in touch with the little boy inside who needed love. He realized that having the affair was a feeble attempt to prove that he didn’t need Joyce. He was grateful to the experience for revealing this part of himself that had been hidden. Although Barry was grief-stricken from losing Joyce, at the same time he felt admiration and respect for her integrity and strength.
As much as Joyce loved Barry and was committed to him, she knew that she had to honor herself. She knew that she couldn’t live in a sexually open marriage. Joyce had to draw a clear boundary, and stick with it, even if it meant risking losing Barry. In drawing that line Joyce discovered strength she didn’t know she had. A week after ending the affair with her friend, Barry asked to meet with Joyce one more time. She reluctantly came to see him. He looked and acted differently. It was clear that Barry had experienced a great deal of pain and suffering.
Barry told Joyce that he had come to recognize and accept his need for her. It had never been all right for him to need anyone and that allowing himself to feel his need for Joyce healed something deep within him. He no longer felt the impulse to act out with other women, and that he wanted to reconcile, and to come back together in a new and different way.
Joyce left that day in silence. Her resolve to end the marriage was shaken. She spent the next several days reflecting on what she was feeling. One week later they again came together and committed to rebuilding their marriage. It was clear to both that they needed a monogamous relationship.
It took two years to rebuild the trust after the affair. Although Barry would have wished that Joyce could get over her mistrust more quickly, he knew that he couldn’t rush the process and it would take time for her to heal. He learned to develop patience and compassion. It was a difficult but very valuable time. During the many moments when Joyce’s mistrust would surface, Barry repeatedly held Joyce in his arms without trying to change or take away her fears, listening as she spoke of her pain and doubt. Barry was determined to meet her with the strength of his conviction by saying “I trust that I have changed and I hope that some day you will trust that too.”
In Joyce’s words, “Barry’s allowing me to have my feelings and his steadfast reassurance helped me to gain my trust again and it came back stronger than ever. I saw and felt that he was now holding me in higher regard than he ever had. Barry’s affair rocked our world which forced us to create a new and better relationship, one where his respect for me helped me to feel a deeper level of respect for myself.”
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