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Above all else, love is the most important thing.

LindaThe story of lovers who come from different clans is as old as time and in the case of Barry and Joyce, having to choose between the truth of their hearts and the pressure to conform to their family’s values proved to be the first of many challenges that strengthened their commitment, not only to each other but to a life of spiritual service. Raised in different faiths, Barry and Joyce were both certain that the strength of their love would be sufficient to overcome any complications that might arise from their different religions backgrounds. Both sets of parents however saw things differently.

Sometimes a couple needs to drop into the pits of hell in order to find the motivation and develop the strength to meet their challenges. At these times, nothing less than a fierce commitment is sufficient to open the door to greater possibilities. The problem is that the door swings both ways, and what can inspire and intensify one person’s commitment can break another’s.

Barry and Joyce met when they were each eighteen and freshmen in college. They fell deeply in love immediately. Neither of them had ever experienced anything like it before. But both sets of parents had a problem with their relationship. Joyce came from a Protestant family and Barry is Jewish, which proved to be a major source of stress for their families. As much as they loved each other, it felt scary and disloyal to go against their parents’ wishes. They were young, and succumbed to the pressure, deciding that it would be best for all if they broke off our relationship. So they tore apart and said goodbye. It was one of the most painful experiences of their lives. They were both overwhelmed with sadness, and couldn’t stop crying.

They were in different colleges. Barry was at Boston University; Joyce was at Columbia University in New York. They agreed to make a clean break of it and cut their tie completely. Otherwise the pain would be unbearable. They stopped speaking to each other all together. Despite their best efforts, neither could let go. It seemed that to respect and honor their families’ wishes, they had to let each other go. But, their love was so strong that they weren’t able to do that. It felt like an impossible situation.

After weeks of being separated, and missing each other, Joyce went up to the roof of her dorm and prayed all night for spiritual guidance about what to do. The very next day, Joyce’s friend’s mother visited, and gave her a simple bookmark that had fallen out of her Bible. Her friend’s mother said, ‘The feeling was so strong to give this to you that I took the four hour bus ride just to bring it to you today.’ The words on the bookmarker were: “above all else, love is the most important thing.” When Joyce saw that, she knew that she had received the answer to her prayers, and called Barry to tell him that she knew they were meant to be together. Barry told her that he felt the same way. They knew that their days of separation were over for good.

Both families were disappointed when they got engaged, and married when they were twenty-two. Barry was in his first year of medical school. Although they were so happy to be together, this was not an easy time. While Barry was clear that he wanted to be a physician, he was filled with worry about being in a white and Jewish minority in an African American medical school in the south in 1968.

One day when Barry was at a low point, he dared to reveal his fear and vulnerability to Joyce. Joyce was so deeply moved that she looked straight into his eyes with a penetrating gaze and said. “You are so beautiful. I am awed by your beauty.” Barry was so utterly moved by her acknowledgment of him in that moment that he was no longer able to hold on to the limited view of himself that he had been carrying around for most of his life. Barry experienced the truth of Joyce’s belief in him. He knew he now needed to really see the beauty within himself, the beauty Joyce saw in that pivotal moment.

Barry and Joyce not only survived these and other crises, but they grew in their capacity to love and to open their hearts far beyond what either of those two young people that first met and fell in love could have imagined. Joyce and Barry have dedicated their lives to service, contribution, and spiritual growth. Their greatest lessons have not come from books or seminars, but from those experiences that have challenged them personally on the playing field of their own marriage.


Our newest book, That Which Doesn’t Kill Us: How One Couple Got Stronger at the Broken Places,  has just been published by Sacred Life Publishers and been receiving rave reviews. Their story is illuminating, instructive, and deeply inspiring. It has been described as being as compelling and engaging as a page-turning novel. The book contains powerful messages that are embedded in its pages that can serve any couple that desires valuable wisdom which can serve them in facing the inevitable challenges that frequently confront many committed partnerships. The book is available on-line on and Barnes & Noble. You can also receive a signed copy of That Which Doesn’t Kill Us by ordering directly from Bloomwork by calling (831) 421-9822 or emailing us at The cost is $16.95 plus tax, shipping & handling.

Above all else, love is the most important thing.


Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at:

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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2018). Above all else, love is the most important thing.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Jun 2018
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